Tech Article – Spring plate/torsion bar removal.

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Tech Article – Spring plate/torsion bar removal.
Submitted by our foum member “treelineracing”
Folks, Don asked me to post this, hope it s of some assistance….
So you need to remove you rear torsion bars, or spring plates, or maybe change
the pre-load on the suspension ? Had the same need myself a while back, and came
across some info that may be helpful. If you already know to do this, or have
some other info or suggestions, then feel free to add, ask questions, or provide
comment.

Firstly a disclaimer: – the following also is intended to be a guide
only, I’m not a trained mechanic, but I do maintain my own buggy, and
have attempted to use both of the following techniques, one more successfully
than the other. If you attempting these activities, you do so at your own risk,
and I accept no liability for anything that may occur, other than the smile
on your face when it works correctly.

The parts of the VW rear suspension are under a severe amount of “pressure”,
and should things go wrong (for whatever reason) then personal injury, or damage
to your vehicle, is highly possible. It is a safe enough procedure when tackled
correctly, however, I cannot stress enough – you must keep all bodily parts
as far away as possible from the moving bits of the suspension and equipment
you’re using – when things go wrong, they will do extremely quickly and
you will NOT have an opportunity to move out of the way, regardless of how
fast you think your reactions are.

If you have any doubts or concerns, about this, then do not attempt it, leave
it to a trained mechanic, or someone that’s knows what they’re
doing and are willing to help.

I’m not going to cover the removal of brakes, shocks, or how to disconnect
the trailing arms – I’m sure you’re all big enough and ugly
enough to be able to figure that out for yourselves. So, the point that I m
assuming we’re starting from is where the spring plate is not connected
to anything apart from the torsion bar housing.

Firstly you’ll need to remove the torsion bar retaining cover/end caps,
and believe me, you do not want to mess this up – the 4 bolts will most
likely be rusted tight and will not shift easily – take your time, have
patience, use lots of penetrating oil, gentle heat and any other tricks you
may have up your sleeve to loosen them. DO NOT SHEAR THESE BOLTS, if you do
the best case scenario is that you’ll have to drill them out and re-tap
them, which is a real pain – the worse case scenario is that you’ll
make a real mess of the torsion housing and then you’ll need specialist
help to replace or repair it, which will no doubt cost lots of bucks.

Once the end cap is removed, the only thing holding the spring plate to the
torsion bar is the amount of pre-load (i.e. at rest, it s semi-twisted to give
the desired amount of “spring”) that’s been set previously,
and the fact that the spring plate at full suspension droop is held in place
by a small channel at the bottom of the torsion housing end casting. Until
you get the spring plate out of this channel, and remove that pre-load, you
won t be able to get the spring plate off the end of the torsion bar.

There are two methods that I’m aware of to achieve this, the jack n
chain method, which is described very well, in the following link, and the
method that I, and various racers that I know, use, utilising a lifting method,
which I’ll outline later:

So firstly, the jack ‘n chain method – read this and pay specific
attention to what you need to mark in order to return the suspension to the
same position/level of pre-load. Once preload is removed and the spring plate
is lowered to it’s full extent, this article also covers all the other
bits you need to know, regardless of the method of removing the spring plate.:

http://www.meyersmanx.com/garage/garage_suspend.htm

Personally I had no luck at all using this jack ‘n chain method, I suspect
because my trolley jack didn’t have enough grunt to do the job, made
worse by a larger than standard amount of preload that had been set. The other
negative I’ve heard about this method is that doesn’t offer enough
control – when you lower the jack it’s difficult to control how
fast it moves.

So taking these issues into account, I opted for a “lifting method” – made
easier by having a tube buggy and lots of places to connect things to – so
it may not work on a sedan.

Essentially I connected a very large turnbuckle (you may call them something
different on your side of the Pacific) and a length of large gauge chain -
bolted the turnbuckle to point A on the frame, shown in the attached diagram,
attached the chain to the turnbuckle, and then bolted the other end to the
spring plate at point B. Tightening the turnbuckle lifts the spring plate,
loosening it lowers the spring plate – the rest is as per the jack ‘n
chain method.

An alternative version of this method would be to use a length of threaded
bar, bent at 90 degrees to go through the top shock mount (or attached by whatever
method you need for your specific situation), and then attach a large washer
and nut to the threaded bar below the spring plate at point C – tighten
the nut the spring plate goes up etc., etc. However, word of warning – this
alternative will only really work if you have double spring plates, and you’ll
need to put a bolt though two of the spring plate holes(shown in red), and
run the treaded bar between the plates and the bolts – the bolts will
stop the bar either slipping off the end of the spring plate or moving further
along it.

A couple of other things to be aware of that may make the job more difficult
than it seems. Firstly lubrication – or more specifically LACK of lubrication
on the splines of the torsion bar. If there was insufficient grease on the
splines of the torsion bar, you will have a devil of a job getting the spring
plate off – so when you put them back – make sure you’ve
got lots of grease, it’ll make your life easier in the long run. Similarly
if the inner and outer rubber bushes have seen better days they may well be
stuck to the spring plate and/or torsion housing, again making removal very
difficult. For example, I suffered from both problems, and removing the drivers
side spring plate took a 2-foot pry bar, plus a 6’ extension tube and
much sweat and swearing to get enough leverage to get the plate off – conversely,
the other side came off as easily as serving premium grade soft scoop ice cream
with a warm spoon.

Secondly, associated with this problem is that needing to use lots of effort
to remove the spring plate, is that more often than not the spring plate comes
off with the torsion bar still attached – result: you’ve no idea
how the torsion bars were originally set. Don’t know of an easy resolution
to this problem – maybe someone else has some ideas ?

And the third problem is stuck torsion bars due to lack of lubricant on the
inner splines. In my instance, the drivers side torsion bar came off with the
spring plate – the passenger side torsion bar stayed in place when the
spring plate came off. To remove it I used a long piece of steel bar fed through
the torsion housing from the other side, and a large hammer – big wack
on the steel bar and the torsion bar (previously stuck) shot out of the other
side of the housing. Don’t know how you’d remove them if both bars
were stuck – ideas anyone ?

The preceding Internet link covers how to replace the torsion bars and setting
them up – however, my one piece of advice is that the both left and right
bars look very similar – make sure you get them around the right way – they
are marked LHS and RHS (for left and right) on the outter ends of each bar – make
sure that when you re-install them they go on the correct side, otherwise you
will suffer from very premature torsion bar failure – once used torsion bars
become set i.e. they’ll only twist in one direction, reinstalling them
wrongly will cause them to try and twist in the opposite direction, which won’t
work for very long. I’m not sure whether aftermarket bars, such as Sway-Away,
have similar markings, although I’m assuming they do. You can t put them
in the wrong way as there are a different number of splines on the inner and
outer ends, so they won t fit.

Hope this is of some assistance – and as mentioned previously, I’m
open to suggestions, and comments.

Cheers … Kimbo