BMR Sub-Frame Connector Installation
|Tools & parts you will need:|
|BMR Sub-Frame Connectors|
|2 - 18 mm wrenches or ratchet/sockets|
Car: 1999 Z28 Camaro, 11,250 miles
Installers: Eric and Kelly Barger
People who helped us from major tech talk to general advice:
Elmer Boggs (eboggs_jkvl) Darryl (Bean-o) All my buds at LS1.com
Perform all these installs at your own risk. Know how to use all of your shop equipment and take necessary safety precautions when performing ANY modifications and or maintenance items to your vehicle. Seek the advice of a paid professional and do not substitute this publication for the advice of a paid professional. This product is how we accomplished our installs and is not meant to be carved in stone. We are not responsible for a mistake, misprint, or any other error found in this guide. This guide is intended as a supplement and not to be your only source of information.
Purpose: This mod will serve several purposes for our car. It will further stiffen the chassis of the car and help make the car more responsive in the curves. Most people do not perform this install themselves because a welding machine is not something most of us have or know how to use. Therefore this document will be more of an information packet of the general install and what to expect out of your installer.
Preface: Most of you guys reading this install will have to let a specialty or other shop perform this install because you have to weld these sub-frame connectors (sfc) on the car. Be sure you research the shop's work before you let them touch your pride and joy. Read our horror story here (Nashville, TN). Just be sure you use a top notch guy. Typical installs usually cost anywhere from $35 to $150.
Before you start into this install be sure you know how to use all of your shop equipment. Take your time and be careful.
1. Disconnect the battery cables from your battery (see Figure 1). This is not some safety statement that you should skip. If you are welding on the car's frame, DISCONNECT the battery cables and make sure they are touching nothing but air. You will need a 5/16 inch wrench or socket to remove the cables. If you do not perform this step you run the risk of messing up the electronics on your car including any alarm systems (factory or not).
2. You will need your car elevated off the ground and supported by the wheels. In our install we did not do this because the shop doing the install did not have a drive on lift. We don't recommend this and we stress that you should follow the manufacture's instructions. However, we are told that Kenny Brown has lifted cars by the frame instead of the wheels and installed his sub-frame connectors.
3. You need to locate the front bolt in the rear lower control arm (lca) (see blue arrows in Figure 2). This is where you will bolt/weld the rear of your BMR sub-frame connector in place.
Note: Other brands of sub-frame connectors might vary from BMR on the install.
4. You will need to do a test fit with the sub-frame connector. Remove the front lower control arm bolt and place the rear of the lower control arm inline with the lower control arm bolt hole. You can either remove the lower control arm from the bracket or not. We removed the lower control arm from the bracket because we were afraid the heat from the welding would destroy or harm the bushing in the lower control arms (see Figure 3).
5. Mark the location where the sub-frame connector touches the frame of the car (See Figure 4). You should use a marker or metal piece to scratch the powder coating off to mark where you will need to grind the powder coating off. Lower the sub-frame connector to the ground and grind the powder coating off (using a hard bit on a dremel tool or equivalent) so that you see shiny metal. You want to remove the powder coating or your weld will not take.
6. Place the sub-frame connector back up in place and this time run the front lower control arm bolt through the bracket and sub-frame connector. You will need to remove the washer from the bolt if you decide to retain the stock size bolts.
Note: The stock bolts are 12 mm bolts (actual diameter of bolt, not the size of the bolt head) with a 1.75 mm thread pitch.
7. Weld the areas where you removed the powder coat from to the car's frame (see Figures 5 and 6). You might need to use a clamp to hold the sub-frame connector in place while you weld them on the car. You don't want the sfc's resting on the bolt when they get welded. That will make it hard to get the bolts back in after you take them out. Once welded, wait a little while for everything to cool down. Pull the bolt out and then lift your lower control arms back up into the bracket and run the bolt back through them.
Comments: I took it for a brief run and realized that everyone was right. I should have done the sub-frame connectors first. It was night and day. My car hooks up SOOOO much better and is so much tighter and rigid. I get all of this and the car is still a pleasure to drive without ANY added noise. We feel that most of our rattles have been ended with the install of the sub-frame connectors.
Sub-Frame Connector Installation Horror Story
Here is our horror story that we experienced in Nashville, Tennessee at the Performance Garage. Reil Performance Engineering is located inside of the Performance garage and was the actual company that did the install. The mechanic, Pete Reil, who runs "Reil Performance Engineering" is the owner and mechanic for "Reil Performance Engineering".
We don't want to give "The Performance Garage" in this article a bad name. However, they are responsible for Pete working under them, they referred me to him, and have some sort of responsibility for him working in their shop so we have to mention their name.
We have heard many good things about Chris and Vince (owners of The Performance Garage. I can't recommend them personally as I have never met or used them but many people use them on a regular basis to dyno their car and buy nitrous (NOS). We dealt with Vince directly the first two (2) times we contacted "The Performance Garage". He was very nice and polite and really went out of his way to remember who I was and what I wanted done to our car. This was over a period of 2 weeks and I thought that was really impressive.
11:00 PM Eastern Time
Kelly and I made it to Nashville (April 29, 2000) to get our sub-frame connectors installed on our car. The day started out really good with us getting an early start. The drive was right at 102 - 106 miles in duration (one way) and went fairly quickly considering all the Highway Patrolmen we seen along the way. We arrived a little early for our 11:30 am appointment (Eastern Time) at the shop, "The Performance Garage". So we went downtown and cruised around a little.
11:30 PM Eastern Time
We got back to the shop and a guy pulls up in a black Nissan Sentra (we think) and tells us he just left Pete (the mechanic that was doing the install) a voice mail message. He is not sure when he will show up for our install.
11:45 PM Eastern Time
Darryl Stevens shows up on the scene in his 1999 Z28 1LE. Darryl is an active member on LS1.com and is a native of Nashville. We had never met him before but he was nicer than we could have ever imagined.
12:15 PM Eastern Time
A few minutes pass and we are finally informed that Pete has been reached. By this time there was another guy there waiting on Pete as well. He had a 5.0 Mustang GT (with super charger) in the garage. So Darryl and I talked about our LS1's and about his infamous PCV mod. I took some pictures, complimented his paint finish and then showed off my car a little.
12:30 PM Eastern Time
Darryl suggested that we go to the place that welded his sub-frame connectors up for him. He said that "The Performance GAY-Rage" (Darryl didn't say that but I was; our attitude was changing by this time) recommended that shop and they did an excellent job. They were not 2 minutes from the "GAY-Rage". I can't remember right off hand the name of that garage but I will post their name if Darryl can remember it. I will recommend people go there for installation of their sub-frame connectors. We showed up but they were closed on Saturday's. Well, back to the "GAY-Rage".
1:00 PM Eastern Time
We decide to go to McDonalds and grab something to eat. Darryl and I just got drinks and Kelly got an actual meal. This will prove to be an important point later on.
2:00 PM Eastern Time
A few minutes go by and we are informed that Pete was leaving his home in Murfreesboro. We are told he was up until 6 am that morning working on the mustang. All right! We are told that he should arrive in about 30 minutes. After waiting around a few more minutes we decided that Pete wasn't going to make the 30 minute deadline. This thought occurred to us at about 2:15 PM (ET).
2:00 - 3:59 PM Eastern Time
I called our friends Ernie and Jennifer and told them that we would have to cancel on our planned get together. We would have to pass because we had no idea when we were going to get done here. No big deal I guess (extreme sarcasm), we only get to Nashville once every 3 or 4 months!!
A lot of standing around, shooting the bull, getting to know Darryl better, moaning and bitching went on during this time. The moaning and bitching mainly came from me.
We then hear that Pete is on his way but he has to pick up the welder. Wow, he told me on the phone Thursday (April 27, 2000) that he had the welder in the shop and he was preparing to put some sub-frame connectors on the mustang (the one mentioned above). He had neither the welding machine at the shop, or had the sfc's installed on the mustang. I ask the mustang owner about his sfc's (they were Kenny Brown's by the way) and he showed me his set laying on the ground in the shop. On top of all this Pete realizes that the machine is out of wire. So chalk up a trip to Home Depot for him to get some wire before he arrived at the shop.
4:00 PM Eastern Time
Pete finally arrives 4.5 hours late at 4:00 PM (ET). Hey, I guess we shouldn't bitch about rushing perfection, right!?! He talks with the mustang owner on which he was building him a 351 ford with a nine pound blower on the mustang and was hoping for a whopping 400 rear wheel horse power! I am pretty sure most guys would get more horse power than that from a built 351 with a blower. Then he introduces himself to me and we get the install moving ahead.
4:10 PM Eastern Time
The car goes on the lift. Pete gets out of the car and then lays my keys on my black roof. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. Instead of leaving the keys in the passenger seat, floorboard or any other of the 1,000,000 places in the car, Pete chooses to leave the keys on my delicate black top. Thanks Pete, you don't know how hard I have worked to keep my paint finish swirl and scratch mark free. A BIG T-H-A-N-K-S goes out to you for doing a good job of screwing that up.
5:50 PM Eastern Time
The install is finally done. I must say that Pete has balls of steel or he is just plan ignorant. We watched him place the rear of my car on a jackscrew while removing one of the four arms on the lift from underneath the car. Let me paint you a picture so you can enjoy the same pleasure we witnessed. He had a small jack screw that was approximately 1 inch in diameter. It simply screws upward or downward and locks into place when you get it at a height you choose fitting. He lifted the rear of the car up on the differential housing and removed the driver's side rear leg from underneath the car. Darryl and I about crapped our pants. I was in total shock and didn't realize the immediate stupidity going on in front of me UNTIL, yes, UNTIL my car started to sway back and forth every so slightly. I would say Pete is a lucky man my car didn't fall off that rack. I would have probably beaten him to an inch of his life, unless of course he was already dead from a 3,600 pound car laying on top of him. Then I would have just giving him a swift kick for general principle.
The install was done and I was happy. I take if for a brief run and realize that everyone was right. I should have done the sfc's first. It was night and day. My car hooks up SOOOO much better and is so much tighter and rigid. I get all of this and the car is still a pleasure to drive without ANY added noise. We feel that most of our rattles have been ended with the install of the sfc's.
Pete was feeling generous and was going to charge me for 2 hours worth of labor but since he was late he only charged me for 1.5 hours. That cost me $100 big ones when in reality you only worked for the 1.5 hours to begin with and I should have only paid the $100. So you did not give us any kind of a deal to begin with! Pete charges $60 per hour by the way. He had a phone call or two and had to break to fix the welder and get some debris out of his eye because he wasn't wearing safety glasses when doing some grinding on my sfc's.
Hey Pete, you forgot to apologize to me for being 4.5 hours late. No problem, I think this article speaks for itself to all the guys I know in Nashville wanting to get some sfc's installed.
From this point we had dinner with Darryl and his wife and went to a local "informal" car hangout. There must have been over a hundred cars there that night. We had a blast and can't wait to meet up with Darryl and Christy in the near future! Kelly and I would like to thank Darryl for hanging out with us all day and showing us around town that night. He took a day off from work to see this through and we think that was very nice of him. Darryl's username on LS1.com is Bean-o.
Ok, wondering why it was important to notice that Kelly was the only one to have a full meal at McDonald's??? Well, I was starving and could have ate a whole cow that night when we (Darryl, Kristy, Kelly and I) went out to eat.
Time to let Vince and Chris know about good ol' Pete.
We sent Vince an email which you can read for yourself.
Hello, my name is Eric Barger and I got my sub-frame connector's installed at your shop on Saturday (April 29, 2000). I was in contact with you via email and called the shop one time and talked to you or Chris. I really can't remember which one of you guys I talked to on the phone but you seemed to know who I was and what I wanted so I am assuming I talked to you (Vince). I really appreciated your understanding and willingness to help me out.
I have debated about sending this email to you and Chris over the past day. I have put a lot of thought toward this and feel like you should know about my experience Saturday. We drove right at 103 miles to your shop from our house to get the sfc’s installed. When we arrived, we didn’t see Pete until 4.5 hours after the set appointment.
I don’t know what to say other than I won’t be able to recommend Reil Performance Engineering to any of my friends who were waiting on me to give them the story on my install. I felt like I was at least owed some kind of apology and didn’t get one from Pete. During the 4.5 hour wait I went to Trans Tech to see if they were open to do my install but no luck (they are closed on Saturdays). My other two friends are going there for their installs.
Pete did a good job and I can’t complain there. Other than leaving the rear of my car on a jackscrew while one of the legs of the lift was completely removed from the underside of the car. I should have spoke up there so I don’t really fault him. I just know it made me really nervous for both his and the car’s sake.
I am not trash mouthing your shop by any means. I still would recommend someone come by your shop and dyno, buy NOS, or any other services that you and Chris offer. However, as for Reil Performance Engineering, I can’t say the same.
One last thing, laying the keys of the vehicle on the paint finish is not a good thing to do. It swirls and scratches the paint finish and is especially noticeable on black.
Thanks for your time.
I guess I should have taken a closer look at the install before I said Pete did such a great job. On my driver's side LCA bracket (the front side) the bushing is squished beyond belief. It doesn't appear there is anything I can do about it. I am afraid to drop the LCA out of the bracket because I might not be able to get it back up into the bracket. It is really bad on the driver's side and not too bad on the passenger side. I will have some pictures posted as soon as I get under the car again with my Cannon and take some pictures.
Vince was out of town and as soon as he got back in and read my email he sent me one back. I am not going to post the email because it was sent from Vince to me and not everyone else. I will summarize the letter for you though.
Vince apologized, was super nice and offered to try to make it right. Remember, I said that Pete did excellent work in the email I sent them. So they tried to make it right in a way that I see fair if I were in their shoes.
I have or will not write them back to say that Pete did C-R-A-P-P-Y work because that would look like I was someone who bitches habitually for no good reason. I have not contacted them since that last email and probably never will again. They offered me a free dyno session with them and were very specific, understanding, and apologetic about my experience. I just can't pack up and drive two hours for a dyno session and I definitely won't drop by if Pete is there. I might go into a mad rage and show my butt and that is not what I want to do.