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Rear Camber Adjust Link DIY Possible, But Requires More Work Than It Appears On Paper

Padelford

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Jul 1, 2017
441
426
Seattle
I just finished installing Unplugged Performance rear adjustable camber links on my MX, and it ended up as a multi-day effort with more work involved than I anticipated from the “instructions” available. I thought I’d document what happened so that others interested in doing the same job can be spared a lot of struggle I went thru to get this job completed.

My skill level: I have lots of tools, but I’m a bit rusty working on cars. The ones I’m responsible for have been well-mannered and haven’t required me to do a lot of wrenching lately. I’ve done suspension work in the past, and I’ve done some work on the Tesla (new 12V battery and HEPA filter, cabin air filter replacement, brake pad removal/relube maintenance, now this).

TL;DR: instructions are incomplete, job is harder than it seems, hardest part is removing the old upper links, second hardest part is figuring out how to get the inner link connection bolt tightened to spec, third is getting lower under-cover off and back on while on jack stands. I’d recommend having someone else do this unless you can’t find another shop AND you have the necessary tools.

I bought the Unplugged Performance camber links based on a recommendation from a Tesla Roadster mechanic. They are pretty robust, and their adjustment mechanism is simpler than other links I’ve seen. However, tech support from Unplugged Performance is minimal - they have no phone number for tech support, only a message form to which they can take a day or more to respond. The links came with no instructions, and somewhere on their website they apparently have some incomplete instructions on installation. I ended up having to re-install the links because I put the links in reversed from what they’re supposed to be. The adjustor goes on the outside (toward the wheel hub), not to the inside (away from the wheel hub). So, I got to do the installation twice, but fortunately before setting the final inner bolt torque effort.

I’ll break down the following narrative into two parts: installing the links and finding a way to torque the inner link bolt to spec.

1. Link Installation:
The instructions from the Fix Your Tesla Model X website were deceptively simple for the link removal and installation. Link here:

Put vehicle in Jack mode, put rear end up on jack stands, tires off, remove the 10 mm nut holding the height sensor to the link & remove the sensor stud, then loosen the 15 mm outer bolt and 18 mm inner bolt/nut. Note that the space around the 18 mm bolt/nut is cramped, more than it appears in the instructions. I used an 18 mm GearWrench ratcheting wrench plus another long closed-end wrench for leverage to break the inner bolt/nut free.

1632787277775.png


View into left rear wheel well with tire removed, trying to loosen inner link bolt/nut, breaker bar on left, Gear Wrench/extra wrench on right.

The really hard part at this point was getting the old links out. They did not just lift out - they had to be pried and hammered out of position. I used a dead-blow hammer and a piece of 1” x 1” wood to hammer on the top of the link to free the 18 mm end, then I used a longer wood piece from below with a small floor jack to push up on the link and pop it out of the end mounts. It took considerable force. I also used a medium sized Crescent wrench to slightly bend the flanges on the inner mount apart to try freeing it. It was frankly a bit scary doing the first link, and I actually gave up and tried to push the partially-freed link back into location to put everything back. But, in the process of restoring the link’s position, it popped out. So I continued the new link install.

The length of the new links need to be checked/set so that they match the length of the old links. On a bench, set the new and old links stacked side by side and try inserting the mounting bolts thru the bushings. Adjust the length of the new link such that the bolts easily drop thru both links’ bushings.

1632787369097.png


The new links dropped in pretty easily. The hole for the height sensor should be on the lower edge of the new link when installed. For God’s sake, mount them such that the adjustor is to the outside. This impacts the height adjustment sensor, among other things. I had to go back and re-install the links because I put them in “backwards”, thinking the adjustor would be easier to access later with it “backwards”.

1632787425113.png

Unplugged Performance link about to be installed in vehicle. This is from their instructions & shows the correct orientation. Note the adjustor position & height sensor bolt hole just to the right of the adjustor.

Re-attach the link bolts, but leave them somewhat looses that the bolts can be torqued when the suspension is at normal ride height. This is important so that the rubber bushings are in a neutral position (and not over-stressed) during normal driving. Use a floor jack and a piece of 1” x 1” (could be another size, choose what fits from what’s available) under the brake rotor (NOT under the dust shield!), lift the rear hub up such that the distance from the top of the wheel well edge to the center of the hub is about 17”. I leave my vehicle height in the “Low” position, and this measurement is for that height. Once the hub is jacked up, tighten the outer link bolt to 103 ft lbs.

1632788116676.png


Re-attach the height sensor arm to the link.

2. Getting the inner link bolt torqued to spec
I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to do this before finding some instructions on Fix Your Tesla for setting suspension bolt torques. There isn’t enough room going in thru the wheel well to get a torque wrench on the 18 mm bolt once the hub height is lifted up. It has to be done from underneath, but this nominally requires taking the rear plastic under-cover off, which is challenging (see below). One can reach the bolt with a torque wrench and a cut-down 18 mm socket without removing the under-cover, but there wasn’t enough room to swing my torque wrench to get a “click” and advance the tightening process. Once the cover is removed, it’s straightforward to get the 18 mm bolt tightened with the right socket . . .

Making a cut-down 18 mm socket was also key to my success. A regular 18 mm socket isn’t deep enough to go over the exposed bolt stud, and a regular deep 18 mm socket is too long. I cut a 18 mm deep socket ⅝” shorter using an angle grinder, and it gave me access to the nut while clearing the surrounding structure.

Here’s a link to checking/setting rear suspension torques:

Step #9 is for the inside camber link bolt. The instructions make it look too easy.

Here’s a link to the procedure to get the plastic under-cover off:
Panel - Aero Shield - Mid (Remove and Replace)

The under-cover is relatively big, cumbersome and heavy. It has about 23 x 10 mm bolts and two plastic trim push-pins to remove. Remarkably, the instructions don’t show the location of the bolts and push-pin in the wheel wells. Plus, there are two metal plates, each with Torx screws and a nut that have to be removed. The biggest pain in this process is disengaging the forward edge of the under-cover from the vehicle structure - it doesn’t just slide out, it needs to be pivoted downward to unlock and release the forward edge. With the vehicle on Jack Point jack stands, there is barely enough vertical room to get the approximately 2.5 ft long panel disengaged. To get it re-installed, I had to add 2” x 4” boards under the Jack Point jack stands to raise the vehicle a little higher to pivot and re-engage the front edge. I needed another person to help with the re-engagement - up to this point, one person can do this job. I think this is easier to do with the vehicle up on a lift high enough that the panel can be pivoted down to near horizontal.

An alternative to removing the under-cover is to cut notches into the under-cover on the right and left sides that would give room for the torque wrench to swing. Given what I’ve learned about getting the cover off, I’d advise doing that instead of removing the cover. It sucks to cut the cover like this, but then again it sucks that Tesla made getting the cover off so damn difficult.

Would I do it myself again, knowing what I do? I’d probably try to find someone to do the job given how hard it was to get the 18 mm bolt torqued to spec, but I don’t know of any independent Tesla repair shops in the Seattle area. If you can find someone in your area, and you don’t have all the tools I have, definitely have someone else do the installation.

PS: I made a 33 minute video that I was going to put on YouTube of the detailed link installation process I went thru, but it shows me putting in the new links backward. Because of that, I'm reluctant to post it. I’ll probably not post it unless there’s demand for it. It doesn’t cover the final inner bolt torque effort & under-cover R&R.
 
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ngng

Active Member
Jul 23, 2018
1,168
621
Bay Area
Removing old parts is always a pain. I want to add some adjustable camber and toe parts at some point but haven't convinced myself it's worth it yet. Maybe one day.

What are you doing with your old parts? If you are going to toss them I'd be interesting in taking them. Been wanting to design a set. Why spend money on a product when you can invest way too much of your life and accomplish the same thing, right?
 
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Padelford

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Jul 1, 2017
441
426
Seattle
I just posted the video covering most of the installation except for the final inner bolt torque effort. If you like car wrenching videos, this should hit the spot!

 

Harvey Danger

Member
Mar 2, 2021
365
269
The Pacific Northwest
Impressive.

Did you have it aligned yet?

There's another guy posting (cross posting the same thing in many threads actually) about an alignment shop in Seattle (Tru-Line) that did his camber arms. Maybe give them a call at some point.
 

AaronE

Member
Mar 8, 2019
32
24
California
I feel you. sometimes things just are hard the first time. I just did this myself in the Tesla service center parking lot when they wanted months and a diagnosis fee for a clearly stress-failed part.

for other viewers (or if you ever need to do it again) here's some tips -- it shouldn't take more than 20 minutes a side.

1 - torquing down the bolt -- you correctly tightened it under load, but it doesn't have to be 100% torqued under load. just get it tight enough that it won't turn, then unload the suspension again so you can get back in from the top with your standard torque wrench and short wobble extension.

2 - in regards to loading the suspension, I wouldn't lift the car by its rotor! omg, that picture is scary. I put a couple blocks under the LCA and used another jack, having measured the correct ride height from hub center to fender.

3 - you don't need to remove any panels, and certainly don't cut anything! everything is very visible/accessible with the wheel off. a 72-point ratchet helped a lot though.

4 - a standard deep socket 18mm and stubby wobble extension is all you need. you don't need a socket on the nut side, only the bolt side, so you shouldn't need anything cut down or fancy. just loosen it and you're good for the rest.

5 - getting the control arm free -- try rocking the hub vertically. I forget which side came out easy, but one side did and then the other end kinda slid out. if it's hard, there's probably some lateral or torsional force you need to wiggle out (basically camber or toe).

as for the various aftermarket part designs, I've heard mixed reviews as well. I ultimately just decided to go with a used original part overnighted for $100.
 
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AaronE

Member
Mar 8, 2019
32
24
California
hah, I hadn't seen that video but I'm glad it pretty much said everything I typed from memory 👍

one note though -- if you're reusing the ride height sensor link stud, do NOT pry it off like they do in that video! just unscrew the nut and slide out the stud, leaving it attached to the plastic link.
 
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ngng

Active Member
Jul 23, 2018
1,168
621
Bay Area
so a few more thoughts...

I'm looking at the unplugged camber arms and am curious about the stress of that threaded adjusting bolt is. kinda weird to have such a beefy design, and then that weak point. i think the n2itive is a better design.

also, if you are trying to correct tire wear, camber is only one part of the puzzle. any reason you didn't install toe links as well?
 
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ngng

Active Member
Jul 23, 2018
1,168
621
Bay Area
Ha, watch that other video (ten minuite mark up to about 13 min) and you'll see toe is not so easy for a DIY project (you have to saw the bolt in half to get it out of the car..)

sawing? that's right up my alley! i've got a whole drawer dedicated to bolts that require level 3 persuasion. i skipped aorund the vid and that doens't look too bad. kinda weird that bolt is set up like that though.
 
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Padelford

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Jul 1, 2017
441
426
Seattle
so a few more thoughts...

I'm looking at the unplugged camber arms and am curious about the stress of that threaded adjusting bolt is. kinda weird to have such a beefy design, and then that weak point. i think the n2itive is a better design.

also, if you are trying to correct tire wear, camber is only one part of the puzzle. any reason you didn't install toe links as well?
The adjuster on the Unplugged links is pretty robust. My observation is that camber-based rear tire wear is a bigger issue.
 

EchoDelta

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Mar 5, 2012
1,297
710
RootedNW.org, Seattle, Planet Earth
Would I do it myself again, knowing what I do? I’d probably try to find someone to do the job given how hard it was to get the 18 mm bolt torqued to spec, but I don’t know of any independent Tesla repair shops in the Seattle area. If you can find someone in your area, and you don’t have all the tools I have, definitely have someone else do the installation.
Kirkland Tire Pros does a bunch of Tesla suspension, wheel mods, etc . They installed my mpp adjustable camber arms and will be doing new upp shocks . Super recommended, and the Tesla expertise shows (from little things like understanding keycards to bigger ones like knowing about lift pucks or what to access via the top of the frunk). I usually see at least another Tesla whenever I’ve been there.
 
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Padelford

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Jul 1, 2017
441
426
Seattle
Here's the final chapter on the camber link install: the alignment & cost discussion.

After replacing the rear camber links with Unplugged Performance adjustable links, I took my MX into Tru-Line here in Seattle for a full alignment. Others on this form had recommended this place, and a local Tesla Roadster repair/restoration business also recommended Tru-Line.

I had the vehicle alignment done by the Renton Tesla SC in September 2020 so I expected the front to be still in alignment. Tru-Line wanted to do both ends so I let them proceed.

Here’s the result from Truline (done at “Low” suspension setting, which is what I normally use):

New alignment result JPEG.jpg


Here’s the alignment sheet from September last year:

2020 Alignment Results JPEG.jpg


As of 10/19/21, the front end was quite out of spec from the SC alignment a year ago. I don’t understand why. Last year’s alignment looks like it was virtually unnecessary based on that report. The SC trimmed the left side tow and the steer-ahead, but really touched nothing else.

However, the new front end alignment measurements are out-of-spec in almost all categories. I haven’t had any accidents/events that might have damaged the front suspension. Part of the new alignment was a suspension inspection, and they didn't report any damage. I did change tires from Conti-Silents to Michelin Cross-Climate - did that throw out the alignment that much? Or, did the Renton SC do a terrible job on their alignment measurements?

I expected the rear to be a bit wacky after my installation effort, but the vehicle drove as if nothing was wrong after my work - no tracking errors, no need to counter-steer. I talked to the Tru-Line folks about what to use for the new rear camber adjustment - I’ve heard that it should be set to -1 deg, and they agreed that would be a good value. So now the front and rear are set to the same camber.

So, I’ll discuss cost of all this. The rear adjustable camber links cost $715, and the alignment cost $264 plus $64 for the extra work on the adjustable camber links. That’s $1043 to stop excessive inner edge wear on my rear tires, and I just spent $1284 on a set of Michelin Cross Climate tires (which I quite like & look forward to trying them in snow). I probably saved about $250 doing the installation myself. It seems that new adjustable rear toe links weren't necessary, so that saved some $$$.

I suspect I’ll be hard pressed to make back the cost of the suspension mod in reduced rear tire replacements. Now I’ll have to wait and see how these tires wear with time. I’m on my third set of tires in less than 60K miles (first two sets were Continentals), and I’d sure like to get more than 30K miles on a set of tires.
 

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