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Skunk2 Upper Arms for the TSX are on backorder...what do I get instead?

  • Posted: 08-15-2012 07:30 PM
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First off, a little background: I have seen no better upper control arm option than the Skunk2 Pro-Series and I have messed with everything from Ingalls ball joints to Spoon arms that cost a small fortune. My Skunk2 TSX arms have 2 track days, 3 HARD 900 mile road trips with lots of twisties, and otherwise about 30,000 miles on them with nary a re-toque of a screw. I have no complaints at all. We have sold at least a couple hundred sets in the last couple years, and we sell and stock more than any other retailed or distributor does. According to Skunk2, Heeltoe created the market for these arms on the TSX and TL. Buddy Club recently called me to ask about upper arms and what I thought about theirs, and I thought they were good...but found numerous reasons why Skunk2 Pro-Series arms are better.

A customer just recently emailed me asking if Hardrace arms are a good alternative to the Skunk2 arms. They said:

"Theres been a handful of guys that have bought the [Hardrace] UCA and they have said its built very well. Ive also heard bad things as well, but I have also heard horror stories about skunk2 and there quality. I really dont like skunk2 as a company and as a parts manufacture there QA is just terrible. Which is the main reason I am looking at other options for this part."

My first response was to tell them not to believe everything they read in forums. Mostly people there don't know what they are really looking at. And those who do, don't always have the benefit of experience with other parts or customer feedback to comment credibly.

I have very little idea what the Skunk2 quality problem could be this person is referring to. All I know is, there have been a few folks who failed to tighten their ball-joint bolts which have resulted in disastrous unwanted dis-assembly of the arm while driving. In each case they blamed the part...naturally. Given my experience, I say this outcome is completely avoidable if professional installation is sought. DIYs are all the rage, but maybe they are not always a good idea(?). I am not sure what substantiates the QA being terrible either. Every Skunk2 item we have seen here, and there have been a few, are easily as well packed and presented as any other item we have sold. The parts fit and claims of failure are largely unfounded. In cases of quality problems we have always gotten 100% support from Skunk2. We find no reason not to go with Skunk2 if their parts fit your needs.

I cannot say Skunk2 is completely comprised of and employed by saints, but I am not sure what makes Hardrace any better. So let's look at Hardrace.

As a company all I can see with their website is it definitely is comprised of parts made in China or Taiwan. I don't think there is anything wrong with this, but I don't beleive they are desigining their own stuff either. A lot of this looks like re-labeled Megan Racing stuff (admitted heresay, but a reasonable claim as we have heard this as a rumor in the past as well). Also note, when you sell parts like we do, companies in Hong Kong and other such places actually solicit you looking to get you to buy silicone hoses and mufflers and all kinds of stuff...just like they sell at Hardrace! Skunk2 parts are made China or wherever also. BUT, most of the stuff they made, they designed. Not everything in the past, but lately yes everything Skunk2 is not available on the black market. Skunk2 gets some kudos there. You do know you are getting authentic parts, no doubt. Hardrace is, to me, an eBay company.

Let's look at the arms.

Ok, they look decent enough. Althought they are not very innovatice. Tubular steel design with formed ball joint mounting box is strong enough to be safe, although the fabrication to me does not indicate the cost that it sells for relative to the Skunk2. It just looks, cheaper. The mounting box plate is large and flat, and completely without form on the outward facing edge. Combined with the open corners of the inner facing edge, I would bet these things flex quite a bit under load.

Other gripes here are mainly related to the ball joint placement and fastening method. First off, the ball joint mounting bolts tighten from the top. Anyone who has tried to do any kind of accurate alignment with a setup like this will tell you this sucks. You need to raise the car to get a tool on these fasteners, and that totally messes up the alignment manchine calibration. The bolts are unnecessarily large and I would almost guarantee there will be less clearance between the arm and the shock tower than stock, and clearance here is already a problem with the TSX and TL chassis. So if you are going really low and are looking for something with some clearance there, you will be disappointed. Lastly, there is very little surface area for the mounting bolts to grab onto. More torque is needed to prevent movement on these arms, and with the small sections of area where the washers make contact, there can be deformation in the mounting plate. Also you could over-stress the bolt causing them to strip or break in an extreme case where slippage is occuring. See this image from Buddy Club's site for reference:

Now, I realize that the Hardrace parts do not have this large channel in the middle so the deformation you could see with that part are not going to be like the image above. But this image does give you an idea of how the force of the bolts on the mounting area of a slot are not ideal.To resist shear force, you really want more surface area clamping down on the mounting plate. By doing the way Skunk2 does, with a sandwich plate top and bottom, you are adding a TON more surface area, as well as transferring the load from the bolts where it is supposed to be...on the threads. In this way, Skunk2 can get away with smaller bolts and be more effective. In the Hardrace kit, the force you need to torque the bolts is dicatated by the force needed to resist slipping, which could exceed the load limit of the bolt or resistance of the mounting plate to deform. The toque on the Skunk2 bolts is dictated by the load limit on the bolt, which in turn creates enough clamping force to resist the shear force imparted on the ball joint. I am not sure if this make sense to everyone, but it is enough for me to say, do far, there is nothing better than this:

The Skunk2 arms have a truly innovative ball joint design that allows for more shock tower clearance than the stock arms, while the mounting bolts are accessible from underneath the car (where you will be when you adjust them). They have a stamped steel design like stock but is boxed in and reinforced for additional strength. The ball joint mounting box is a stamped part, not formed. The corners rounded and are integral to the housing whereas on the Hardrace they are basically folded up tabs that are not connected and this is going to resist a lot of flex. This part is modeled after a stock arm and then improved. The Hardrace is a ground-up new part, but is not made as well as the Skunk2 is. You would have a very hard time convincing me otherwise. Therefore, you won't find the Hardrace on until that happens.

Add in the fact that the Skunk2 arms are cheaper, and I am really not seeing WHY anyone would pay more for what seems to me an inferior part just because they can get it sooner.

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Skunk2 Pro Series Front Camber Kit, Pair, 2004-08 Acura TL & TL-S UA6 UA7, 516-05-0004
Skunk2 Pro Series Front Camber Kit, Pair, 2004-08 Acura TL & TL-S UA6 UA7, 516-05-0004


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