Vinnie "The Hit Man" Kung
February 11, 2014

Okay, Mr. Angry Online Blogger, this one's for you. For years, we've listened to you and your grumpy followers bellyache about the weight of today's cars, how old cars are better, and that you can't afford all the new good stuff. You say, "Why can't they make cars lighter, and why isn't the new Mustang GT $12,500? Why do they have to carry around so much emissions stuff, computers, and safety devices?"

The way you slide your anti-theft club over the nutmeg brown steering wheel on your K-car just screams swagger, as you clearly love showcasing your understanding of technology.

But enough cheese with that whine. We all understand how much cleaner, safer, and more comfortable a modern Mustang is than anything built before it. We'll gladly lug a few hundred pounds of weight for the technology that gives us a 26-mpg coupe with 420 horsepower, stability control, and cushy airbags. But, we're always open to sensible weight savings.

In the old 5.0 LX days, it was nothing for owners to rip out the sway bars and A/C in the name of quicker acceleration. It's not so likely that a new GT or GT500 will owner will do the same. Rather than gut your new car, there are more creative ways to reduce weight, and we've found the perfect solution with help from a reputable Mustang expert.

Steeda To The Rescue

Based in Pompano Beach, Florida, Steeda Autosports offers a way for us Mustang maniacs to smartly shed weight and increase performance. After spending countless hours developing it, Steeda's American-made weight-reduction pack for manual-trans 5.0 cars (PN 555-3960, MSRP $1,179.95) includes billet-aluminum lower rear control arms, a tubular-steel front radiator support, and an aluminum driveshaft conversion kit. The latter takes a lot of the rotating mass out of the driveline, offering the biggest gains in mechanical efficiency as well.

To add some sound and shed even more weight, we also opted for Steeda's axle-back muffler kit (PN 515-Steeda-11, MSRP $599.95). These polished stainless steel beauties take weight from the rearmost part of the car, which reduces polar inertia. The further the weight is from the car's center, the more of an affect it has on handling. So, removing weight from the nose or tail has greater benefits. Letting that 5.0 rev to 7,000 also sounds fantastic without any of the dreaded part-throttle highway drone.

Steeda offers an intelligent solution to weight loss on your Mustang with its Weight Reduction Pack, complete with billet-aluminum control arms; tubular-steel radiator support; and 4-inch, aluminum, one-piece driveshaft.
With the car in the air, place a jack under the front of the rear axle housing. This will give you the leverage needed to help unload weight off of the control arms.

Time To Wrench

To kick things off, we jacked the car up, put it on stands, and started with the rear lower control arms. First, we removed the parking brake cables from the brake calipers. This is best done with a pair of pliers to slide the retaining clip off of the caliper bracket, and then unhook the cable end of the actuator arm on the backside of the caliper. Next we placed a jack under the axle housing, to take some weight off of the control arm bolts, and used a 1⁄2-inch-drive/18mm socket and ratchet to loosen and remove the two bolts on each arm. The nuts are held in place with retainers, so there's no need to use a wrench to hold them while loosening the bolts. Then simply slide the new control arms into place (they are already lubricated from Steeda) and reuse the factory hardware.

Lastly, route the parking brake cable under the control arm, and reconnect the cable end to the brake caliper. Repeat for the other side. Total weight saving here was 4.4 pounds for both arms.

We then moved onto the driveshaft. The factory unit is a two-piece job with a center bearing holding up the middle. We found the best way to remove the assembly without dropping the exhaust is to first remove the rear half. Simply undo the 12 bolts at the rear and center flanges with a 10mm socket, and then slide it out and backwards. After that, remove the front driveshaft by removing the two nuts holding the center support bearing with a 13mm socket, and then the front driveshaft from the transmission's output flange with a 12mm, 12-point socket. This is a bit more complicated as these bolts are often very tight and will require a good impact gun and universal joint connected to the aforementioned 12mm socket.

1 With the factory lower rear control arm removed, you can see the Steeda billet-aluminum piece not only looks the part, but offers less weight and better control. At 4.0 pounds each, these control arms are 2.2 pounds lighter than the stock stamped steel pieces.
2 Steeda’s control arms are a direct fit, and come pre-assembled and packed with grease. This means they are ready to install; simply reuse the factory metric hardware. Keep that 18mm socket handy, as you’ll need it to crank down all the bolts.
3 The control arms look pimp installed. As the instructions suggest (you did read them, right?), the parking brake cable goes under the new control arms, and must be reattached to the backside of the calipers.
4 The driveshaft is next. Using the miracle tool, a cordless 3/8-inch-drive impact gun, we were able to remove all of the bolts with a 10mm socket. This will disconnect the rear half of the factory two-piece driveshaft from the vehicle.
5 Now it's time to tackle the front half of the driveshaft. Using a 12-point/12mm socket with an airgun, bang these suckers off. The center bearing is held in place with two nuts that come right off with a 13mm deep socket.
6 The factory driveshaft uses a CV-style rear flange that needs to be removed. You will need an impact wrench to take that nut off.
7 Using a two-jaw puller, yank the factory flange off of the pinion gear and set it aside. You won’t need it anymore. Watch out for gear oil that will surely pour out. It stinks.
8 Many folks spend too much time stressing over how tight to make this axle nut. Because we’re not changing gears and are reusing the crush collar underneath, simply tighten this with your impact gun for about 5 seconds after the nut has seated. Then, with the Steeda rear driveshaft flange installed, you’re ready to install the new one-piece driveshaft.
9 The Steeda aluminum driveshaft does away with the factory two-piece unit and saves 18.5 pounds in the process. But here, it’s not only just weight—it’s rotational mass as well that gets plucked out of the driveline. This goes a long way in helping performance and fuel economy.

With the factory driveshaft out, it's time to move on to removing the rear axle's flange. The reason why we do this is because the Steeda aluminum driveshaft converts the CV-type joint to a conventional universal joint in back, which has been proven to handle more power. A splined section on the one-piece, aluminum driveshaft allows for axle movement and provides the necessary plunging action to compensate for suspension travel.

After removing the pinion flange nut, you will need to remove the flange itself. We used a simple two-jaw puller and had it off in a minute. Keep in mind that there will be some differential fluid that comes out. If your 8.8s flange seal is a bit leaky, this is a great time to replace it.

Next up, install the Steeda axle flange, and after you've put a little gasket sealer under the nut, reuse the factory flange nut and tighten it down. While there is a pinion bearing preload crush washer underneath that you should be aware of, don't overthink it. Just use the impact gun and crank this nut down, making sure you don't overdo it. As long as the pinion has a little drag on it when you turn it by hand, you're fine. You want to make sure you have just enough tension that allows you to go back and forth within the range of backlash. After adding any differential oil you may have lost, it's time to install the new driveshaft.

The instructions state that it may be necessary to relocate the parking brake cable bracket within the transmission tunnel to accommodate the larger diameter of the Steeda driveshaft on certain model-year Mustangs. However, we had no interference whatsoever on our 2011. The weight savings was dramatic—38.7 to 20.2, a drop of 18.5 pounds.

10 Moving to the front, we remove the underside body trays, and then undo the Z-bar that connects the radiator support to the front K-member. A 15mm socket makes short work of this.
11 Next, remove the four anti-sway bar bracket nuts with a 13mm deep socket and pull the bar away. Note that the factory studs are retained, so there’s no need to hold them when turning wrenches.

Light Is Right

Continuing our diet scheme, we continued with Steeda's tubular lower radiator support. From the factory, S197 Mustangs are equipped with a boxed-steel unit that is quite hefty. It not only supports the radiator from below, but also provides the mounting points for the front stabilizer bar.

After removing the front belly pan and air dam with 6mm and 8mm nut drivers, we proceeded to remove the Z-brace that connects the lower radiator support to the front K-member with a 15mm socket, and then disconnected the sway bar mount nuts (13mm socket; studs are retained). Once we disconnected the front brake line from the two small plastic brackets, we undid the four bolts holding the radiator support, and simply lowered it out of the car.

When installing the Steeda lower radiator support, reuse the factory hardware to mount it to the framerails. Then use the hardware supplied by Steeda to mount the front stabilizer bar and the Z brace. The brake line is held in place by the original mounting clips that we transferred from the stock support. For this swap, we were rewarded with a 10.2-pound weight drop (from 17.0 to 6.8).

Lastly, we slid under the back of our Mustang for a muffler swap. Using a 13mm socket, we undid the factory band clamps in front of each muffler and loosened the mid-pipe strap clamps to allow all the pipes to move freely. This is to allow to pipes to slide forward as you finagle the mufflers out. We used a simple pry bar to take off our stock mufflers, and then slid the new Steeda ones into place through the stock hangers.

Once we had the tips aligned, we used the new band clamps provided and cranked everything down. We hit the key to check for leaks and were rewarded with a very beefy exhaust tone. Even better, we just took off 16.2 pounds. The stock mufflers weigh 21.3 pounds each, while Steeda's are a mere 13.2 each. That's 8.1 pounds on each corner of the car!

Unlike our online friend who still has his mother dressing him every morning, Steeda has run in the opposite direction, looking at the big picture and jumping head-first towards modern technology. Steeda is already at work on the '15 Mustang product line, but we took a moment to incorporate the company's learnings on today's car. We were rewarded with a 49.3-pound total weight reduction—something to make Mr. Angry Online Blogger feel a little better.

12 Steeda’s tubular radiator support offers all of the features as the stock support, but at a substantial weight savings. How much, you ask? We went from a 17.0-pound stocker to a featherweight 6.8 pounds, a 10.2-pound drop.
13 With the new Steeda tubular radiator support in place, we then mounted the antisway bar to the new support with the hardware supplied by Steeda. Easy-peezy, lemon-squeezy.
14 There are a few items that need to be transferred from the stock support to the new Steeda piece, such as the two brake-line clips and the two radiator-stud bushings. With the Steeda rad support in place, we then reinstalled the Z-bar brake with the new bolts supplied.
15 Note that the left wheelhouse liner no longer has a place to connect to the Steeda rad support. As the instructions state, us a zip-tie to secure the lowest mounting point where the push plug used to be.
16 To mount the forward air dam/splash tray, use the supplied nylon zip-ties. We love zip-ties.
17 The rear mufflers are an easy swap on the ’11-up Mustangs. Simply undo one band clamp and slide the mufflers off. When removed, prepare the installation of the new mufflers by spraying some lube into the three mounting points. This will make it a lot easier when you are installing the new mufflers.
18 Carefully align the new Steeda mufflers into place by sliding all three mounting arms into their respective mounts in the car.
19 Like the factory mufflers, the Steeda units use a ball-and-socket joint that has a circumferential seal thanks to an OEM-style band clamp. Tighten slightly for now as you align the mid-pipes and tips.
20 With the tips aligned within the factory bodywork, we were able to then tighten all of the clamps. With no leaks found, we were able to sit back and enjoy the new music and realize a 16.2-pound weight reduction from the two mufflers alone. With all of the components swapped out (lower rear control arms, radiator support, driveshaft, and mufflers), we had a whopping 49.2-pound reduction.