An often asked question is 'How hard is it to replace my springs?'. Usually after the decision has been made to fit Parabolic Springs, or just because the old leaf springs are rusty, flat or cracked.
I did this job early on to Wheezil, and at the time hadn't really started Tef's-tQ, so I didn't take any pics or do a write up. This article started as a 'Step by step' set of instructions on the web-forum, and after it had dropped off the font pages was so often asked about and copied, it became my first 'how-to' for the site, and I started doing more, and photo-blogging all my bits of mechanical DIY!
Any way, I'm afraid that there are no pictures; I had asked if any-one following the instructions could take some pics for me, and I DID get sent some, but unfortunately they were lost in one of the hard drive failures I suffered a year or so ago; my apologies to who-ever offered contributions! If any-one could offer some pics though, would be nice to illustrate the sequence.
However, I did find an article, Land Rover 109 Safari Parabolic Springs on Mick Forster's web-site, where he has fitted up new parabolics to his CSW, which is quite useful, and has some pics too.
So, to answer the question.......
How Hard & Preparation
Swapping leaf-springs is not hugely complicated or difficult, but it isn't a small job. The main difficulties are generally in getting very old worn and rusty big lumps of metal apart, that really don't want to budge. Typically, with a bit of planning, and the parts and tools to hand, a relatively competent first timer should be able to do the whole job in a week end.
If you are on a budget, and hoping to re-use as many old parts as possible, well, the suspension gets a pounding and lives in a harsh environment. Everything down there rusts badly. It may be worth looking at your budget and rethinking if it is worth it. Cutting may be the only way to get a lot of parts apart. On which topic, you may like to see separate article, Spring Cleaning!
If you are starting out with new springs though, best advice is not to 'cheap skate'. Get new U-bolts, and new spring & shackle pins, new shackle plates, damper pins, retention washers and split pins, and probably new chassis bushes as well. A big pot of copper grease, will be handy too. As will an angle grinder and a plentiful supply of new cutting disks!
Also check your spanners; from memory the trusty 9/16"AF & 5/8"AF get a fair bit of use, but I think that some of the heads on the shackle & chassis pins are up near an inch, beyond the range of most tool kits; might be worth a check and if necessary a trip to your local motor-factors.
So, step by step, then.....
Step 1 - Gaining access
- Loosen wheel nuts for the corner your starting at.
- Jack the car up; preferably from under the chassis..
- Prop the chassis on axle stands, inboard of the spring, so that you have good access to both front spring hanger & rear shackles.
Do BOTH sides, because you will want movement in the axle to line everything up.
- Remove wheel for the corner you are working on.
You may want to remove opposite side wheel too, to unload suspension on that side, and get best clearance for shuffling the axle about.
Now with axle 'loose', chassis firmly supported on axle stands, you can start work. So make a cuppa and have a quick tidy up. Get everything you need to hand, and stow everything you don't need out of the way to give yourself space.
Step 2 - Remove Damper & U-Bolts
- First remove old damper - this will give you more room.
- On SWB Landies, the damper has an 'eye' at each end with double rubber bushes in. Top end is bolted through the chassis, while the bottom end is on a pin on the spring-plate, held in place with a large washer and split-pin. (more of this later)
- On LWB Landies, the REAR dampers don't have an 'eye' they have a threaded pin on the end of the damper that fits through a hole in the chassis plate, with a rubber bush on either end, and a nut pulling them all together.
- Now, the axle is on top of the spring. When you drop the spring, it will drop down with it, and you wont be able to get at the u-bolt nuts from underneath, so next put a jack under the axle to support its weight, then either undo or cut the U-bolts off. This will allow the spring plate to be removed
- if you have removed the damper already, the plate should be free to be cleaned, prepped or painted, and / or if you take other's advice, fit the damper to it before refitting.
The axle will now be just resting on the spring. Time to have a look and decide how to tackle removing it, so make another cuppa!
- If you start 'undoing' at the shackle end, either by unbolting, or by cutting, the old spring will hinge down from the front. But the axle is on top of it, though hopefully still supported by the jack.
- It would be helpful to not move the axle any more than we have to, it's probably still attached to the chassis by the flexible brake line, and we'd like NOT to stress that. Make sure that the axle is well supported, and a couple more axle stands could be useful here.
- To give yourself some 'wiggle-room', it may be a good idea to go round the other side, and remove the damper and U-bolts from the other side, but leave the axle resting on the spring. Conversely, it may give you better support, to leave the other side bolted up, and do one spring at a time. sip that cuppa and make a decision.
- Likewise, whether you undo the chassis end of the shackle, or the spring end of the shackle is up to you.
- If you are replacing shackles any way, just undo the chassis end, and leave the old shackles on the spring.
- If you are not replacing chassis bushes, and just changing the spring, undo the spring end only, and leave shackles hanging from chassis - but be warned, you will need to loosen chassis end off, and 'settle' the suspension when you have put everything back together again, or the moralistic bush will try and twist everything to where it wants it not where you do!
- Whether it is easier to get the shackles off a loose spring, or a firm chassis is open to debate. If on loose spring, you have more access and room to manoeuvre, but need to find some way to hold everything 'firm' to get good purchase and turn nut against bolt and not the assembly, vice or work bench.
So, getting on with it........
Step 3 - Dropping Spring
- With the axle supported, the spring can be un-attached from the chassis at either end and dropped away... I say DROPPED, it is a heavy chunk of steel, and if you haven't run out of axle stands, blocks of wood or jacks yet.... good idea to put something under the spring to hold it up so it doesn't fall on you whilst you are under it undoing buts or bolts or wielding an angry-grinder!
- You've made a decision on whether to try and undo the chassis or spring end of the shackle, so that's the first end to tackle, to drop the 'tail' of the spring. With that undone, it can be lowered and rested on the floor.
- Then the 'nose' end of the spring at the chassis bush can be tackled, and when that is undone, the spring completely lowered out of the way and removed.
- The bolts, as mentioned, though can be a bit of a bludger, and I recommended having an angry-grinder to hand.
DON'T wade in and grind the heads off the chassis or shackle pins! That's the only means you have of twisting them, they go through 'captive' threads before the nut on the end.
- If you have to 'cut', grind the nuts off the end; then try unwinding from the other end again. Removal of the outer 'lock-nut', plus the heat of grinding SHOULD free them.
- If they are REALLY stubborn, then you may try the 'hammer drill' trick. Take a large 'standard' drill bit and use it to just 'dish' the nut end of the bolt. Then get a old large and blunted (or cheap 'black-spur'!) masonry bit. Grease the end, and put the drill onto hammer action. The hammer action should shake the bolt a bit loose, and in some cases the spinning drill will actually try twisting it in the right direction.
Step 4 - Remove Chassis Bush
- If you are removing the chassis bushes - these are a traditional night mare.
- The standard part is a metalised rubber bush. Basically there is an inner metal tube, that the spring or shackle pin goes through, and an outer metal tube that fits into the chassis, and between the two a block of rubber. And the inner sleeve is wider than the outer.
- What tends to happen is that the outer sleeve corrodes to the chassis and wont press out, and pressing on the inner sleeve just twists the rubber!
- Some recommend burning out the rubber, others drilling, but either way, the idea is to remove the rubber from the sleeve and take with it the inner tube.
- Then left with the outer sleeve corroded to the chassis, to use a hack saw blade threaded through, to cut into the sleeve itself in two three or four places so that you can then pry out the sections with a hammer and chisel.
And that brings us to the end of the disassembly sequence for one corner, so go put the kettle on!
Step 5 - Re-Assembly
- Reassembly is reverse of Disassembly! Yeah, Right! In theory it is, but you have to be a bit more careful. Start by making a cuppa, then offer the new spring up, while you enjoy the beverage, look think and plan the next stage.
- First of all, its going to be a lot easier to line the axle up, if its in roughly the right place to begin with, so look at those blocks/stands and jacks, and see if you can lift it up to near the bump stops to give yourself some room beneath it to line the spring up.
- You could try attaching it to the spring first, THEN attaching the spring to the chassis, as it can make life easier getting the 'pips' lined up and the axle snug on the spring, but conversely, can make wiggling the spring eye into the chassis hanger more awkward, so I'd do spring first.
- Likewise do you do chassis end or shackle end; again, a bit more 'play' at the shackle end, so I'd do chassis hanger first, then shackle, then axle, BUT, you can do the chassis hanger, then attach the axle to the spring then lift the shackle end up.
- Basically, its whatever you think is going to be easiest.
- One bit of common advice though is not to leave the damper to last, following strict reverse of disassembly, but to attach it to the spring plate first, as its a bit of a pain to get the new bushes squashed on. Again it's preferences, but that's where I'm going to start, after looking at the chassis bush.
- So, lets have a quick tidy up, and get on with it!
Step 6 - Fitting Chassis Bush
- Only needed if it's been removed, but.
- First of all, prepare the hole in the chassis. Clean it up with a wire brush and some coarse emery paper to make sure that there's no debris in there that will 'jam' the new bush as you press it in, and a light smear of coppa-grease may help too.
- Bush now needs to be pressed in. Tempting to line it up, push it as far as you can then hammer it round the edge of the outer sleeve, but DON'T. You risk damaging the sleeve and bush.
- Next DONT put a big long bolt or piece of uni-thread through the inner sleeve and a big plate across the back and try winding it in with a pair of nuts, you'll stress the rubber as the inner sleeve is pulled out of skew.
- Best advice I was offered was that scaffold pole is supposed to be the right size to go over the inner sleeve and press on the outer, so cut two short lengths of it, then bridge the hole in either end with some thick plate with a 10mm ish hole in.
- Put a nut on end of m10 unithread, and put a plate on the rod, then 1" length of scaffold pole, then chassis-bush (like making a Kabab!)
- Thread that through the chassis, then put second 12 length of scaffold pole on, second plate, and lastly the nut.
- line the chassis bush up in the hole, then finger tighten the 'kabab' up so that the scaffold piece is resting on the outer sleeve of the bush, one end, and is over the hole the other.
- Then tighten, slowly, winding the bush into the hole, until the outer sleeve is butted against the scaffold piece the other side
Step 7 - Fit Damper bottom end
- On LWB Landies, the REAR dampers don't have an 'eye' they have a threaded pin on the end of the damper that fits through a hole in the chassis plate, with a rubber bush on either end, and a nut pulling them all together. These tend to be pretty easy to fit, so can be left until last, but;
- On SWB Landies, the damper has an 'eye' at each end with double rubber bushes in. Top end is bolted through the chassis, while the bottom end is on a pin on the spring-plate, held in place with a large washer and split-pin.
- With new bushes, it can be a right royal pain to squash this lot together, as you have to try and squeeze the bushes, get the washer over the top of the pin, then get a split pin through.
- Many people think they have been given the wrong size bushes, or try cutting them down1 DONT. they are just a bit 'tight'.
- And its a lot easier if you can do it in a work vice off the car to start with.
- One good tip I came across was to angle-grind a slot in to a bit of old pipe, then use that to push against the washer and bush with a vice or big G-clamp, then pit the split pin in via the slot in the pipe.
- I suppose this could be done with the plate on the car, but again, that's down to you. Most concur that fitting bottom damper first is easier, though, but you have to swing it out of the way whilst you do everything else.
Step 8 - Hanging Spring
- Basically time to follow the 'plan' you made at Step 6; but my preferred way is to hang at the chassis end first, then the shackle end, then worry about the axle.
- Getting the chassis end into the hanger can be a bit tight, so worth giving the area a bit of prep with the wire brush to start with, 'dry' fitting the bolts to make sure threads are clear, and you have the right length bolt for each hole, then giving them a smear of coppa-slip.
- Getting the spring 'in' at the chassis hanger, can be a bit tricky and it's good if you can have an assistant take the weight of the spring for you, while you 'wiggle' it into line
- and a narrow taper drift is good too. Use it instead of the bush-eye pin, from the 'back' end, ie where the pin will come out.
- Wiggle the spring eye into place, then when you have the hole roughly in place, push the taper drift in instead of the bolt, and the taper, with a bit of luck should get the bush to 'centre' on the hole, so you can push the pin in from the other side.
- BUT; don't do the bolts up!
- Once you have the spring 'hanging' on the pins and shackle, leave all the bolts 'loose', because they 'clamp' the moralistic bushes, which do the twisting, NOT the pins in the sleeves.
- The bolts don't get done up until the suspension is 'settled' and at 'normal' ride height, later.
- At the shackle end, again, you have the choice of fitting shackles to the spring first, or to the chassis. I found that attaching them to the chassis and leaving them to 'hand' while if offered up the tail of the spring easiest.
- Again, leave it all 'loose'.
Step 9 - Lining Up Axle
- Time to lower the axle back onto the spring. First of all, identify which U-bolts you are going to use. Fronts and rears are different lengths, and the front off side had one U-bolt with a more square profile to clear the diff casing.
- The Next thing to look out for here is the location 'pip' on the spring, and the location hole it needs to go into on the axle's spring mount.
- The axle has a square box casting on the underside of the axle that the spring plate mates to. It is actually hollow, rather like an upturned roasting tray, and the location pin goes into a location hole in a small raised boss in the middle.
- If you are close, you wont mate the plate, but if you are working blind and are well off you might not notice as the pin will go into the free space around the boss in the casting recess.
- Make sure you get the location pin on the spring located in the hole on the axle. So get the jack under it so that you can lower the axle into place slowly. (See footnote)
- Doing one corner at a time, if you have left the opposite side fixed to the spring, or have already fixed that end to the spring, you may lack a little 'wiggle' play. It may help to loose off the opposite side on the U-bolts a little. But a little body English can work just as well.
- Once lined up, you can refit the spring plate (with damper already attached, if you have elected to fit it first as step 8), making sure that you use the right U-bolts.
- Its useful not to clamp them up too tight to start with, just enough to make sure that spring doesn't stray from axle location pip. You will do them up more tightly when you have got everything settled, and then again after a few road miles.
Step 10 - Repeat until all 4 corners done!
- With the spring 'hung' and the axle located on it, it SHOULD be looking pretty much like it aught to. All that's left is to attach damper top mount, and essentially that's the corner done.
- So go round to the other end of the axle, and do the same on that side!
- Then the axle can be lowed to the ground, and the next one tackled. But first...
- Take the time to take a breather between stages and corners, and keep your work area tidy.
- Check over each 'bit' as you go along to make sure you haven't forgotten anything, and you should be pretty much there.
- all that's left is to 'settle' the suspension in, remember I told you to leave all those bolts loose...
- BEFORE you lower the axle to the ground DOUBLE CHECK that the bolts are not so loose that they are going to 'pop' as soon as you put any load on them.
- Pay particular attention to the U-Bolts as these can be 'wedged' off true and will snap loose when you put weight on them; watch carefully as you lower the axle, and do it SLOWLY.
- OK, with all four corners 'done' and the wheels back on teh ground, the suspension needs to be 'settled' before the bolts are all finally tightened.
- Remember those moralistic bushes; once you tighten the bolts, you 'clamp' them in place and they act as springs, so IF you haven't got the suspension settled at the right 'normal' position, it will often sit crooked or ride 'funny', as a lot of people describe it when they ask 'why' on the forums!
- First thing to do, is to check the U-Bolts, and tighten them up, under load.
- Next, you need to 'bounce' the suspension a bit, so jump in the tail-gate and bumper a bit and make the suspension move and get rid of any 'sticktion' in there.
- Now, the car needs to be on flat level ground, AND you need to make sure that it's not canted over by anything 'unusual' or lack of anything 'usual', before tightening. So have a good check over and tidy up, and remove anything that shouldn't be in the car, like your tool-box! Make sure the spare wheel is where it normally lives, and stuff like that.
- Then give it another 'bounce'....
- And finally go and tighten up all the bolts to final torque.
- Some recommend giving the car a good thrashing over the rough to bed it all in and it's not a bad idea.... but give it some work to do, THEN come back and check it all over again.
- If it does 'tilt' markedly, or ride canted or 'funny' slacken the bolts and repeat.
- Pay particular attention to the U-Bolts for the first 500miles or so, they WILL need re-torquing.
and that's about it! Its not THAT horrible or onerous, but having parts, tools and or mates to hand can make the difference between a rewarding weekend, and "I just want to get rid of the bloody thing" type experience. Its all in the planning really.
A few comments on the Forum's suggest some common gripes, complaints or concerns, one of which is the 'tilt' or riding funny, mentioned in step 12 'settling in'. BUT; there have been a few cases of people getting the springs in the wrong place.
Most springs are sold as pairs; fronts and rears not being the same; but in some cases the springs are also 'handed' and need to be fitted to the correct side of the car. They are usually marked LH (Left Hand side) or RH (Right hand Side). Some springs are also directional and will be marked with an arrow pointing at the end that has to be the 'nose' and point forwards.
A lot of 'problems' are often solved by checking that the springs are on the right side and that they are all 'settled', but severe listing or weird riding can point to the wrong springs having been supplied or fitted.
The only other querulous comment I have is that when I did Wheezil, the location pips on the spring were too big to go in the boss on the axle. I thought this odd, and a 'one-off', but apparently a number of people have experienced the same; I simply filed the pip a bit smaller, carefully with a hand file!