The Studeblogger

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Adventures in shock-land.

Tomorrow Barney goes to the brake shop for new binders and an alignment, so I wanted to do a job I'd put off for over a year - changing out the rear shock absorbers. I wanted this done before the alignment, since the angle of the front wheels will change along with the angle of the rear end.

The reason I'd put it off so long is that, to be perfectly blunt, changing the rears is a royal bitch. The upper shock mounts are located in a frame cross-member that lies in the highest part of the floor pan, the kickup over the rear axle.



I took the photo above laying underneath the rear axle, looking up at the left upper shock  mount. There wasn't really enough clearance to get a good angle for the photo - so you can imagine the working space! The through-bolt's head goes in from the front of the car; the self-locking nut is in behind the flange on the rear, in a tiny recessed space between the cross-member flange and the trunk floor - just enough space for a box-end wrench, but not for a socket+ratchet combo. With the exhaust pipe in the exact center of the working area, getting your arms in there to hold the nut and turn the bolt is kind of like driving a '75 Buick through a slalom course after a night of heavy drinking,

 

Caution: to do this at home, you need to jack up the rear wheels for clearance. This means that the parking brake is rendered useless. Be safe - use wheel chocks before and after both front wheels, and jack stands under the rear axle under the springs. I also leave the floor jack under the pumpkin as well for good measure - better safe than sorry. Don't take short cuts with your life!



It took me about an hour and a half of sweating, spitting and being drowned in a shower of rust flakes from the exhaust pipes to get the left shock off. In the process, I managed to run over my own shoulder with my creeper and raise a bruise the size of Catalina Island (ouch).

The old shocks were still operable, but obviously tired. The replacements were the same exact Gabriels that came off the car!



The new shock went in without much effort, since I now knew where everything was. I chased the threads on the mounting bolt just to clean them up, then proceeded to install the shock. The only hang-up was with my torque wrench: the bolt had to be torqued to 45 foot-pounds, and my 3/8" wrench with the 12" handle doesn't go that high. So I had to use the 1/2" drive, with the two-foot handle... which meant that I had just enough angle to turn the bolt one click with each swing. Getting it to torque was an interminable process, but I did it.

The right shock went much more smoothly, taking only a half-hour to R&R (albeit with another gallon of rust-flakes dislodged).

Once the shocks are in and the nut on the bottom stud is tightened up, be sure to add the locking nut. These are not included in the shock absorber hardware package, and the Shop Manual decrees the use of PAL nuts. Luckily I had some left from the front shock installation, which I'd gotten online from Aircraft Spruce.


Just snug the flat side up against the stud nut and they're locked in place, yet still easy to remove! Pretty smooth.

After all was said and done, it wasn't that bad, but would certainly be a lot better using a hoist :)  And, even with the tired old leaf springs in the back end, the car sits about 2" higher!



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