Did I say how HEAVY these trucks are? Oh, of course not, I just started. Well, I guess that
is about the best way to start.
These trucks are HEAVY! I am saying that to make sure that every one takes extra safety
precations when working on these trucks. It is very easy for them to come off jack stands or
move side to side. I used a heavy duty shop hoist with heavy chains to support the truck if
any thing happened. Double safety.
Starting the spring over with a little help from others in the Zone, I tackle it.
First I loosen all the bolts related with the rear springs, and realize that I will need to have
both side totally loose to clear the brake drums. I have the axle supported by jack stands,
and the truck is being held up with the shop hoist and chains. This allows me to move the
truck sideways when I need the room. Feels weird, but works great. After a LOT of lube spray
and elbow grease I get the nuts off the U-bolts which probably haven't been removed since
before I was born. While working on the truck I have handy a grinder with a wire wheel to
remove decades of buildup of grime, paint, rust, and who knows what else. After finally getting
the spring off, I decide that I will do the front hanger while I have the spring off, it would
require taking the spring off to do this later anyways. I am GLAD that I have a plasma torch!!
Makes life SO much easier. Albeight a bit hotter :) Torching the rivets from the front, then
go inside the frame rail and cut the weld that hold the back plate to the stud. Make sure
that you get the extra slag off the stud or it will not go through the hole. I then removed
the back of the rivets and the backing plate. A really nice thing, the designers gave a
template to cut the lower hole!! And the plasma torch makes QUICK work of this. There is a
little 1/16" thick plate that shows where the holes are supposed to be, and where the bottom
hole goes. Keep this, and USE it. After cleaning everything up, most of you will want to just
bolt this back together. But I knew myself, so I welded ALL of it. Making sure that bolts
will still go though. Hint: Bolt the plates up TIGHT before welding the backing plate to the
stud. After welding both the front and back plates,(looks GOOD) I check everything again,
and primer it. I had already cleaned the spring and primered it earlier, so I threw it on.
Another note, as Lee found out, make SURE that you have enough clearance to lift the truck
to clear the springs once lifted. You will need an extra 8" or so. Easy for me, I just lift
the truck with the hoist :) Now I need to do the other side, which means the gas tank must
come out. ( no worry about fumes here, this tanks hasn't seen gas in YEARS!) I think that
the other side will go MUCH quicker now that I have a plan of attack. And most bolts are
already either loose or off. Oh yeah, don't forget to disconnect the rear brake lines,
differential breather, and shocks! And make sure that you have a support for the pinion.
This axle is HEAVY, and it will roll forward as soon as the springs are loose!
So now after flipping the shackle, and spring hanger, the back of the truck is sitting HIGH,
and just waiting for me to do the front.
The front flip.
Doing the front takes a bit more then the back takes. The basics to it are very simple.
But it can be difficult to do some of these things. Another note, I am going to run two
tcases, so the driveline is going to run further back on the truck. This allows me to keep
the stock caster of the axle and have the pinion at the right angle.
First things first, soak all the bolts to be loosened. Second, be SAFE! Especially for
people doing this with their motor still in their truck!
Remove all brake lines and differential breather tube. And take off the tie rods. Both the
main tie rod, and smaller one. And anything else that might be connected.
Support the truck by the frame.
Remove the u-bolts.
Take out bolts of the shackles, and lower the springs from the front and roll out your axle.
I basically measured where the spring perches were to be located, and after grinding them off
the axle, I welded them atop the axle with the same pinion angle.
I did this by taking one off first, and locating it parrelel to the one below. After welding it on,
I ground off the bottom perch, and welded it ontop the other side.
As for the steering arms. I have cut them a little forward of the two front studs that hold it down
(about 2" from the front of the stud) flipped them over, then welded them back together. After
smoothing the welds flush with the surface of the arm, I then welded plates about 4" long both on top
and below the weld on the arm. The braces are as wide as the arm is, and about 1/4" thick.
One more thing, after flipping the steering arms, the holes where the tie rod ends mount,
will now be more towards the center of the vehicle, which will make you shorten the tie rod by about 2".
And the drag link should be shortened by about 1" to keep the steering arm geometry correct (so that
you can turn the wheels an equal distance both ways), and keep the truck going straight.
Note: You will have to relocate the tie rods in some fashion. They will hit the spring if left
in their original postion. Some people have even heated and bent the arm to allow for clearance!
And while I do not condone this approache (the arms are made from forged steel, they are strong,
and should be able to handle this approache), but when going 65 mph down the road, losing a
steering arm could easily prove fatal to both driver and passenger of the truck, but also
other vehicles on the road.
Note: I suggest doing a shackle reversal at this time. Before welding on the spring perches, relocate
the shackle from the front hanger to the rear hanger, that simple.
This will increase handling on road, and give a softer and safer ride off road. But it will let
the tire move rearward when traveling upward, so the tires will need more clearancing on the cab side.