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Shock Replacement - Can I do it myself?

I need my front shocks replaced and the ball joints as well. I need reassurance that this is something I can do myself. I am semi mechanically inclined, I have rebuilt my calipers, replaced the tie rods, brake lines and completely stripped and replaced my interior. With that said, are the front shocks for me? I am just a little leery about messing with the struts.

I know I need a special tool for the ball joints and plan on replacing all of the lock plates, cotter pins, threaded pins, lock nut and ball joint nut.

Any tips or tricks? Any watch outs?

Thanks for your input!
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Old 01-12-2010, 03:43 PM
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Big pipe wrench, fencepost, and some copper anti-seize for the new balljoints. Order quality Lemforder, and replace the cotter pins. You might have some trouble with the wedge pins, so order new ones. Make sure the nut is facing forward. Re-install wedge pins with copper anti-seize as well. You might need what we call a BFH to get the old wedge pins out. I don't think you need to replace the ball joint nut or plates. Just the ball joint and the wedge pins IMO.
Old 01-12-2010, 03:49 PM
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This is along the same scale of what you have in your completed project list. Ball joint tool is the only special tool needed and can be bought at PP for not much. Care needs to be take on the ball joint / pin assembly but that's it.

George
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Old 01-12-2010, 03:52 PM
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I did much more extensive work and I have no mechanical ability. Just ask my wife......
I used PEP Boys 80x66 4 wheel drive socket to take off ball joint. Worked perfectly. Agree with Rusnak, replace wedge pin ad cotter pins as well as nut that holds strut to ball joint. The lock plate under the ball joint can usually be reused. The shock comes out different ways by brand. Lots of threads on this. Go for it.
Old 01-12-2010, 03:56 PM
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If you buy a balljoint tool, it's generally a better idea to use it on re-installation of the clean and new balljoint, rather than the mucky work of removing the old one. I say this because there are torque values and such that should be observed for re-installation.

Chances are you'll ruin the balljoint tool if you use it to remove the old one.l
Old 01-12-2010, 03:59 PM
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you will have no problems with your current resume. I just finished everything up front and i can barely find my ass with both hands sometimes.

The only thing that may be tricky is getting the top nuts from the strut insert removed at the camber plate up top. Thus the call for the big pipe wrench. You will probably need an assistant for that part.

good luck take pics and post for the next guy
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Old 01-12-2010, 04:08 PM
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This will be an easy job for you........

Quote:
Originally Posted by Super_Dave_D View Post
I need my front shocks replaced and the ball joints as well. I need reassurance that this is something I can do myself. I am semi mechanically inclined, I have rebuilt my calipers, replaced the tie rods, brake lines and completely stripped and replaced my interior. With that said, are the front shocks for me? I am just a little leery about messing with the struts.

I know I need a special tool for the ball joints and plan on replacing all of the lock plates, cotter pins, threaded pins, lock nut and ball joint nut.

Any tips or tricks? Any watch outs?

Thanks for your input!

Dave,

Based from the tasks you have done on your car, you won't have difficulties tackling the suspension work. It might feel very intimidating at first glance but the work itself is not that difficult. Specially if you have the correct tools needed. The biggest hurdle is the ball joint nut removal.......my first time I used a very long breaker bar. The next time was a breeze using an impact wrench. Getting the experience and know-how to do things is a learning curve. Others will share their own experience about this project.

For something to watch out is SAFETY!!!! If you're putting the car on jackstands, make sure the car is stable when you loosen the ball joint nut/s. Removal of the front suspension offers greater ease in dismantling the parts but you don't have too (optional). Keep us posted and plenty of advise is available in this forum.

Tony
Old 01-12-2010, 04:11 PM
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Tony is right on when he mentions making sure the car is very stable on the jack stands. You are going to be cranking on the ball joint nuts...

I placed a jack under the wrench at the ball joint to apply the necessary pressure while I cranked on the wrench. I also had previously purchased an absolutely huge torque wrench from Harbor Freight for cheap with a 1" drive and torque readings up to 350 lb/ft. I think it is 3' long. That thing was worth the modest money I paid for sure!

Spray the nuts down with PB Blaster to free them up and let it soak over night.

I, too, used the cheapo tool from Autozone. It fit the new ball joints perfectly.

If you have to partially remove the sway bar (I think I did), use dish soap on the bushings to get it back in to place.

Finally, for safety, I place my wheels/tires under my car when it is on jacks. It is a little extra insurance in the event of catastrophic failure...

Good luck.

Mike
Old 01-12-2010, 04:27 PM
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I am thinking about "manning up" and doing this in the Spring as well. Correct me if I am wrong, but, I thought you don't mess with the ball joints if you are just removing the strut inserts, or, am I mistaken?

Mike
Old 01-12-2010, 05:04 PM
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impact makes doing the top nuts easy

pressure wash under the fender, then... let it soak in Kroil, etc. - not just overnight - but for a week

print out correct PET page & circle all parts you'll need
Old 01-12-2010, 05:07 PM
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This is the trick to make it easy.........

Quote:
Originally Posted by MOMO3.2 View Post
I placed a jack under the wrench at the ball joint to apply the necessary pressure while I cranked on the wrench. I also had previously purchased an absolutely huge torque wrench from Harbor Freight for cheap with a 1" drive and torque readings up to 350 lb/ft. I think it is 3' long. That thing was worth the modest money I paid for sure!

Finally, for safety, I place my wheels/tires under my car when it is on jacks. It is a little extra insurance in the event of catastrophic failure...

Good luck.

If you don't have an impact wrench to use,

Mike


Follow Mike's advise about using a floor jack to push up the ball joint socket against the A-arm with wrench/breaker bar installed already. This will help prevent the socket from slipping out during the critical loosening of the ball joint nut. All you need is about a 1/4 turn and the next steps are just loosening and removing the other components.

It would only take a few minutes to loosen the two (2) ball joints nuts if you have access to an impact wrench. However, other people had success using other techniques or tools.

Tony
Old 01-12-2010, 06:14 PM
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I would only replace the balljoints if they are bad.

I would plan on replacing the wedge pins each time they are removed. I used a large pipe wrench (not pictured) to remove the ball joint nut. The top strut nut was blasted off with an impact wrench because I had the strut piston shaft well secured. I would not use an impact wrench otherwise because you can damage the shock seals if you end up spinning the shaft.

It's not a hard job. I would advocate changing the suspension bushings if you see paint rubbed off of the torsion bar upper surface.
Old 01-12-2010, 06:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rusnak View Post
Chances are you'll ruin the balljoint tool if you use it to remove the old one.l
I can attest to this....still have it in my toolbox.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RWebb View Post
impact makes doing the top nuts easy
20 seconds each-max. That is indeed the easiest way to do them.
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Old 01-12-2010, 06:50 PM
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20 seconds!!!!

I spent two days on those stupid nuts!

Need to get myself an impact wrench.
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Old 01-12-2010, 07:11 PM
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Quote:
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I.
Coil Springs!!!

I also recommend changing the A-Arm bushings.
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Old 01-13-2010, 06:16 AM
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I finally installed the new shocks on the rear (Bilstein HD). The total job took about 2 hours (taking my time). The bottom bolts were really tough to dislodge (breaker bar with a pipe extension). The nuts on top were more awkward than anything else. The shocks that I removed were absolutely shot; they took virtually no effort to compress and one did not even rebound to full length once the pressure was off. All in all, $250 well spent. I will have to assess the front and see what I want to do there.

Mike
Old 02-27-2010, 03:11 PM
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When I heard that Elephant Racing came out with the rubber A-arm bushings, and that you could install them at home, you would not believe how excited I was. They have worked out really great, and I recommend them.

Old 02-27-2010, 03:27 PM
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I did a bunch of articles on my web site in "how to" fashion with lots of pictures on shocks and ball joints. Not hard at all once you get into it.........


RVB Precision - Welcome to the world of ultra precision
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Old 03-03-2010, 04:57 PM
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If your going to go to the trouble of replacing the cartridges, go ahead and do the ball joints and A frame bushings. Don't bother trying to break the bj nut loose, you can cut them off in just a couple of minutes with a dremel and reinforced cut-off wheel. The shock pin, nut and locking ring should be replaced anyway and you'll have to use a impact wrench set at the highest setting to reinstall. The Bentley manual says something crazy like 180 ft. lbs. Prolly should rebalance the car and certainly get an alignment done, but you'll be surprised at the results.
Old 03-04-2010, 06:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Head416 View Post
20 seconds!!!!

I spent two days on those stupid nuts!

Need to get myself an impact wrench.
For over three decades, I avoided having air in my garage. I thought it was both classic and manly to use simple hand-tools.

Then......I bought a used compresser for $100 and some inexpensive air tools. They save me about half the time of a project. At least. If I had switched to air thirty years ago, it would have saved six months of my life. In the last week alone, it has saved me many many hours.

Suggestion: Use an air chisel to remove the ball joint nuts. Use the air chisel against one of the castle structures on the nut, causing the nut to rotate counterclockwise and come off.

Air is your friend.
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Old 03-04-2010, 09:47 AM
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