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Tommorrow is Saturday and I have dedicated the whole day, possibly weekend, to changing my front springs for Big Block conversion. I have pickle forks, air compressor and air tools, spring compressor, big hammers etc. Does anyone who has done this work have any tips for me? Any pitfalls to watch for? I heed all advice. Thanks
 

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66 El Camino 57 Chevy pickup 2004 Tahoe
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I'm with Fred. Be very careful, the springs have a tremendous amount of force in them when they're compressed.

One trick: Before removing the shock, pull the cotter pins out of the upper and lower ball joint nuts and back them off a couple of turns. Then use your pickle fork or big hammers to break loose the taper of the ball joints. That way everything is still under control and tied together, no surprises. Pull the shock, apply the spring compressor, when you can turn the nuts by hand the spring is compressed enough. If the ball joint studs start turning making it difficult get the nuts off it's simple to loosen the compressor enough to seat the tapers again lightly.

Also, you'll want to loosen the the big bolts that hold the lower control arm, this will allow the bushings to turn so you can get the arm down far enough. Don't re-tighten them until you have at least a partial load on the suspension as the inner sleeve is locked into place when the bolt is tightened.

Watch those fingers, ever notice how many mechanics are missing fingers or parts of fingers?

Tom
 

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1. Use an internal spring compressor.

2. Chain the spring to a secure part of the chassis. Take up as much chain slack as you can when compressing (removing the spring) and decompressing (installing the spring). This "leash" will prevent the spring from going somewhere where you don't want it to go.

3. From my experience, (installing Moog big block springs), I compressed the overall spring height to approx. 14 inches (+ or - an inch). This seems to be the ideal height when reinstalling the springs and being able to remove the internal spring compressor. This was for a 1971 El Camino (converting from small block to big block).

4. When reinstalling the spring, you will need to take time experimenting where to attach the spring claw to the appropriate spring coil. This is necessary in order to be able to remove the internal compressor claw once you have installed the spring. This trial and error cycle means compressing, installing, and trying to remove the compressor...again and again. :)

It was a little tedious on the first spring install, but much easier once I knew how to "dial-in" the spring height and knew which coil to attach the claw to.

5. Take your time, and constantly evaluate what is happening and could happen while working on this conversion.

Good luck.

-stu
 

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I just heard of a different way to remove and replace front springs. A mechanic friend told me that instead of unbolting the steering knuckle, he unbolts the two lower control arm bolts first (while a floor jack is underneath it) and then slowly lowers the spring and control arm out. He says that it is much safer because if the spring lets loose it has no where to go. I asked him if it was harder to reinstall the spring by having to line up the lower control arm bolt holes and he said he thought it was easier. Seems reasonable to me...any comments on this method?
 

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Hopefully you are already finished with this project, but if not I have a couple of suggestions that might help. Work on a level floor not on a sloped driveway. Place your Floor Jack on the outside edge of the lower A-frame. Use a block of 2X4 between the jack cradle and A-frame. The trick is to not jack the car up any higher than necessary, keeping most of the wieght on the A-frames. There are two sizes of pickle forks, a narrow one for the tie rod ends and a wide one for ball joints. Remove the shocks first, rent or buy internal coil spring clamps, and secure them inside your springs. If you place both of them on the inside 1/3rd of the spring, that will curve the spring for later removal. With jack in place, tie rod link removed, it is now time to use the pickle fork. But first remove the cotter keys on the top and bottom ball joint, then loosten the nuts half way or so, and then gently tap the fork on the bottom joint first. Remember, "BE CAREFUL". From there remove that nut and lower the jack slowly. Keep an eye on your brake hose, using the jack to lower the A-frame should help you to not destroy the hose.

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No one said any thing about swaybar you will most likely need new links as most of the time they are rusted and break when you remove them.I have a question why undo both ball joints the bottom is enough to get the lower arm down to get the spring out...FRED
 

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I usually remove the front coil spring by removing the 2 bolts that secure the lower control arm to the frame first. The reason I do this is because when the spring is lowered, the spring can totally decompress itself for easy removal without the need for a spring compressor. If you try to remove the spring by removing the lower ball joint first, the lower control arm will not pivit (lower) far enough for spring removal, without compressing the spring, with a spring compressor.
However when installing a NEW spring, I recommend attaching the 2 bolts to the frame first, then raising the control arm via the ball joint. This is because either way the lower control arm will not be pivited low enough for installation without a spring conpression tool (new stock spring is typically longer - not weakened like the old spring). Also when installing the spring with the ball joint stud attached first, the lower control arm will want to swing out, since its only attached at one axis (somewhat hard to control).
Lastly wrap a chain through one of the coils then around the lower control arm opening for safety.
 
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