Her front passenger side spring was broken, inviting the cruel and very un-badass nickname 'Eileen'.
We knew we would have to replace the springs fairly quickly (when you replace a spring one one side, you should always do both). We decided to replace her shocks at the same time, so we ordered new front springs, and front and rear shocks (we haven't actually switched the rears yet, but they will be done soon and I hope won't cause too much pain, so I will just include them in this post).
A few months ago, I joined a meetup group called 'Gearhead Girls', run by a retired female auto shop teacher. After several theoretical classes, the girls in the group were looking to do some actual work on a car, so I volunteered Vlad for a group session. Replacing the springs is something I was pretty scared of. If you've never looked closely at a vehicle's spring, take a look in one of your wheel wells. Your cars springs are designed to support the weight of your car and several passengers. The curb weight alone of a '67 4 door hardtop is well over 3500lb. Add a couple of festively plump Europeans and their large breed dog, plus any of the Scooby Gang along for the ride, and you've got a minimum of around 2 tons of weight those springs need to carry safely away from all manner of demons, ghosts and Leviathans.
Suffice to say, car springs are some heavy duty steel, and operate under an incredible amount of tension. Working on springs is very dangerous and has maimed and killed people. So it's not something this risk-averse girl was looking forward to much, but it needed to be done.
|The old broken spring, or half of it.|
After reading through the shop manual section on suspension, I discovered that Chevy wanted to use a 'special tool' which you had to fabricate from steel and a block of wood to change the springs. That seemed kind of crazy and I couldn't find any information anywhere about how it would work. I looked at several YouTube videos of changing springs (none of them close to the age or type of Vlad) and messaged Rick my YouTube Impala buddy to ask how he had worked on springs. He said he had used a spring compressor, which is what everyone else seems to use too. They can be bought, or rented at places like Autozone or NAPA.
You need an internal spring compressor to do this, and there are two types I came across. The first that we tried (from Autozone) had a hook like top, and a pickle fork type bottom - you hook over the spring inside and insert the bottom plate through the edge of the spring. This is what we used to remove the first (broken) spring. It went somewhat uneventfully, considering the spring was sheared in half, which was kind of terrifying. It didn't go as well trying to compress and install the first new spring though.
The new springs were about 17" tall, but needed to be compressed to around 11" in order to fit into the space. To get into this space, we had to remove the brake drum, take out the old shock, unbolt the strut rod and sway bar, and unbolt the part of the ball joint that attaches to the control arm. Most of these were caked with 40+ years of dirt and grime or rusted with damaged nuts or threads so not too simple to take apart. When you have your spring compressed to a small enough length (this is why you need tickets to the gun show, especially if you have to do this compression/decompression 8+ times like I did for various reasons - not enough thread left, spring compressor not gripping straight, etc)
Once in place (on the Impala, there is a slight tail to the spring which fits in a metal 'pocket' only one way), you put the spring in place, then jack up the control arm until it touches the bottom of the compressed spring, then decompress until the spring fits itself into the pocket. Or, in some cases, the spring compressor might just suddenly decide to release itself and the eager spring will jump into it's new pocket, scaring the shit out of all around and especially the person closest to it (me). My spring-fear began to grow. For this reason I decided I did not like the pickle fork style compressor. It was put on correctly as far as we could see, but it slipped out as soon as a little tension was taken off of it by the jack. I decided to try to find another style of spring compressor which I had seen online, and luckily NAPA had it to rent.
This is the first type of compressor we used:
And this is the second type of spring compressor, which I feel works best for this job:
|The spring in all it's uncompressed glory.|
|Compressed to roughly the length needed to fit in. The pink string was an idea of how to get the tool out more easily after - it did not work and we didn't use it on the second side.|
|The stuck top part of the tool. You can see 2 of the hose clamps.|
|The tool we made to free the compressor - a square pipe (with two more metal pieces added at the top) welded to an impact wrench extension which we used to 'hammer' free the tool.|
Once the spring was in and we put the pieces back together, replacing the shock was fairly simple (you will need a scissor or bottle jack to slightly compress the shock while you bolt it in. We replaced the rest of the parts on the RH side and torqued to specs given in the manual.
|The first spring and shock in place.|
|The cone shaped rubber stopper we removed.|
Cas answered my prayers to never compress a spring again, and T was able to join me on the Saturday to keep working. He compressed the second spring without much to-do, and popped it into place.
|T looking way too happy about compressing his spring. I think he only had to do it twice.|
|New strut rod bushing vs old.|
|Done! About to take her outside to adjust the brakes.|
The new springs and shocks certainly made for a smoother drive home. Our next big project will be converting the old drum brakes to discs. I'm hoping this will go a little easier, but I am sure it won't!
When we got home, T fitted Vlad with her new plate surrounds that I got him for his birthday. I also got him front AND rear bumper guards.... what a lucky guy! He grumbled that these were really presents for 'both of us'. He got Matchbox Twenty tickets too, so don't feel too sorry for him people.
As a reward for reading all the way to the end, I gift you with this picture of how I looked every night that week.
Parts used in this episode:
Shocks: KYB Gas-A-Just front and rear shocks KYKG4515 and KYKG5507 (www.carparts.com)
Springs: Moog CC609 (www.autopartswarehouse.com)
Replacement bushings for Strut Rod: Moog MOK6092 (www.carparts.com)
Spare cotter pins for putting the drums back together.
Multiple socket sizes, deep and shallow, with ratchets. An impact wrench is very useful.
Multiple sizes of spanners, or as the Yanks like to call them, 'wrenches'.
Spring compressor - borrow this from NAPA, about $50 returnable deposit.
Brake adjuster or flat head screwdriver.
Bottle or scissor jack.
Wire brushes are handy to clean up rusted bolts and nuts.
Sergeant Safety Says:
Don't forget - Gloves, eye protection and also hearing protection if you use an impact wrench.