How-to: Remove OEM Leaf Springs and Install General Springs Leafs - Second Generation Nissan Xterra Forums (2005+)
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-26-2019, 12:16 AM Thread Starter
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How-to: Remove OEM Leaf Springs and Install General Springs Leafs

I'd been limping along with the OEM leaf pack to 163k miles with helper leafs from Auto Zone and air bags, but it started getting obvious I'd gotten as much as I could out of the pack. I noticed a broken leaf last week. I went with standard duty leaf springs because I've already got air bags with a controller that have to stay inflated and I read the heavy duty leafs can be harsh unloaded. I also wasn't looking for a lift, just an upgrade to what the OEM pack should have been (I hope). If I find this isn't heavy duty enough I figure I can put on an AAL. That being said I'd expect the install on a General Springs HD pack to be the same as what I installed. This install is a cumulation of the knowledge I gained by reading several threads on leaf spring installs and then DIYing it myself.



Parts: (edited after install)
General Spring offers U-bolts at a good price, but not 3 1/8" wide and it's a real pain to squeeze their 3 1/4" U-bolts down. I've gone back and added an Add A Leaf after my original post. I figured out the standard leaf pack rides great but just isn't enough strength even with air bags for my towing needs. In retrospect it would have been a lot cheaper to buy the Heavy Duty pack and remove a leaf if I'd found it was too stiff rather than add a leaf afterwards since it wasn't stiff enough. Thanks to @11ORX 's post further down the thread I knew Advance Auto offers Auto Craft U-bolts at 3 1/8" wide, but I needed longer than he used because of adding the leaf. I used 8" long AC130136 which worked great for my pack.

Also note, if you're like me and end up replacing the bolt that goes through the leaf pack keep an eye on the bolt head height. What I got supplied was 3/8", that's too long. What came on the original General Spring leaf pack was 5/16" and fits perfect. Nothing that can't be ground to size, but it seriously sucks when you realize it after putting the pack in and it doesn't tighten flush.




Optional parts
Bushings for the OEM upper shackle, 55046-EB000, 4 pieces total
I replaced the bushings because I don't intend to take this apart again, but I did find the old ones looked to be fine to reuse
Bolt for front leaf mount, 54459-EA00A, 2 pieces total
I replaced the bolt because it's noted for replacement on the forum's Torque Specs thread



Tools I used:
floor jack
2 sets of jack stands
1/2" breaker bar
1/2" cordless impact
1/2" torque wrench
1/2" ratchet
17mm, 19mm, 21mm and 22mm sockets
17mm and 22mm wrenches
hammer and plastic mallet
ratcheting strap
novelty size C clamp (one of my u-bolts was spread just a little too wide)
2 18" soft hooks
wheel chocks
anti seize
grease
marker
flashlight



How I removed OEM leafs: (1 hour)

break lug nuts free

chock front wheels

remove spare tire

raise rear end with floor jack on the rear diff

lower frame on to jack stands

lower jack so axle completely droops, then raise slightly and lower axle on to jack stands

remove rear wheels

I didn't remove the lower shock bolts, might be a dumb move. This would be the time to remove them.

remove 4 nuts holding on the U bolts with impact, remove U bolts and bracket

remove 2 nuts on the shackle and the plate they hold on

(I did not need to loosen/move the OEM exhaust, I could make enough room to get the shackle out by moving the rubber bushing out of the mounting bracket so there was plenty of play)

wrap soft hook around the frame towards the bumper, wrap another soft hook around the shackle, then attach ratchet strap between them. Use ratchet to pull out the shackle, support leaf with one hand to lower it to the floor when the shackle comes free



break the nut free on the front leaf bolt, I used a breaker bar and raised it with the floor jack



remove the bolt while supporting the leaf with the other hand and remove leaf pack

Instillation of the General Spring leafs: (3 1/2 hours, including about 1 1/2 hours of mistakes/learning)

test fit the shackle through the new lower rubber bushings installed in the leaf eye. If you've got rubber and corrosion making the OD of the shackle too big to slide freely into the bushing clean it off. I used a wire wheel and a belt sander, test fitting the rubber bushing over the shaft until it slid freely.

put a mark representing the position of the leaf spring pin hole on the inside and outside of the axle. Later on this will make seeing where the leaf spring pin needs to go easier. If I had this to do over again I'd take a straight edge or square and put a line across the bottom of the axle and up on to the sides. The pin is easy to see but the hole isn't always and a line would have helped a lot.

install the front end of the leaf on with bolt and nut

install the rear of the leaf with shackle, plate and nuts. I used minimal grease on the rubber bushing to make things slide easier

install the other leaf spring

raise the axle with the floor jack, remove jack stands supporting the axle and then lower and remove floor jack (since I didn't remove my lower shock bolts the axle was in the air slightly above the leaf spring)

raise leaf spring with floor jack while positioning the axle with ratcheting strap to get the axle hole into position for the leaf spring pin to go into, I started with the passenger side

put on the two u-bolts, bracket, washers and nuts. The U bolts were a little long but that was nice during install. A 4 1/2" angle grinder with a cut off wheel would take care of the excess easily. Snug the bolts up, then give them a tap with a hammer on top of the axle. I had one move/jump and the nuts weren't nearly as tight. I'm guessing that's part of the reason to check how tight they are after driving for a while, they end up moving and need retightened again.



repeat on the driver's side, getting the pin in the hole was a lot tougher on the second side

tighten all the bolts, get it off jack stands, put on the wheels on and go for a drive

The U-bolts should be checked and retorqued as needed per @Xorro's post further down this thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xorro View Post
Be sure to re-check the U-bolt torque a few times after installation.

Alcan Spring includes instructions with theirs about how important this is. I didn't search for a link from them, but the basics of it are pretty close to this: Re-check after ~50 miles, then again after another ~50 miles, then again after ~250 miles, then any time you're under the rig. In my experience, this has been pretty accurate and very necessary, and it is usually about the 4th re-torquing before they have finally "settled in" and didn't require any more.
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Last edited by Longboardr; 05-22-2019 at 02:17 PM.
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-26-2019, 12:33 AM
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Thanks for the pix and great write up! This may be in my near future.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-26-2019, 12:34 AM
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Nice write up! Nice to to see another option for leafs.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-26-2019, 12:42 AM
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Figured I'll add my 2 cents since I have the general HD, for anyone looking for a cheaper leaf pack to lift I combined mine with a single AAL from PRG and dropped the overload and have been very impressed for the cost and it rides perfect with a rear tire carrier with a 35, and a few tools in the back

Also nice write up!
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-26-2019, 12:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chase5Hart View Post
Figured I'll add my 2 cents since I have the general HD, for anyone looking for a cheaper leaf pack to lift I combined mine with a single AAL from PRG and dropped the overload and have been very impressed for the cost and it rides perfect with a rear tire carrier with a 35, and a few tools in the back



Also nice write up!
Good to know! I'm installing a BEEFY rear tire carrier and want to get rid of my old sagging stock leafs, and finally install this AAL kit I have just collecting dust in the garage. Lol.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-26-2019, 11:22 AM
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Excellent write-up! I like your use of ratchet straps and second the suggestion to mark the axle on each end with guidelines to help align the spring to axle connection which is very difficult to see otherwise.

When I did this job, I cut a piece of 3/4" plywood to place on top of the floor jack pad before lifting the U-bolt plate and spring upward to mate to the axle (from bottom to top, the stack of materials on top of the floor jack pad was plywood, U-bolt plate, spring). The plywood was cut just long enough to contact both inside and outside edges of the U-bolt plate, and just wide enough so that I could tighten the U-bolt nuts by hand after the plate had been lifted high enough to mate the spring to the axle (so I didn't have to lower the jack to gain enough clearance to attach the nuts).

I am pretty sure the U-bolt "B" dimension you show as 3-1/4" should actually be 3-1/8". That would explain why you had to use a C-clamp to squeeze the legs of one of the U-bolts tighter to fit through the holes in the U-bolt plate. I measured my stock U-bolts pretty closely and came up with 3-1/8".

I had a really difficult time locating 3-1/8" U-bolts, but finally found them in stock at my local Advance Auto Parts. They are round 1/2" x 3-1/8" x 6-1/2" and they fit the General Spring regular duty springs perfectly (they may not be long enough to fit the General Spring heavy duty springs which have an additional leaf). The part number is Auto Craft #AC130134. The online part description is messed up (says 1.2" but is actually 1/2", says 6-3/4" but is actually 6-1/2").

I also replaced my stock bump stops with Timbren SES Bump stops (using a cold chisel and hammer to break off the OEM nuts) and removed my Firestone airbags. I think the unloaded ride is much better than stock with the General Spring regular duty / Timbren bump stop combination. It doesn't bottom out on bumps like the OEM setup did, and the springs feel stiffer than OEM. I don't know how the new springs and bump stops will handle a heavy load or trailer tongue weight. Hopefully I won't have to reinstall the air bags, but that remains to be seen.
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Last edited by 11ORX; 04-26-2019 at 11:32 AM.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-26-2019, 03:18 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 11ORX View Post
Excellent write-up! I like your use of ratchet straps and second the suggestion to mark the axle on each end with guidelines to help align the spring to axle connection which is very difficult to see otherwise.

When I did this job, I cut a piece of 3/4" plywood to place on top of the floor jack pad before lifting the U-bolt plate and spring upward to mate to the axle (from bottom to top, the stack of materials on top of the floor jack pad was plywood, U-bolt plate, spring). The plywood was cut just long enough to contact both inside and outside edges of the U-bolt plate, and just wide enough so that I could tighten the U-bolt nuts by hand after the plate had been lifted high enough to mate the spring to the axle (so I didn't have to lower the jack to gain enough clearance to attach the nuts).

I am pretty sure the U-bolt "B" dimension you show as 3-1/4" should actually be 3-1/8". That would explain why you had to use a C-clamp to squeeze the legs of one of the U-bolts tighter to fit through the holes in the U-bolt plate. I measured my stock U-bolts pretty closely and came up with 3-1/8".

I had a really difficult time locating 3-1/8" U-bolts, but finally found them in stock at my local Advance Auto Parts. They are round 1/2" x 3-1/8" x 6-1/2" and they fit the General Spring regular duty springs perfectly (they may not be long enough to fit the General Spring heavy duty springs which have an additional leaf). The part number is Auto Craft #AC130134. The online part description is messed up (says 1.2" but is actually 1/2", says 6-3/4" but is actually 6-1/2").

I also replaced my stock bump stops with Timbren SES Bump stops (using a cold chisel and hammer to break off the OEM nuts) and removed my Firestone airbags. I think the unloaded ride is much better than stock with the General Spring regular duty / Timbren bump stop combination. It doesn't bottom out on bumps like the OEM setup did, and the springs feel stiffer than OEM. I don't know how the new springs and bump stops will handle a heavy load or trailer tongue weight. Hopefully I won't have to reinstall the air bags, but that remains to be seen.
Thanks! You're correct, stock size is 3 1/8". I added a note of this in the first post.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-28-2019, 12:13 AM
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Solid write-up! I have so much respect for anyone that can stop and take good pics during leaf spring work, man is it exhausting to deal with. It's like every single thing you have to unbolt/move around weighs 200 lbs haha.


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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-28-2019, 11:44 AM
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Awesome step by step write up! Now, if I just want to install rear adjustable shackles, assume I just have to jack correctly and use the ratchet strap method to finish the job? I want to make sure the spring won't unload when released. Suppose I can 'feel' the tension before pulling the stock shackles?
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-28-2019, 01:25 PM
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@Longboardr : I'm sure you've probably researched it, but I don't see it mentioned in this thread yet.

Be sure to re-check the U-bolt torque a few times after installation.

Alcan Spring includes instructions with theirs about how important this is. I didn't search for a link from them, but the basics of it are pretty close to this: Re-check after ~50 miles, then again after another ~50 miles, then again after ~250 miles, then any time you're under the rig. In my experience, this has been pretty accurate and very necessary, and it is usually about the 4th re-torquing before they have finally "settled in" and didn't require any more.
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