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.
(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.
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:
2 sets of jack stands
1/2" breaker bar
1/2" cordless impact
1/2" torque wrench
17mm, 19mm, 21mm and 22mm sockets
17mm and 22mm wrenches
hammer and plastic mallet
novelty size C clamp (one of my u-bolts was spread just a little too wide)
2 18" soft hooks
How I removed OEM leafs:
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.
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.