Epic shock install
So, after installing my cheap 1.75" coil spacers, I needed shocks. This is an 05 LJ for anyone trying to follow along. I've needed shocks for a while, and I suspected that the shocks on the LJ were actually original. They were shot, I could feel it. The rear of the Jeep would bounce 2-3 times after hitting any signifigant bump. The coil spacers made it even more important because now my shocks were too short and hitting their limit on some bumps on the highway.
I did a little shock shopping, and after a recommendation from a friend, decided on the Quadratec 8.0 Nitro shocks. These are a twin-tube shock, with Quadratec's branding. I do not know who manufacturers them, but they had ok reviews, and my buddy says he loves them on his JK. So i figured, what the heck, they're inexpensive as shocks go ($177 for all 4) and sound like theyre a decent shock.
Knowning what I know about TJ shocks, we decided to do the front shocks first, as they were probably going to be less hassle. They were, we installed them without even taking the wheels off. It was literally as simple as, remove the lower bar pin bolts, use a ratcheting wrench on the upper post. Remove the old shock, install the new one. Done.
The rear on the other hand.. well, it was indeed more hassle. First, my buddy was convinced that we should mount the shocks inverted. Which could be done physically, and judging from the size of the can on these new shocks, it seemed like a good idea. The can wasnt hitting the axle or anything, but it was very close to the brake line. So i figured, what the heck, and we installed the bar pins on the "bottom" of the shock, and the sleeves on the "top". Inverting the shock. Then we set out to remove the old shocks. We started on the drivers side, again because it looked like less hassle. The passenger side had the tailpipe in the way. If you;re not familiar with the upper mounts on the TJ's rear shocks, here's the run-down. The bottom of the shock is your standard eye/bolt design. There's a mount on the axle, you put the eye of the sock in the mount, put a bolt horizontally through it, tighten it down. On the top however, there's a bar-pin. You press this pin into the bushing on the shock, and then there are two bolts that go through the pin, into some inserts welded on to the frame cross-member on the Jeep. Simple, right?
Well, after 10+ years of PA winters, this is nowhere near as easy as it sounds. The bolts heads rust to the cross member, and the threads rust into the inserts. Well, the outer bolt came out, with some work, but the inner one, the head snapped off. $%*&!! We tried extracting the broken bolt, but it just wasnt happening. I ended up taking it to another buddy the following day to have the bolt drilled out. It took him 4 hours! but we got the bolt out, and the shock mounted, inverted.
Then I drove it for a week with one new, inverted, rear shock, shot factory rear shock, and two new front shocks. I noticed that the rear seemed absolutely no better than it was before replacing the one shock, and started doing some reading. It turns out that the design of the twin-tube shock prohibits it's use in an inverted setup. So that nice new shock, probably wasnt doing its job.
At the end of that week, I took my Sunday morning, an ddecided I was going to try to get the other shock done, and flip the one that we'd already installed to its proper orientation. This time, I started with the hard side, because I just knew it wasnt going to go well. I was right. BOTH bolts snapped on this side. Yes, 3 out of 4 of these mounting bolts snapped off. I even hit these two up with a healthy amount of PB Blaster before I got started, and still, snapped. I was not happy. I was also not interested in spending hours and hours drilling these things out, I dont think I even own a drill that would fit in there. So I started thinking up other solutions. By now two buddies had shown up to help.
We came up with an interesting solution. We fabricated a plate that fit between the studs that were left above the cross-member, and used them as its anchor, and another plate that went below the cross-member with ears for an upper shock-mount on it. Then a hefty bolt went through the middle, into a nut welded to the top of the upper plate. Tightened down it sandwiched the cross-member and gave me a nice solid upper shock mount.
After my first test drive, I found that I way under-engineered it, and all of the plates bent to hell, and came loose. So I had to pull it all out on Monday night after work, and re-engineer it all. This time I took one side of a piece of 2x4 rectangle tube. The bends for the edge of the tube added structure to the plate. Then for good measure I welded an additional plate to the top of it. And welded my nut to that. Then on the lower plate, I added some more steel to the plate (not the shock ears). making the whole thing about twice as thick as it was. I bolted it back in place, and now it's nice and solid.
I don't love the solution, and i'm thinking that the proper fix for these things, is to ditch the whole setup, and outboard my rear shocks. Which i'm starting to research now.