Leaf springs are the oldest and most commonly used suspension setups on light and heavy-duty vehicles. These days, leaf springs are commonly seen on light and medium-duty pickup trucks, as well as heavy-duty trucks and even in a few high-performance cars. Like any other suspension component, leaf springs tend to wear out with age and use. Fortunately, replacing them is a relatively straightforward job that can be done with a few tools and a bit of patience. Keep in mind that this guide may not be specific to your particular vehicle.
For this task, you'll not only need the new leaf springs and associated bushings, but you'll also need the following tools:
- 1 floor jack
- 4 jack stands
- 2 wheel chocks
- Torque wrench
- Penetrating lubricant
- Pry bar
It's also a good idea to wear the appropriate safety protection when working on your vehicle. This includes mechanic's gloves, safety glasses and closed-toe shoes. Also, you should never rely solely on your floor jack while working underneath any vehicle, as the jack could slip or fail, causing serious or even fatal injuries.
First, make sure the vehicle is parked on a level, solid surface. Place wheel chocks in front of and behind the front wheels to ensure that the vehicle does not roll as it's raised. Position the floor jack underneath the appropriate jacking point (such as the frame pinch weld) and use it to lift the rear of the vehicle. You'll need the rear axle assembly to hang freely as you replace the leaf springs. Place jack stands on both sides of the vehicle and remove the jack.
Now you should have access to the rear leaf springs. To remove and replace the leaf springs, you should do the following:
- Use the floor jack to support the rear axle assembly close to the leaf spring you're replacing. Afterwards, unbolt the shock absorber from its lower mounting bracket. This should let you swing the shock out-of-the-way.
- Lower the axle slightly using the floor jack. This will relieve tension on the leaf spring. Locate and remove the U-bolt and spring retainer bracket from the middle of the spring, where the spring meets the axle. In some cases, you may need to disconnect the parking brake cable from the retainer bracket.
- Locate and loosen the shackle bolt and nut holding the leaf spring in place at the front of the spring. Afterwards, do the same for the rear shackle bolt and nut and remove the leaf spring from the vehicle. You may need to use penetrating lubricant and a pry bar to remove the spring if rust is an issue. Remove and replace any leftover bushings before installing the new leaf spring.
- Maneuver the rear of new leaf spring into position and hand-tighten the rear shackle bolt and nut. Position the front of the leaf spring so that the front shackle bolt and nut can be installed.
- Raise or lower the rear axle until the leaf spring's center bolt lines up with the hole located on the axle pad. Afterwards, reattach the U-bolt and spring retainer bracket. Hand-tighten the U-bolt nuts, but do not torque them down just yet. Reattach the shock absorber. Don't forget to reattach the parking brake cable to the retainer bracket.
- Repeat the above steps for the leaf springs on the other side. Afterwards, use a torque wrench to torque all of the bolts to your vehicle manufacturer's recommended specifications. Remove the jack stands, lower the vehicle to the ground and remove the wheel chocks. Take your vehicle on a test drive and keep an ear out for any odd noises from the rear suspension.
Replacing the rear leaf springs isn't as intimidating as it initially appears. With the right tools, you can have both of your leaf springs replaced during a single afternoon. The leaf springs are easy to find, especially for the latest and most popular light-duty pickup trucks. If your vehicle is in need of new leaf springs, but you don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on an expensive garage visit, then replacing your own leaf springs is the way to go.