Re: Suspensions: DIY vs Pro Install
DIY Suspension Install Tips for Newbies
1) If you're flush with cash, pay someone else to do it for you.
2) If you insist on actually DIY-ing it, find a buddy who either owns a shop or already owns every garage tool imaginable. Or be prepared to buy "just one more tool" at every turn. No matter how prepared you think you are, there's going to be something—at least one important thing—you don't have that will stop your progress cold. For this reason, see tip number 3[/URL] .
3) You're still going to need a little extra cash. Things come up, and unless you're OK with your truck sitting in your garage or driveway half-together, you're going to need to make a run (or two, or three) to the auto-parts / hardware store. If you've done your homework, researched the process, bought all the tools and materials you know you're going to need, that's great. Now set $100-$200 dollars aside for the unexpected.
4) Make sure you can lift your FJ more than you think you'll need to. Your floor jack doesn't just need to lift your truck as it is, it needs to be able to lift it as it will be after the lift is installed. And, no, this isn't something you can "worry about later". For the lift to go smoothly, you'll need it now. Get a floor jack meant for lifting SUVs, preferably one with an adjustable extension. Same goes for your jack stands. Not only do they need to be rated for the weight of your vehicle, they need to be tall enough too. I recommend 6-ton jack stands. I had neither of these. I'll explain how I worked around it later.
5) You'll need a 150 ft-lb torque wrench. Can you get by without one? Maybe. But your suspension, like your breaks, is not a component you want to take your chances with. Everything must be torqued to spec. You could get a torque meter and test how tight you've turned each bolt and nut with your ratchet instead. But then you run the risk of over-torquing which might cause threads to strip or a bolt to break.
6) Spray everything with penetrating oil. Even components nearby you don't anticipate needing to remove or adjust. At the very least, spray it all once a week before install, again the day before, and again the day of. I used PB Blaster. I'm convinced that, had I not used it, I would not be standing here today.
7) Your average tools won't fit everywhere you need them to. That 189-piece tool set with all those sockets, breakers, adapters, extensions, and combination wrenches you got for Christmas four years ago may not get the job done. I ended up buying a metric pass-through ratchet set with 12-point sockets ranging from 10 to 20mm. The SPC upper control arms that came with my ToyTec BOSS kit required a hefty 1-and-1/4 inch socket to get it installed. A box wrench or crescent wrench of the same size would have worked, but would have taken twice as long. If you're lucky enough to have power tools capable of getting at these nuts and bolts, good for you. I hate you a little bit.
8) The little parts matter. The cotter pins you remove during the disassembly of your OEM suspension should not be resused. Once they've been unbent and removed, they are super weak. Assuming you could even get them back in whole, they'd likely break the first time they get jarred a bit. I don't recall the size they were, but I recommend you get yourself a box of cotter pins. AutoZone sold what I needed for $3 per dozen. For someone who lives in town, things like this might not be a big deal. A 15-minute round trip, and you've got what you need. And if you need something else, another 15-minute round trip isn't going to waste much daylight. But if the nearest town is 30-minutes away, you A) need to be as prepared as possible before you get started, having everything you need and then some, and B) got to make the most of every trip if you must go.
9) Somehow, during my early research, I managed to gloss over all mentions of ball joints and the methods by which they are separated. Chances are you'll have to separate the ball joint connecting the upper control arm to the spindle. If you're replacing the lower control arm, you'll have to separate the ball joint connecting it to the spindle as well. Fortunately, before install day arrived, I stumbled across a screw-type ball joint separator tool. It's not the only way to separate or "break" a ball joint, but it seems to be the least risky. Another method is to use a "pickle fork" (AKA "tuning fork") type separator to pry them apart. The risk here is that you could damage the rubber boot. If you're not worried about breaking things or dinging them up, some people just pound the thing with a big f-ing hammer. I used the screw-type separator. AutoZone offered a loaner. I paid $30 for it, all of which will be refunded to me when I bring it back, even if I bring it back broken. After using the instructions to apply the screw-type separator, A few taps on the UCA and the spindle with a light hammer, and the ball joint popped loose.
10) Have help. Could you do it alone? Absolutely. But there are many times when it will be very useful for a strong buddy to hold this thing while you tighten that thing. Also, two heads are better than one. Two pairs of eyes are better than one. It helps to have someone else there to help you keep everything straight and on-track.
11) Have back-up plans. For the most difficult parts of the install, it will help to have more than one option for proceeding. For example, the back nut on the shock tower is rather difficult to get at. Ha ha! No. It is very difficult to get at. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you will. So, if you can't get enough leverage on it to remove it (because it's 12+ years old and frozen solid), you may need to cut the bolt with a Sawzall. I was lucky. I I didn't have to cut the bolt. But, I did need to improvise a way to compress my rears springs in a safe way...
12) You may not have to compress your new, longer, beefier rear springs if, as I mentioned above, you have the right floor jack and jack stands. If you can jack your FJ sufficiently, your axle should hang low enough that the old rear spring will practically fall out, and the new ones will go in with just a little persuasion. HOWEVER, if your jack stands have limited range (mine were 3-ton stands and didn't extend nearly high enough), you won't be able to simply slip the new springs in like a mirco-penis into a Trojan Magnum (no affiliation). You may have to compress your rear springs. Somehow. At least, I did. But I didn't have death sticks, otherwise known as "spring compressors". Nope. I had to use my brain. About four days prior to install, the question crossed my mind: What will I do if I end up having to compress those damned things? The answer came to me: "The same thing I do whenever I need to cinch things together. I'll try ratcheting straps." And that's what I did. I used a pair of 1.5" x 15' 4,000LB-rated ratcheting straps. Looping them down the middle and around the outside opposite of each other, careful to leave the ends of the springs unbound so that the straps would not be pinned against anything, I ratcheted them down equally (to prevent bulging in either direction) until the spring was compressed just enough to allow me to install it. Leaving the straps on, I jacked up the rear axle until it compressed the spring more than the straps, thereby causing the straps to go slightly slack. This allowed me to remove the straps with ZERO DANGER. I did this one side at a time. I wish I had taken pics of this process to better explain it, but you know how it goes. You don't want to stop to take pictures at the risk of losing momentum!
I'll add to this list if/when I think of more.
Happy, safe DIY-ing!
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has caused all the damage to my FJ.
~ Robert Frost
42" Light Bar | Warrior Products Roof Rack | N-Fab RSP Bumper | ARB Skids | 4.0L V6 AT | ToyTec BOSS 2.0 Coilovers | Sway Bar Relocate | Toytec Superflex Heavy Duty Rear Coils | Toytec BOSS Rear Shocks | SPC Adjustable UCAs | Toytec Rear Aluminum 2" Bump Stop Kit | 265/70R/17 Toyo ATs x5 | 2" Wheel Spacers | Rad Rubber Designs Engine Splash Guards | Hi-Lift Extreme Jack
Last edited by FJFool; 04-16-2019 at 10:27 AM.
Reason: Added a tip on separating ball joints.