"unwelding" front shock towers, 61 Ranchero

Discussion in 'Ranchero Tech Help' started by toddrichert, Sep 18, 2021.

  1. toddrichert

    toddrichert In Second Gear

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    I've gotten as far as I can on the rear shocks until my shipment arrives with replacements; today I'm looking at how to replace my front shocks too.

    Has anyone found the front shock towers welded in place by a previous owner and tried to convert back to original?

    I assume the natural access for front shock absorber would be removing shock towers and extract through that top hole, but with shock towers welded solidly in place, is there a reasonable (safe) way to disassemble underneath to remove and replace? My thought was, although I'm not a fan of the welding, since it is already done and very structurally sound, maybe I should leave that intact and seek alternate access if that's possible.

    However if that is extremely complicated or unnecessarily risky then maybe the simpler answer is to revert the shock towers back to original bolted design.

    I've already got intact shock towers here on my '62 Ranchero (the donor that keeps on giving) and it seems to me that one option is to grind the welding down to approximate the original surface. If the original threads were covered over the top with welding material but not actually filled in, then it's probably quite feasible to clean out or tap back to the original threads. More likely those holes are very much filled in so I would have to measure out for replacing of the holes, drill out and tap new threads.

    Considering the excess punishment my "primitive road" gives to suspension on all my cars, there is a practical appeal to leaving the welds in place, because they look much stronger than going back to original design. And I could SAVE THE SHOCK TOWER (quoting from Back To The Future... kinda) for future repair.

    Has anyone replaced front shocks from underneath without removing the shock towers? How did that go? Would you do it again?
     
  2. Hillbilly

    Hillbilly In Maximum Overdrive

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    As much as those welds look appealing, that was the wrong approach to fix a problem. The shocks need to be replaced from the top. Carefully take apart the donor and note what the factory did to hold the bolts. If the metal that holds the bolts is damaged excessively you might want to weld in new bolts after making sure you have the bolts correctly aligned. You want a fit that let's you remove and install the upper shock mount with no interference.
     
  3. toddrichert

    toddrichert In Second Gear

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    Definitely this is the correct answer but I might have to leave it on the to-do list for now. Because if it might require more welding then I best not pull apart what I can't get back together, otherwise I won't be able to drive her at all! (Welding isn't in my skill set...)
     
  4. toddrichert

    toddrichert In Second Gear

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    I got the front left shock and coil spring out:

    coil spring and shock (front left).jpg

    I didn't know it was going to be so simple, but turned out I only needed to remove the coil spring and the shock could come out. I had imagined needing to pull more of the suspension apart before the spring could be liberated. Not saying it was easy, but definitely not complicated. It's never easy when you're on a learning curve, and especially when something is this dangerous then you want to take every step thoughtfully, and proceed with utmost caution the whole time.

    I remembered I had a homemade clamp set from 15 or 20 years ago when I had to do something similar once before. (It was probably on my old VW Golf but memory is hazy from that long ago.) But I do remember buying a couple short lengths of chain at the hardware store, and 4 larger links that I cut into C-shaped hooks. The strategy is to put the clamp set in place while the car's weight was already compressing the spring, that way when the weight is jacked up the spring never fully extends. With a shorter spring, you can then put it back together without a spring compressing tool, and after the car's weight is restored then the clamps regain slack for removal. So I found most of my homemade clamp set except one of the C-hooks was missing but I found an S-hook that was strong enough to substitute.

    I'm assuming the install will be a lot trickier because you don't really have to worry about alignment with disassembly, however with reassembly I'll have to realign both the spring and new shock at the same time. Manipulating the new shock absorber into both upper and lower holes from within the coil spring is not how this repair was designed to go. But I feel about 80% confident that I can pull this off.

    Also made some progress on my plans for the "correct" repair which I hope to do at some point in the future... on the donor Ranchero I found that there are 3 bolts holding each shock tower in place, and each bolt head fits into a groove designed to secure them from spinning when the nut turns. With the coil spring removed from the 61, I was able to feel up underneath the welded spots and confirm that those 3 grooves still exist, seemingly undamaged (at least on the left side.) This means I should be able to transfer over not only the shock tower, but also the 3 fastening bolts to secure it... in other words, no new welding required. Hoping that when I get the coil spring out of the right side, I will find those 3 grooves intact as well.
     
  5. Hillbilly

    Hillbilly In Maximum Overdrive

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    That's a brave move - - But it works. Still glad you looked at the donor, now you know how simple the original setup design was so that should remove a bunch of fear of the unknown. On all of my unit body Fords those three bolts had a big dollop of body sealer squirted into the grooves to hold the bolts in place. Thinking that with the upper shock mount in place and the nuts finger tight a liberal wad of rtv would serve the same as body sealer. Let the rtv harden for a day then put it back together. Dang ! That set of shock rubber bushings sure are flattened out good.
     
  6. toddrichert

    toddrichert In Second Gear

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    The shocks finally were delivered today and I got them all installed today. Then promptly drove my baby out onto the gravel road and it is absolutely night vs day difference, WOW. The handling is so improved I can almost drive my Ranchero as fast as a normal car now on my 3 miles of winding gravel road. (Almost.) What felt before like severe loose steering was just a massive amplification of minor loose steering, because every instant that a bouncing tire is above the road instead of touching it is an instant of zero steering. Same principle for the back tires too... now that they are hugging the road consistently there is no more bounce-induced fishtailing.

    This is my front left shock freshly installed:

    front left coil.jpg

    And the same after vehicle weight is added:

    front left coil compressed.jpg

    My new question is, what about that rubber spacer? That's aftermarket, right? Or is it? I don't think I've seen anything like that before tucked into a coil spring.

    Now that I have brand new shock absorbers installed at all 4 corners, is there any advantage in removing it? Or an advantage in leaving it there?

    Also, does it have a name? What's it called?

    On the right front, I did the same thing as the left front, except much quicker because the first time I wasn't sure how to proceed safely so it took hours just for the removal. Putting the left front back together had been just as much of a nightmare as I'd guessed it would be, trying to coordinate alignment with both the coil spring and shock simultaneously. It turned out though that I was able to make the job on front right even easier. The main trick was how I placed the chain-hook-clamps. By installing the chains with slightly less slack before putting them under tension, it preserved more of the spring's full compression. You might not be able to see fully in this photo, but compared to the photo of the left coil spring, when I put those same hooks onto the right coil spring, I positioned the lower hooks on top of the unused link so that the next link's thickness became a sort of spacer which made each chain become taut at least 1/4 inch sooner:

    right coil.jpg

    This actually made a HUGE difference during the reinstall. While the left side was an "almost fit" and I had to use a large screwdriver to help pry the bottom of the coil over the last couple milimeters of the swivel plate thing it sits in, on the right side it had actual clearance and was so much easier to get it seated and aligned correctly. And while I would hope that my newly gained "expertise" isn't needed in the future (because I truly never want to deal with coil springs again!) ... in reality I'm aware that if I ever want to fix those welded shock towers correctly, it might be necessary to briefly remove the coil springs once again to get the shock tower bolts installed properly.

    Anyway, super excited that so much progress was made today! And another note of feedback from the test drive is that the clunking sound from the front left is officially gone... evidently, it was in fact the old shock on the front left that had been making the noise. In replacing the shocks I thought I was just ruling out that possibility so that I could then make another step toward figuring out what was actually clunking. Sure didn't sound like the type of clunk that would come from the type of metals that shocks are made of, but this is a case of me being quite pleased to be wrong. Finding the source of that metal-on-metal noise was very high on my to-do list and suddenly I get to cross that annoying item off the list, so yay!
     
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  7. beerbelly

    beerbelly In Maximum Overdrive SILVER MEMBER

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    You're asking about coil spring insulators; they prevent metal-to-metal contact between the spring and body. Definitely needed.

    Screen Shot 2021-09-24 at 6.04.59 AM.png
     
  8. Hillbilly

    Hillbilly In Maximum Overdrive

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    I think he was asking about those rubber wedges jammed into the coils. Cheap and dirty method of stretching the springs to level or raise a vehicle with sagging coil springs. Experience has taught me that those are a temporary gain, eventually the spring will fold at the point where the wedge is located and the sagging will return.
     
  9. beerbelly

    beerbelly In Maximum Overdrive SILVER MEMBER

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    Doh! Didn't notice those. Those are the ones that fly out when you get airborne; don't ask me how I know....
     
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  10. Kiwirancher

    Kiwirancher In Third Gear

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    Location:
    Gisborne , New Zealand .
    That’s a pretty wild spring compressor alright , glad it worked . I have recently replaced the spring insulators , bottom spring pads and shocks on my 66 . There were no top insulators on mine , much better with them. I was able to borrow the genuine Ford spring compressor from my local Ford dealership , very good tool , made the job go very easily. Fitted new bottom suspension arms yesterday too. My order finally arrived from Summit ,although the track and trace says that it is still in the US !
    Denis.
     
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  11. Chicago61

    Chicago61 In Second Gear

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    Hi Todd,

    Does your parts car have a decent wiper switch? Mine works, but has no indent clicks, so it's just turn it until I have low or high like a rehostadt. Wondering if you would part with it if it does.

    Thanks,
    Whitney
     
  12. Clark

    Clark In Maximum Overdrive

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    Yes, wild looking spring compressor but glad it worked.

    Old friend of mine tried using a standard threaded rod as a coil spring compressor. It held for a time - then stripped all the threads off the rod. Scared the s**t out of him as well it should!
     
  13. handy_andy_cv64

    handy_andy_cv64 In Maximum Overdrive SILVER MEMBER

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    "D'oh!" *checks underwear*
     

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