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Jeep Wrangler - Restoration & Custom Outfitting
All photos, diagrams, and text on this page Copyright 2013 - David Todeschini - all rights reserved - see Copyright Terms

 

Shock Absorbers

 

Nobody who drives a Jeep likes mushy shocks. Worse than mushy shocks are shocks that have mechanical problems such as loose mountings or broken parts inside. As the summer of 2014 drew near, I knew I'd be out in the NJ Pine Barrens a lot, and be driving through the huge puddles on the Jeep trails. I knew the shocks were original equipment when I bought the Jeep, and I was waiting for warmer weather to replace them. Worn or broken shocks could get you in trouble out in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, and even worse a worn shock's failure to absorb the bounce of rough (paved) roads, can destroy an expensive set of tires in short order. The 31-inch tires on my Jeep have about 25,000 miles on them, and a new set of four would cost about $900 to $1,000 to replace. Putting new tires on a vehicle with worn shocks is like throwing money down the toilet so REPLACE SHOCKS FIRST, and THEN replace the tires when you need new ones. If you want to replace just TWO tires, make sure that the newest tires are on the REAR of the vehicle. If you put new tires on the front, you risk losing control in a skid especially in a turn because of the difference between the traction front-to-rear.

A sure sign that a shock absorber needs to be replaced is AGE. Although I avoid salted roads whenever possible, and run the Jeep through a car wash with undercarriage sprayers after a snow storm, rust still gets to things. I cannot account for the previous owner's maintenance habits except for the fact that the Jeep was in pretty good shape when I bought it.

When the cowl on a shock absorber gets THIS rusted no matter if it is functional or not it is an indicator of age, and time to replace it and all the others on the vehicle. This was the original shock, which was on the Jeep for 180,000 miles.

 

MAINTENANCE TIP: It is a known issue with all Jeeps the upper rear shock mounting bolts are brittle, and they will almost always break when removed. When bolts rust, they're not easy to extract, and these bolts do NOT have the shear strength required to withstand the torque required to break the bolt free of the rust. The bolts (2 for each rear shock) are located high up behind the gas tank. Breaking a bolt when replacing a shock is almost guaranteed if there is a rust issue, and will require heating with a blowtorch to extract. A broken bolt requires that the gas tank be removed (for safety and to have access) to extract the broken piece ("EZ-Out" doesn't work), and a few hours extra labor cost. If you have a new Jeep, remove (or have the dealer remove) these 4 bolts on the rear shocks and replace them with AIRCRAFT QUALITY STAINLESS STEEL bolts which will cost about a buck a piece at Home Depot or other hardware store. It is also a good idea to hit them with a coat of Rust Inhibiting paint. 50,000 miles from now when you need new rear shocks, that $4 will save you a few hundred bucks in labor.

 
 

If you prefer to do the work yourself, I can tell you that the front shocks are very easy to do. The rear shocks require a bit more work, skill, and the right tools. If your Jeep is relatively new, you may get away with doing the rear shocks yourself. However, if you break a bolt, you're in for a bit of work. I suggest you remove one bolt from each side first. If the bolts do not shear off, go for the other two. If you get all 4 out in one piece, you're good-to-go; replace them with STAINLESS STEEL BOLTS. if just ONE bolt breaks, you'll have to get the Jeep on a lift using this strategy, you can put at least ONE bolt back in each shock and drive it (carefully) to the shop to get the work professionally done.

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