On Thursday I rented tools: two pair of jack stands, floor jack, and a torque wrench. We drove the truck up to my in-laws’ house in Edmonds to throw on the TJM lift.
I was pretty confident in my ability to do this (even though I’ve never dealt with coil springs or IFS). In my late teens, I owned a 1972 FJ40. I installed a Superlift suspension system on it using nothing more than some cheap Ace Hardware hand tool on a Saturday. With that truck, I was worried that the spring bushings and bolts were going to be hard to remove, so I hit them with PB Blaster for about two weeks (spray, drive around, spray, drive around). Everything came apart easy, went back together well. Simple.
So yeah, I felt like I could easily conquer the 100’s suspension. Armed with Slee Offroad’s instructions (the TJM instructions were pretty non-existent), under the truck I went, starting with the rear suspension. First problem I ran into (first clue it was going to be a tough project) was the floor jack I rented wouldn’t hold the truck up. I got the truck up and then it started sinking, but the jack wouldn’t release so it got stuck under the diff. I had to use my trusty Hi-Lift jack to lift it from the tow hitch to get the jack out. A little maintenance on it had it working like it was supposed to.
The first step (after having the front wheels blocked, tires off, secure on the stands) was to disconnect the sway bar. Easy: two brackets with two bolts each. Done. Starting with the left side, I worked to remove the shock; it’s a 22mm bolt on top and there is NO room to work. I used a combo-wrench, but a ratcheting one would have made life a little easier. The directions said that it may be necessary to hold the shock body to keep it from spinning. May? No, it’s absolutely necessary and damn near impossible.
You crank on the nut and the shock spins around. No, you’re not going to be able to hold the shock with one hand and wrench with the other. I had my wife try and hold the steel dust shield. Nope. She just couldn’t keep it from spinning. Then we put some water pump pliers (adjustable pliers) on the shock; even with that extra leverage, she couldn’t hold it. I cursed. And wrenched. Cursed. Thought. Cursed.
Finally we hatched a plan. I placed the pliers so that they were wedged against something and had Natasha just hold the pliers clamped on the shock. That meant she could just fight the grip and not worry about the torque. I spun the wrench and POP! Off the nut came.
With that removed, I simply took off the bolt on the bottom of the shock, let the axle droop all the way down (the opposite side keeps it from completely dropping because the shock is still in place, this is why you do one side at a time), and let the coil fall out. The new coil just fit into place, I put the new shock in place with the top bolt (still not easy) and jacked the rear axle up to line up the shocks bottom mount and bolted it all together.
Yes, it was that easy after the shock was removed. And I thought… well now that I know what I’m facing with the shock, the right side will be easier.
Yeah, no. There is way less room under there because of the exhaust routing. I had my arm bent in all kinds of weird positions trying to get on that top nut. It left me without the ability to apply pressure. There wasn’t an easy way to do the trick we used on the other side; there just wasn’t anywhere to wedge the pliers against.
I cursed. Cried. Natasha tried to help, but there wasn’t any way she really could. She was frustrated. I was. She went back into the house. I cussed some more. Beat the shit out of the shock, beat the rear bumper (surprisingly, the bumper cover doesn’t show a mark). I openly missed my old FJ60, FJ40, FJ55… wished I was working on anything simple and dirty and made to come apart with minimal wrenching.
Then I tried to wedge the wrench on something and then cranked on the shock with the pliers, but the wrench kept popping off the nut. Ugh. Finally, I slid the wrench between the frame and the body (tiny gap there), leaned forward, and braced the wrench with my forehead. With my hands free, I pushed with the pliers. That finally did it (I still have the mark on my head).
And just like the left side, once the shock was off, the coil was easy to swap. To get the sway bar back on, I remounted the wheels, got the truck back on the ground, and then used the jack to just lift the sway bar a little to line up the holes.
Simple. Except for those damn upper shock mounts. It is one of the worst designs I’ve seen on a Toyota.
It took me 6 hours, 5 of which was spent on them. I ran out of time and never did get to the front, so the truck is sitting ass high like a stinkbug (it gained 10cm under the rear hitch!). Technically, it’s not a hard job. My advice is to get a 22mm ratcheting wrench, a chain or strap wrench, and a large brute to help. I also advise spraying every bolt you have to remove with PB Blaster way ahead of time. I didn’t on the upper shock mounts until I was struggling. I know it helped with my FJ40, and probably did a little on this job too.
Also, give yourself a lot of time just in case and keep kids out of earshot… the words you’ll use wont be nice.