Spring Levelling Tips


Flores cartoonThe original question on the CJ-3B Bulletin Board was from Dave Specht: "My CJ-3A tilts to the driver's side. I installed new springs all around. I have concluded that the problem lies in the front driver's side spring. The engine sits off-center to that side. I replaced the flatty with an F-head so there is some extra weight there. Does anyone have any suggestions? I have the old springs and would try beefing up the driver's side. I would leave well enough alone but it makes me feel uneasy on turns to the right. The frame was thin in front of the rear frame horn, but I have patched that. With the body off it was difficult to see. Has anyone had a similar problem and how was it corrected? I thought I could heat the frame and use a lever to pull it back down."

Jim Sammons: "You probably know this, but check your springs and shackles on the rear end. One of your springs could be bent, and cause one side to sit one inch lower. Measure the distance from top of axle to frame on each side -- this should tell you if you have a bent spring. Sometimes it's obvious just eyeballing it."

Dennis: "If you have replaced all the springs, and the tires are all the same size, I would take the vehicle to a body shop and put it on their frame machine. Sounds like your frame could be tweaked."

Chuck Pedretti: "My frame had a similar problem and actually collapsed where the rear shackle mount is. It was corrected by sleeving the rear 6" of frame with 1-1/2" x 2-1/2" steel tube and welding it together through the frame gussets and rear."

Jon Spence: "What a coincidence; my 3B also sits at least an inch too high on the passenger side. My Jeep was restored two years ago and I have noticed this from day one. I assumed that it was the springs because I re-arched them myself. But my Jeep is stock and I drive it off road a lot so I could understand how the frame could get tweaked. This winter I pulled all four springs and re-arched them again making sure they were all the same hight, but when I got it back together it sat just as bad as before. I am going to try putting a little more arch in the left rear and a little less in the right. I will check the frame straigtness next time I do the Jeep over."

JC Jenkins: "My '62 CJ-3B leans to the driver's side by 1.75 inches, with new Rancho springs. Although they seem to be arched the same when off the jeep, when installed the driver's rear is noticeably softer. We will be buying one new spring."

Bart McNeil: "My CJ-3A also leans to the driver's side (at least the rear does) about 2 inches. Given that all of our CJ's seem to lean the same direction and we all live in the Northern hemisphere.....we may have discovered a principle! Could it be that South American CJs tend to lean toward the passenger side? Inquiring minds would like to know...."

Jon Paulsen: "Good theory, but Derek's B leans the opposite way from mine. I think all old Jeeps are supposed to lean, though. Direction might depend on vintage. Perhaps they began to lean the other way after they changed to the model 27 axle."

JC Jenkins: "Is this 1" difference with the springs under it? Almost all old jeeps lean to one side or the other, mostly to the driver's side -- It's 50 years old, what do you expect? It has been tweaked and twisted a lot in its life."

Jim Sammons: "Since the engine is offset the Jeep is gonna lean a little. If you can't live with it take a leaf out of the old springs and put it in the new set. Just one should do the job. You may have to buy a new or longer tie bolt to put the extra leaf in, but that's not a lot of expense. It's mostly labor. The frame may be tweaked, but so what, how old is it, how many rough trails has it been down? It's only natural. In fact most Jeeps I've run across do have bent frames to some degree or another. It all depends on how much you want to spend and what you can live with."

Later discussion on the Bulletin Board produced some new suggestions:

Chuck Crowder: "After installing 1-inch over stock springs, my '53 3B continued to lean to the drivers side about 1.5". I went to a good spring shop to discuss adjusting the arc or adding a leaf. I was told some Jeeps originally had a spacer between the axle and the spring and I should try putting a 1" block between the axle and spring on the rear opposite side (passenger side) rather than try to compensate with the springs in some manner. I tried the block idea and it worked great. Adding a leaf or re-arcing would have raised the rear of the Jeep another inch or so which I didn't want to do. Don't know if the 'original spacer' story is true, but it does work."

Mike Kautzman: "I too have experienced a lean to the drivers side, about 1-1/4". I installed new 4" Black Diamond springs and it still leaned. I guess its a Jeep thing! Installing a spacer under the passenger side will put your axle closer to the body. This will then bring down the side you install the spacer. This would have an opposite effect if you had a spring over. Just remember, we're all leaning together."

Wes Knettle: "Absolutely correct. If you place four scales, one under each tire you will see a very noticeable difference. It is much more sensible to adjust height with spacers than to fool with different spring rates. Simply remember this: to lower the body, raise the axle housing. And to raise the body, lower the axle housing. Then you won't have any problem with either spring-over or under installations.

Brian Greif: "If you ever take your 3B out and do some serious offroading you would not believe the amount of frame flex that takes place. The body and frame on mine pops and groans enough to make you think there's something broken, but it's just the way they are. If you have new springs and bushings and it still leans, I would bet it is the frame. It can be adjusted by a body shop or if you have the frame stripped down for restoration, you can do it. It won't hurt anything but the looks."

Wes Knettle: "Before you spend the money at the frame shop, borrow 4 bathroom scales, put one under each tire and read them. If the left side is heavier, shim the right side. If they all read exactly the same then get your manual out and read the chapter on checking frame alignment. Draw your pictures on the floor. If the frame is mis-aligned, then either borrow a hydraulic ram kit and straighten it yourself or take it to the frame shop. Bottom line, always start your trouble shooting at the cheapest point."

Theodore Lewis in Washington state: "My Jeep leans to the driver's side like most people's (1 3/4") with the presumed original 50 y/o springs. I have read up on the causes and solutions in the varied online and written sources available, and was pretty settled on the following: replacing the springs with new "stock" springs from an online source, shimming the leaves to level the body and maintaining correct lubrication between the leaves for full recoil. Cost is about $350 for parts alone currently.

"I visited a local here in town whose sole business is replacing the springs on classic vehicles. I figured he would know what he was talking about from his OLD neon sign and collection of 50's and 60's Chevy trucks all perfect and always in front. Inside were other cars: 30's and 40's sedans and coupes, even an OLD Rolls Royce Phaeton. Nothing from the last 30 years. I told him I was looking for a levelling solution for my '55 Jeep, before I could continue he told me this: The combination of uneven weight in Jeep vehicle components, gas tank placement and common use by a driver only has left nearly all old Jeeps in this condition. Jeep did not take these inequities into consideration with their original springs which has resulted in the currently common tilt. His solution to the problem is to recondition the existing springs if salvageable through a dismantle, re-arch, heat-treat, add-a-leaf and reassemble with slightly more strength provided for the passenger side. Estimated life is longer than stock, price installed was under $700."

Morgan: "If you take a look at MB's and GPW's, they actually have a stronger spring on the driver's side to compensate for the extra weight on that side. I guess when Willys released the CJ that was one of those cost-cutting items, that they thought we could do without."

Thanks to all the contributors, and to Roberto Flores for the drawing. -- Derek Redmond

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Last updated 8 April 2005 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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