Softening the Suspension

The question was asked on the CJ-3B Bulletin Board: "How can I give my older Jeep a more comfortable ride?"

Joel Kamunen suggested recently: "Both Rancho and Superlift make a 1" lifted set of springs which apparently haved a much softer ride than the stock springs. This would also add to better articulation of your suspension when four wheeling. Also you may want to explore the change over of the position of your front shackles to the rear of the spring for better handling.. I believe the stock springs are way too stiff and if you are going to do a replacement, why not improve your ride? Four Wheel Parts Wholesalers sells the four springs (Superlift) for about $250.00 -- I think it's an economical upgrade."

Brian Greif says he agrees with Joel: "I put 2" Superlift springs on my 3B and used H-style shackles with urethane bushings all the way around. Wow, what an improvement in ride and handling. If you use your 3B like me, this is the way to go."

Randy Buchanan has a 1" Rancho lift, but says: "What I noticed about my stock springs is that they were rusted solid! As you know, leaf springs must slide against each other as the springs flex, and if they are rusted together they don't move very much if at all. Leaf springs are made from SAE5160 steel, and 5160 has absolutely no corrosion resistance whatsoever. You can't paint the individual leaves as the paint will stick them together also.

Rear springs"What you can do and I have found works well, is to take the spring packs apart, sand blast or wire brush the parts until they are clean and bright, and reassemble the packs using light grease between the leaves. Take care not get any of the grease on the outside of the spring packs. Then you paint the outside of the packs with black Rustoleum. When you reinstall your springs on the Jeep I highly reccomend that you use good quality polyurethane bushings with steel inserts that are made from tubing and not rolled sheetmetal. The rolled ones that come with the Rancho spring kits break up into pieces quickly, and then you just get to replace them anyway.

"OK, heres the big secret!.... About once a month, more frequently in winter or rain, you need to spray the springs with WD-40 or your choice of thin penetrating oil, this will keep your spring leaves from rusting together and keep your Jeep riding like new. If you springs are relatively new just skip to the WD-40 part. This really works good."

Jon Paulsen mentioned: "Warn makes a flat fender suspension kit which might help if you're looking for a smoother ride. It provides a 2 1/2 or 3-inch lift and probably is softer than the stock springs. With an 80-inch wheel base, I wouldn't expect any miracles, though. Good shocks might help, too.

"Articulation with the stock springs improves a lot if you remove the clamps that keep the leaves from fanning out, but that probably doesn't improve ride quality for normal street use. The old springs could be removed and separated and you could grind tapers in the ends of the leaves (on the bottoms and sides), which may help soften the ride. The bushings need to be in good shape and lubricated properly (spring eye and shackle)."

John Hubbard added: "Rancho makes a kit -- springs and shocks for older CJ's. They also make helper springs that they sell in pairs. A cheap solution, assuming the springs are still intact but a bit flattened, would be the helper springs and some rs5000 shocks. This is what I did on my '54 CJ-3B, and the fact of removing the old springs and shackles and cleaning, relubing and re-installing the springs with new shocks made a world of difference.

"Another tip -- a lot of people think re-arching the springs is the way to go, but spring shops will hesitate to re-arch springs from the 50's (due to their age I guess) and the re-arching only lasts about 1-2 years anyway (that is what I am told).

"A trick that I have not done yet but plan to do is to buy the Rancho springs (1" lift) and press out the installed spring end bushings and install using the original-style c-shackles. this gives you the look and functionality of the lubeable c-shackles with the soft ride of the Rancho springs. The measurement is only off by about 1/32" (the spring bushing hole being about 1/32" bigger than the c-shackle), so it should work."

Some Owners Find Aftermarket Springs Too Stiff

JC Jenkins: "If you want to improve the ride DON'T get Ranchos, they are about as stiff a spring as you can get. Their softer springs, even if you get 1" over stock, I doubt you could tell the difference from stock.

"Wrangler springs are cheap, but too long -- most of the flatties in my area that use the Wrangler springs, do a "spring over" and then an "outboard" setup, which usually entails using wider axles. Brand new springs from Rancho are around $85 each. I've had mine for 4 years now, and banged through the Rubicon a few times with no sag at all."

Joe Szymborski: "I have a 1957 CJ-3B running Wrangler springs. I did a shackle reversal on the front and built my own spring hangers both front and rear. The suspension is real soft (great for 4-wheeling). The Jeep rides a lot better than it did on stock springs. If you have any fabrication skills the swap can be done in a weekend. The Wrangler springs are a lot longer than the stock Willys springs so you will have to do some careful measurements to locate the axles in the right location. I love my new ride and would never go back to stock springs."

Dave: "I greatly regret buying the Warn aftermarket springs. They were WAY too stiff. It took lots of mixing and matching of old and new to get the right combination. This was expensive and frustrating, given that I could have had custom springs made at a local spring shop for about half of what I spent, and they would have been what I needed. If you have a quality spring shop in your area ask them first."

Alan Haley: "I have done all the springs on a 58 3B. I made up the hangers and pins but purchased the spring set locally from a firm that specialized in auto springs of all sorts. I noticed a few weeks ago, however, that the cheapest price to be had per side was from J.C. Whitney. The shipping cost might make the difference in price but I would get a quote from them. You may find that the plates to which the shock and u-bolts attach on the axles, have been bent and cracked. Mine all were, both front and back, although the back was the worst. I heated, flattened and welded the crack shut then welded a cut off 30 penny nail across the bridge of the plate. You might want to purchase new ones if you dont have access to a welder and heat -- they are a weak point that is kind of crucial to the whole suspension thing. It really hurt to shell out the money and time for suspension but the end result is well worth it. It feels so solid!"

Ernie Cable: "I put the Rancho springs on my CJ. Because of my one-piece tie rod and the arch of the springs, I put a 3/8" spacer between the axle and spring for clearance. I bought longer center bolts and did this on all four corners. I also made new u-bolt plates w/shock mounts. The Rancho u-bolts are larger diameter than originals -- if you drill out the original plates they are very weak. I went to Les Schwab for gas shocks that look like originals. I believe the rear would fit the front and '55 CJ-5 rears were the right length for the rear. The springs seem to be very stiff, but hopefuly will loosen up when it hits the road."

Ed Wilson: "I used replacement springs from Turner 4WD (1-800-THE-JEEP), around $90 each, and shackles from NAPA. The shackles are NOT original style but are inexpensive and quite sturdy. I'm saving my OEM shackles for my restoration! If your springs have not been off in a while, you might as well measure the U-bolts and have some new ones handy. They will break if rusty or bent. There are two different sizes on the right front. I changed mine in the driveway. Leave the wheel on and jack up on the frame, then go after the bolts. Just be sure to use good jack stands so she doesn't fall on you."

Thanks to all the contributors. More comments are welcome. -- Derek Redmond

See also Spring Levelling Tips.

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Last updated 9 October 2000 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond