There are some repair jobs that are so soul-sucking that I can not help but postpone them. In my garage there is one 1991 Jeep Cherokee which I sold to someone on the condition that I replace the rear leaf springs. Why did I agree to this? Because I’m an idiot, that’s why.
A few years ago, me bought a beautiful 1991 Jeep Cherokee who had been involved in a minor fenderbocker. A Chicagoan named Tracy had tipped me off and said that the vehicle, which her son had been driving at the time of the crash, had been towed by her insurance company. If I wanted a nice stick-shift XJ, this was my chance to get a cheap one.
After fucking trying to get hold of the perfect (but dented) Jeep XJ, I bought the thing for $ 2,000 from a used car dealer near Indianapolis. Then the Jeep just sat at my house, because I was too distracted by other projects. After spending years slowly repairing the machine, I made it look good. Then I put it up for sale, because I needed to thin my flock.
Recently, someone asked me if they could buy a Jeep for my asking price of $ 7,000; for some reason I decided to call Tracy and see if she wanted her family’s jeep back. Her father, a former employee of Warn Winch Company, had bought a new Jeep as part of his company’s Jeep deal. He may be eager to get the vehicle back now that I’ve fixed it all.
Tracy’s dad agreed to buy the jeep, especially after I offered him a discount – $ 6,500 – given that he had ordered the vehicle from the factory, so I would love to sell it back to him; he would appreciate it more than anyone else. I mentioned that the rear leaf springs were flat and offered to fix them; I do not know why I did this. But the buyer said for sure; he would pay me $ 7,000 in total if I replaced the rear leaf springs.
I got some new springs for $ 140, a set of easy-to-use shock absorbers for $ 30 (because I heard a sip from behind) and new fasteners for $ 75. So basically I had agreed to replace the rear springs for $ 250 in work.
I do not regret this decision, because I want Tracy and her family to have a nice jeep, and I would feel bad if they had to pay a store $ 1,500 (or whatever) to do the job. But trust me when I say: I would never do this job for $ 250 under any other circumstances. It’s a hell.
In my defense, this Jeep is stainless and from Oregon. I thought it would be immune to the corrosion-causing ailments I am used to handling on rust belt machines. But the reality is that it does not matter where a Jeep Cherokee XJ comes from – replacing the rear springs will always be a soul-crushing job.
Before I go any further, let me quickly discuss the anatomy of a leaf feather. A leaf spring package consists of a bunch of leaves, all bolted together via a centering pin, which goes into a hole in the shaft. The centering pin is important because it not only squeezes the blades to create a single pack, but it also absorbs the shear loads from the shaft. Leaf springs have the task of not only absorbing vertical loads from road bumps, but also side loads (coil springs, on the other hand, do not receive side loads, as they would only bend; spiral-sprung solid shaft suspensions use track bars to handle side loads en masse). At each end of a spring package is a spring eye, which is part of the main blade at the top of the package. In each eye there is a bushing with a steel sleeve in the middle.
The problem with my XJ is that the bolts that go through the sleeves of the front leaf spring eye bushings (see below) are either stuck in the weld nut in the unibody or stuck in the metal sleeve. In any case, it is impossible to spin out the bolts.
If the bracket is stuck in the weld nut in the unibody, and I crank on the bolt head with all my force, I risk breaking the nut from the unibody. Then I have to cut a hole in the frame or floorboard to get a traditional nut on the back of the leaf spring hole in the main rail. God, I do not want to cut a hole in this jeep.
If the bolt is only attached to the metal sleeve in the middle of the rubber bushing, then when the bolt comes loose from the nut in the unibody (the sleeve rotates in the bushing), the bolt will not be able to slide out of its hole. When I tried to unscrew the bolt, the sleeve tried to press on the spring bracket, which is part of the unibody. Since it does not bend, the threads in the weld nut would probably be destroyed, and I would go back to cutting a hole in the jeep to place a nut.
So the solution is simple, but awful. I will need to cut off my front leaf spring eye with an angle grinder, cut out the rubber bushing with a saw and then heat up where the bolt goes into the unibody welding nut. Then I have to grab the metal sleeve with screws and rotate it until it comes loose from the bolt, so that the fastener can move axially without destroying the weld nut threads.
This will take an eternity. Cutting off the leaf springs will be loud, cutting out the rubber bushings will be laborious and heating everything up and putting my back on loosening that bolt will ruin my mood, there is no doubt about it.
Then there are the rear leaf spring eyebolts (there is one shown above). Fortunately, there is only a regular, exposed nut and not a hidden weld nut. Still, the rear bolts have the same problems as the front ones – the nut and the sleeve are both stuck in the bracket. I might just cut off the two ends of each bolt. I do not have time to fuss with this nonsense.
Although it was not part of the deal, new (re) shock absorbers cost only $ 30, and this Jeep needs new shock absorbers. So I replace these. The upper shock bolts, shown above, almost always break during extraction. I hope this Jeep does not break, given that they are covered in differential oil that leaks from a bad rear wheel seal. But we’ll see.
At least I have hours of work ahead of me, and that’s the kind of work that is downright painful. These mounts will fight against me for every millimeter. Eventually, though, I will get rid of a vehicle, and that – at least at this point in my life – will make it worth it.