Hooniverse Garage: DIY Installation of a Leaf Spring Lift

This week we’re kicking off a series of DIY maintenance, fixes and upgrades to my 1969 Jeep Wagoneer with the installation of a four inch lift from Hell Creek Suspension. With leaf springs front and rear, this is about as simple as suspension modifications get: jack it up, unbolt the old springs and shocks, bolt the new ones in. The simplicity of this job makes it a great first “major” modification to a car to attempt. In fact, I got my start performing this very install on my 1991 Jeep Wrangler as a junior in high school. Because the Wagoneer has a spring-under-axle configuration up front and spring-over-axle out back, what we cover here applies to modifying any leaf-sprung vehicle, either lifting or lowering.
You can see the the video that things go pretty straightforwardly with only a minor snag when it came to the U-bolts and the new mounting plates. There’s no movie magic there, I did it all in my driveway with basic tools and it took a whole day instead of half like I was hoping. You can even see my neighbors walking their dogs by.
There are only two points not pictured, but worth mentioning. One, I soaked every bolt in penetrating oil the day before, which really speeds up the unbolting process. Two (and there’s a hint of this at the very end), the added height had my driveshaft drooping down and rubbing on part of the gas tank skidplate. That skidplate was a previous owner add-on that mostly just collected oil, so I removed it.
This is the first of what will hopefully (*cough*) be a long series of DIY features using our project cars as examples. Sound off in the comments about what what you’d like to see more of, less of, or other projects you’d like us to work on.
Hooniverse Garage is brought to you by Valvoline. We’re already fans of the brand, so teaming up to bring you focused wrenching content is a no brainer. Enjoy!

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  1. Frank T. Cat Avatar
    Frank T. Cat

    ‘simple’ ‘easy’ ‘should only take half a day’
    Words I never tell myself when thinking about working on my cars.

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      If you notice the lighting between the start and the end… you can surmise that this took more than half a day.

      1. Tanshanomi Avatar

        Unless he got started at 1 PM.
        Which I highly doubt.

    2. Kiefmo Avatar

      It is for this reason than when I tell my wife how long a car job will take, she doubles the time in her head.
      I’ve had exactly one job take less time than expected — changing the upper roller mount on the Ody’s sliding door. I actually found myself thinking “oh… that wasn’t bad at all.”

    3. Tanshanomi Avatar

      For some unfathomable reason, I continue to say these things even though none of them have ever turned out to be true.

  2. dukeisduke Avatar

    One question – what about the brake flexible hoses? Were they long enough that you don’t have to worry about them stretching? That’s one thing I could see happening.

    1. mad_science Avatar

      Good call.
      I checked them here and they’re fine. The Wagoneer already had a 2″ish lift on it, and I think it got longer lines when that went on.

  3. neight428 Avatar

    I’ve done enough suspension work in garages and driveways to last me for the rest of my life. Big, heavy, spring loaded components that have been exposed to the elements for a long time are not that fun.

  4. Manic_King Avatar

    “….or other projects you’d like us to work on.”
    I wish you had AMC Gremlin with the electronics & V8 out of an Porsche 928 which would be just a fuel pump to rocket attached to said Gremlin, 1000 mph Bloodhound SSC style. You could just work on it, no need to drive/launch that thing.

    1. mad_science Avatar

      Your request has been noted. Our readers’ input is valuable to us.
      Hell, a 928-swapped Gremlin isn’t that impossible.

      1. neight428 Avatar

        Plus, you could get the parts for free.

  5. Andrew Avatar

    My simple 3-hour coilover installation turned into a 3-day ordeal when two shock fork bolts turned out to be seized to the inner sleeve of the lower control arm bushing. The bolts holding the control arms to the subframe were seized too, and that made the angles so awkward that it took an angle grinder AND a reciprocating saw to cut the bolts. Adding injury to insult, my friend slipped up with the angle grinder. It
    grabbed his sweatshirt and cut him pretty badly, shattering a cutting disc in the process. Then each bushing had to be melted and hacked out, and replaced using a homemade press another friend helped me concoct.
    I now have another identical car needing the same work done, and I think I’m going to just take it to a shop. They have the tools to get this sort of thing done with a lot less suffering.
    But DIY’s are good, keep ’em coming! Engine stuff is good. I find it very intimidating but someday I want to be able to rebuild one.