Exploration, Modification

Replacing Shocks on a 2003 E-350

All the telltale signs for bad shocks were there.   Excessive bounce, shimmy at highway speed, and of course, fluid leak stain on the housing.badshock

Michigan vehicle.  Twelve years old.  Factory original shocks.

Means, we’re going to have a heck-of-a-time getting those jonnies off.  Screen shot 2015-06-21 at 6.46.58 PMThe bottom mounts are connected to the radius arm on a welded stud mount.  The nut was rusted solid.  I thought torching the nut with repeated cherry-red hot and cool cycles would break the rust weld.  I was wrong.  I sheared those bolts off with only a 3/8″ drive ratchet.  In hindsight, I should have given it some PB-Blaster, and let it sit for a few hours.

top mount shock bolt, cut thru underneath the upper shock bracket

As it was, I was looking at a busted lower shock mount, and having to replace the entire radius arm just for a new stud.  Not good.  More money.  Lots more time– until I discovered the Dorman Engineering replacement shock mount, model 31001.  Has good reviews on the various forums I searched.  Looks good to me.  We’ll see how it works out.

Here’s the process… since this was my first time changing out shocks, it only took about three hours a side.  With this handy-dandy step-by-step, I imagine you could do it in 2 hours total.

1. Loosen the lug nuts.

2. Jack the front end.  Support the frame on jack stands, remove the wheels.

3. Cut the lower mount stud off using a recirculating saw and metal cutting blade. shock Getting the upper nut off is trickier.  The shock itself is hardened steel, and cutting through it in such close quarters takes a steady hand (you can get about half-way thru, then work the whole shock back and forth… should snick off)

4. Have a new 1/2″ metal cutting drill bit and a HD drill to port a new mounting hole in the dead center of the existing stud mount location.  Once you’ve got the hole drilled, you might need to grind down the thickened stud mount in the radius arm, in order to give the Dorman bolt enough purchase thru the arm.

5. Jack the radius arm up so you don’t have to try and elongate the shock.newtopmountbolt  Fit the upper washer and bushing on the shock, and slip it through the upper mounting bracket.  Slip the bushing, washer and nut over the upper shock bolt.  This sounds easy, but getting at the upper shock bolt on the driver side is extremely tight.  There’s no room to work.  My 6 year old would have had no problem getting her little hands in there, but I didn’t want her getting grease under her nails (plus, it was 5:00am on Sunday when I was trying to make this repair… in order to salvage a much anticipated vacation).  So, I used my ratcheting wrench and taped the nut into it, then maneuvered it into position over the shock bolt. While holding the wrench, my son then spun the shock itself to tightened it down till the bushings were compressed.

6. Install the Dorman dormankit on the lower shock hole, then move it into position and slip the bolt thru your freshly drilled hole in the radius arm.  Put some blue lok-tite on the bolt, fit the washer, and tighten down the nut to just-shy-of-an-aneurism lb-ft’s.

Voila! You’re done.  Or in my case, you’re ready to change out of your rain soaked, greasy Carhartt’s, take a shower, hop in the driver seat and drive the family 500 miles up north.  Did I mention it was a torrential rain-storm while we were working?

But, you know what?  DSC_0402That’s (the Fam) why I do it.

See You Down the Road!

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2 thoughts on “Replacing Shocks on a 2003 E-350

  1. Thanks for the article. I have almost the exact same circumstances: need to replace shocks, rusted so bad the mount bolt snapped easily…..thinking oh gosh, this is going to turn into an all day job. Thought: hmm, lets look on-line. Your story came up. A solution is now in sight. You saved me a lot of work. Thank you, Keith from Colorado.

    1. I’m glad it helped! I would have done a pictorial step-by-step, but it was raining cats and dogs; and I was having enough trouble trying to keep my tools (somewhat) dry. If there’s anything else I can do, shoot me an email. Godspeed!

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