Time for Rear Shocks on the E-350

After a particularly nasty freeze-thaw cycle here in Michigan, the roads are destroyed and I need new shocks on the rear of the tow vehicle. Go figure.

I installed a pair of Gabriel Ultra on the rear in March 2016.  After almost two years and roughly 34,000 miles they crapped out.  I don’t know if the dampening system was shot, but the mounting bushings on both top and bottom were completely torn away.

Bottom bushing worn out and smooshing out the side.  The bushing was completely gone on the opposite shock.

At the top mount, there’s two rubber bushings that are clamped down either side of the vans mounting bracket.  The top bushing on both shocks was completely gone.  The shocks were basically just banging around back there.  No dampening.  Pot holes at highway speeds were treacherous, the back end would hop all over.

2 years/34,000 miles doesn’t seem like much, but whatever.  I bought Gabriel’s because I like the name.  Besides, they got a lifetime warranty.  The only problem was changing them out in 25° weather.  But, it’s an easy job.

This time I picked up some washers to fit inside the lower bracket against the rubber bushings.  It looked to me like if there was some lateral support it wouldn’t fail so easily.

Aftermarket washers either side of the lower bushings, inside the mounting bracket

One less thing to worry about.

See You Down the Road!

Sway Bar Bushings and Coil Springs Replacement on a FORD E-350

Got my shipment from rockauto.com, and that means: “Wrenching On the Family Truckster Saturday”.

Made in the USA front coil springs, front brake pads, and performance front sway bar polyurethane bushings.

Everybody knows how to do a brake job, and if you don’t there’s plenty of YouTube videos covering it.  But, there’s a couple of pointers I can give you on the bushings and coil replacement that you might not know about. 

First the toughie. No, not the coil springs- those are a piece of cake.  The sway bar bushings, the pair that sit in the axle, are a bear.  This little trick I learned from a salty old mechanic will make it much easier.  Get a 6″ lag bolt with six big washers (large enoug to span the bushing hole), and a pipe clamp sized to fit the bushing. 

Use it to press the bushing into the axle hole.  Lube up the bushing and hole, and use the pipe clamp to keep the bushing from “pancaking” out from under the washer.

You’ll only be able to use that contraption until the rear surface of the bushing hits up against the washers on the axle.  There’s still about 1/4″ left to go.  Here’s where two people, a hickory shovel handle and a 16# sledge hammer will seat that last little bit, nicely.  Unless you’ve got it up on a lift, you can’t get enough leverage lying underneath to hammer those bushings in with anything smaller.  The front bushings that bracket the bar to the chassis are simple and easy.  

What a difference.  The old rubber bushings were so rotted, the sway bar was basically useless.  It came out with zero resistance.  Fitting the bar back into the bushings required some hammering with a BFH. With the new bushings, the handling is remarkably better; significantly less body roll.

Now for the coil springs. While you’ve got the sway bar disconnected, simply disconnect the lower shock mount, and the axle will drop down enough to clear the coil spring without having to compress it at all.  Put a bottle jack underneath the axle to help support it, and you’re good to go.  Easy-peasy.

See You Down the Road!


Vans Rule

I can’t believe we waited so long before switching to a full sized (extended) van as our tow vehicle.  Eight people in an eleven passenger arrangement makes for comfortable travel, and cargo space behind the third bench is enormous. Here’s what we packed in the van for our last trip to Lake Michigan:

  • 3’x5′ folding card table
  • Travel grill
  • 20# LP tank
  • Radio Flyer (all terrain model) wagon
  • (4) Folding camp chairs
  • (3) Kayaks
  • (3) paddles
  • Tool box
  • Four man tent
  • Walk off mat
  • Umbrella stroller
  • Leveling blocks
  • Large duffel bag of beach toys and flotation devices

The only thing I regretted not bringing (there was plenty of space for it) was the XL outdoor carpet. Most of the sites in the CG are that dirty beach sand that makes your feet (and inside your RV) black.


See You Down the Road!