Drag Race 101: How to Safely Remove Coil Springs
Our older Chevy cars use a coil spring and double a-arm (control arm) suspension. This type of front suspension has been in use with only slight modifications for dozens of years. There are a few reasons why you would need to remove the coil springs from the suspension, including replacing the stock ones with reduced rate lowering springs. While the process of removing the coil springs from the car really isn’t terribly hard, there are some special tools you’ll need as well as some safety precautions you need to be aware of.
The Tools You’ll Need
Most of these tools you probably already have. What you don’t have can usually be borrowed from chain stores like Autozone and O’Reilly’s.
- Jack and two jack stands
- Lug wrench or tire iron
- Socket set with ratchet
- Pliers or wire cutters
- Pickle fork/ball joint separator
- Coil spring compressor
- Wheel blocks
Step 1: Get the Front End in the Air
Park the car on a flat and level surface.
Place a block of wood or wheel chock in front of and behind one rear wheel.
Loosen the lug nuts on the front wheels.
Place the jack under the radiator support. Lift until the wheels are clear of the ground.
Slide the stands under the frame behind both wheels and slowly lower the car onto the stands. Remove the wheels.
Step 2: Remove the Shocks
The shocks mount at the top and bottom. You may need to use a wrench on the shock stud to keep the stud from turning as you remove the upper mounting nut. The bottom of the shock should have two bolts. Remove the nut and bolts and set them aside with the shock absorber.
Step 3: Compress the Coil Spring
Read the directions with the coil compressor fully and carefully. Install the compressor per the instructions and compress the spring until it’s loose enough to wiggle around. Place the jack under the lower ball joint and raise it just enough to support the lower control arm.
Step 4: Loosen and Remove the Ball Joint Studs
There are two ball joints, an upper and a lower. The nuts that secure them in place are held in place by a cotter pin. Straighten both pins and remove them carefully; you may need to reuse them. Loosen the nuts several threads, leaving them partway threaded on the ball joint stud.
Insert the pickle fork between the control arm and spindle/steering knuckle, with the flat end against the knuckle. Strike the pickle fork several times sharply with the hammer until the stud loosens.
Step 5: Remove the Spindle/Steering Knuckle Assembly
Tie a piece of wire or heavy string to the spindle assembly. Use the wire or string to support the assembly, making sure the brake line has slack in it. Slowly lower the jack until you can remove the coil spring. Carefully lift the spring out of the car and carefully decompress the spring compressor.
Perform your repair and reverse the steps to put everything back together. I recommend a Chilton’s or Haynes Repair Manual for your year, make, and model so you can properly torque everything when putting it back together.
Note: Safety Awareness
Coil springs are under tremendous pressure. Whenever I’m working with them I provide myself an extra layer of safety by wrapping a ¼ inch chain around the coil in case the compressor slips or breaks. Carefully inspect the compressor, pickle fork, and hammer before using. Clean up any rough edges on the pickle fork or hammer before use. Always wear safety glasses when working with impact tools.