Removing stubborn rear leafs with minimal damage on an XJ -
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post #1 of 6 Old 10-17-2011, 10:57 PM Thread Starter
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2001 XJ Cherokee 
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Removing stubborn rear leafs with minimal damage on an XJ

I came up with this while removing one side of my XJ's leaf to install a newly constructed pack. The old leafs were in very, very poor shape, were inverted, and in one case, rusted through!

What do you expect for OEM springs on a 269 mile chassis?

This writeup is for those who are going to not salvage their existing leafs. Honestly, as our XJs all hit at least the 10 year mark, you will find less and less good original spring packs out there.

What I used and you will need / find handy:
  • Metric set of sockets (impact preferred)
  • 1/2" extension
  • Breaker bar, the longer, the better
  • Standard socket set
  • Angle grinder with appropriate cutting wheels (found I needed 2 wheels per side)
  • large hammer
  • Metal chisel
  • Your personal preference of penetrating oil (I prefer 50/50 acetone/ATF, works better than all oils and cheaper too)
  • Jack stands (2 for under the jeep, 1 at least for the outside)
  • Jack
  • Wheel chocks
  • Proper safety gear (Glasses always, ears sometimes)
  • Long sleeve shirt or jacket
  • Outdoor working space
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Replacement bolts for the rear shackles, grade 8 (metric 10.9)m stock are 14mm x 120mm, but imperial (inches) are OK too, w replacement nuts and a washer. Dealers list these for $$, you can get them at the hardware store; mine was $4 a side.

  • 1/2" impact wrench
  • Air hammer
  • 2nd jack

This isnít just about cutting bolts, although, if you want to do that, you could. In fact, that is how we are going to do the rear. The front is not so easy. The front nut is welded to the inner side of the frame rail, and not easily accessible. My idea of fun isnít sitting there fighting a bolt for hours, nor sitting there and trying to extract a frozen stud after it is cut off.

To start, make sure you are on level ground, e-brake on, back wheels both jacked up and not touching ground. Remember, this vehicle is heavy, and it will not hesitate to crush you and your parts when gravity calls it home. Make sure to place the jack stands at the frame, close to where your leafs mount.

Pulling the tires would help too, but if I had to remind you of this, then you may want to ask for some help on this. ;-) What would also help is a spray down of all your bolts with your favorite penetrant.

Place a jack under this side of the axle, so you can control how much it falls when we remove components. If you are not replacing shocks, you want to make sure they are not damaged by dropping the weight of the rear end on them. (You can see these were toast, and also removed. 18mm bolt IIRC)

First, we see the sway bar bracket, if you havenít removed it already, this is the time to do it. Remove the ubolt nuts from the wheel side, it will lift off. Remove the other 2 ubolt nuts.

Assuming you are removing the rear sway bar for good, you can slide that off and set aside for a bar pin eliminator (search around here0 or a spiffy paperweight that... gets... paper dirty. Now you can pull the frame side mount for the rear sway bar. If not, loosen it, set aside, I find it easier to work with the bar up and out off the way.

If you are on side 2, this is the time to remove that whole darn thing. If you are keeping the rear sway bar, there is something to be said for that on a stock jeep, skip that. Remember, removal will change how your jeep handles. As will adding springs that spring, as opposed to what they do now, which is why we are getting dirty this way instead of on the trail.

Here we see the major PITA bolt. Iíve not seen one that didnít take 2 men and a water buffalo to remove, and it takes some time. Not only that, when you do get it removed, if the sleeve is rusted to the bolt, it will push the outer part of your bracket away. Not fun.

(Yes, I know, my heep is rusty. Yes, that is foam sealant, blame the PO, itís getting ripped out ASAFP)

Follow the line of the front spring bolt to the frame. You will find a small hole there, and you should be spraying penetrating lube there, in the bolt's direction. This will make thing much easier later. Spraying the head of the bolt doesnít help much.

Next, we take out circular wrench, and cut part of the leaf. Take care to not cut the body or the frame bracket where the eye of the spring sits.

You can take this time to do the same near the rear, ahead of the shackle, and toss the middle of the pack in the scrap pile. I was not able to salvage any of the lower leafs, and I doubt you will be able to either if you are taking this route. A trusty hammer hit under the bottom leaf will loosen it up. Careful, they are under pressure, worn or not, and can hurt you if suddenly released. Treat them with respect!

While we were waiting, the 50/50 was doing its job. But itís a hell of a job. Next, my method for turning those bolts. Get your 21mm 1/2" socket (might snap a smaller one), your extension, and your breaker bar. As you can see, my socket was too deep to fit me, the bar and the removed bolt under the chassis. Sucks to try and work on this under there too. We rest the extension on the jack stand, this keeps us from rounding the bolt.

As you can see here, I use a method of standing and letting gravity and my body weight do the work for me. Iíve got bad hands, and this bolt will slip and jerk, and that hurts something bad. Plus, why strain?

You will want to get it out about 2.5 full turns for now.

Back under the jeep, we want to make another cut. There is the spring, an outer busing sleeve, the bushing, and the inner bushing sleeve. Carefully use your cutting wheel to cut through the spring and outer sleeve. You will smell burning rubber.

You want to be able to remove those outer metal pieces, rotate the bolt another 1/2 turn, and pull all of that metal off.

Next, you will be cutting through the rubber bushing. This will make a lot of smoke when done with the wheel. If you have a vibrating dremel cutter, you may want to use that instead. You will fling lots of 1/2 burnt rubber , and make lots of smoke. Doesnít matter on my driveway, but may on yours. I cut till it sprang open / I started to get a few sparks.

You should be able to use a screwdriver or something to pop this part off.

Next, we want our hammer and chisel. An air hammer doesnít work great for this, but it will do the trick if that is all you got. You will see the following under there. That is why this is so hard, that sleeve is rusted to the shank of the bolt. The bolt may be salvageable, but that sleeve was toast back in probably 2000.

Use the chisel to tap the slit in the side of the inner sleeve apart. We arenít trying to bust it in half, however tempting that is, just trying to make it wider and make it a non-issue.

Take this time afterwards to spray some more 50/50 on the bolt threads, and remove it all.

You should have parts that look like this, and a perfectly-ish good bolt. Replacements if it isnít serviceable can be had at the dealer. I found these ones, after a cleanup, were actually ok at the threads and I thought they were reusable. Your mileage may vary.

Now for the back. As cruddy as they are, I am re-using these shackles, mainly because they will be fine for the daily driver and snow work over the winter that this rig will see. The upper bolts will most likely be just as difficult as the fronts, I would tackle them as such, but with more care as they are recessed further.

The lower bolts are toast, I start by spraying them down. Then, to make things easier, I make 2 quick cuts with the circular wrench. 1 right at the end of the nut, and one right in the middle of the nut. The first takes away extra travel, the 2nd relieves internal stress and heats up the metal, pulling in your oil and such.

(Sorry, crummy photo, greasy hands and all)

Mine twisted right off after this with just a pair of channel locks.

Next, you want to take your air hammer and use a pointy bit and knock the bolt out of the hanger. This may or may not work. Side 1 (day before) had to have the bolt head gut off, and the ears spread a hair to pop the bushing and leaf remnant out. This one however, came right out.

After this, take a break, grab some iced tea, and get those other springs in. They really are the reverse of this, without cutting. The removal is the hard part.

This isnít the only way, nor is it the fastest. But with my limited tools and manpower, it worked faster than some of the others I did in the past, so I thought I would share.

Be safe; enjoy your new cushy ride!

Im the guy who makes new gauges, check out our gallery at
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post #2 of 6 Old 01-19-2012, 11:07 PM Thread Starter
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2001 XJ Cherokee 
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Location: Finleyville
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Had a chance to do the rear, and did some stop motion photography on that.

Im the guy who makes new gauges, check out our gallery at
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post #3 of 6 Old 05-15-2014, 08:05 PM
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Shame the video no longer works..
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post #4 of 6 Old 05-18-2015, 08:04 AM Thread Starter
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I'll have to see what happened to that link, and re-post it.

Im the guy who makes new gauges, check out our gallery at
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post #5 of 6 Old 05-19-2015, 06:38 AM
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This thread helped me a lot when I replaced my leafs; I didn't get to replace my shackles at the same time which I would have liked to (as I could not find a good writeup to remove/cut them and I was afraid to get stuck)...
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post #6 of 6 Old 05-19-2015, 06:51 AM Thread Starter
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Shackles are much the same. If you want those big capice bolts to come out easier, apply some heat. Factory loctited them in, and it only loosens correctly with 220 degrees.

I have another XJ to toss springs on, so maybe i'll just do up a video then.

Im the guy who makes new gauges, check out our gallery at
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