Front Shackle Upgrade
Re-printed from the Club’s newletter and only sent to club members
I noticed a Jeepster with front shackles a bit taller than mine and asked the owners about them. He took his from the rear springs on a 3/4 ton full-size truck or van. I looked around in a few local junk yards and found the shackles to be plentiful on the rear of alot of the larger trucks. Unfortunately, the junk yards I found them at wanted $40 for a pair. Forty bucks for a chunk of metal and a worn out bushing seemed like a waste.
So in comes Tomken to the rescue. They provide a replacement shackle for the ’84-’94 XJ Cherokee’s rear spring (Part number: TMT-413-X) which is one inch taller than the front shackle on a Jeepster. (Provided you have the goofy front shackle designed for the 2-inch wide leaf pack.’72-’73). For $69 bucks they sell two shackles complete with a urethane 2 piece bushing for the frame mount. If you are not familiar with Tomken Machine, they are a machine shop in Colorado specializing in CJ’s and Cherokees. The Tomken shackle is one inch taller than the stock Jeepster shackle which gives you approximately 1/2″ inch of suspension lift.
Replacing the shackle was simple. The first step is to put the Jeepster on jack stands placed under the frame. The front axle needs to hang freely so it may be easiest to remove the front wheels. Taking off the front wheels also reduces the weight on the front spring making the rest of the procedure easier.
Next, place your jack under one side of the axle. You need to lift the axle enough to support it but not so much as to compress the spring. I find the easiest way to figure the amount of support needed is to raise the axle until the spring looks like it’s at rest. Then, undo the nut on the bolt that connects the shackle to the spring. If you can easily remove the bolt, you have the right amount of support for the axle. By adjusting the jack and testing the support by seeing how easy it is to move the bolt, you can get the axle to the correct height. If you’re close but can’t pull the bolt out by hand, hit it with a hammer to get it through one side of the shackle. (it’s a big case hardened bolt, so don’t worry about hurting it too much). Now the bolt will be pointing up or down and up can adjust the jack so that the bolt is straight (level with the ground). Pull the bolt out the rest of the way and then remove the top bolt holding the shackle to the frame.
Now you can set the old shackle aside and mount the new one. This part is easy, just reverse the removal process. Attach the shackle to the frame. (If the bolts ar old or damaged, replace them with a new grade 8 bolt). Now you’ll have to lower the axle a smidge because the new shackle is taller. Use the jack to make the spring eye line up with the shackle, put a bolt through it and consider this side complete.
The other side is done the same way. If you have a few extra jack stands, you can support both sides of the axle which makes the angles you’re dealing with a bit easier.
I replaced the front eye bushings when I did this which ended up being the hardest part of the whole process. First, the spring eye is some oddball diameter (1-1/4″ I think) which is not standard. I found that a Chevy truck bushing had the correct diameter but it was made for a wider leaf. I had to cut the bushing and the sleeve down to the correct size before installing. Also, the factory bushing is a press fit so I removed it using a drill, a hacksaw and various other implements of destruction. If anyone knows of an easy way to remove the bushing without removing the whole spring, I’d love to hear it.
The front spring eyelet bushing needed for the new shackle set up comes from the Superlift’s bushing kit #315. These bushings are designed to fit Superlift’s aftermarket springs that fit 1969 and later GM 1/2 or 3/4 ton trucks with solid front axles. Stock GM spring replacement bushings will not work! If you come up with a better bushing set up, please let me know.