Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Into the belly of the beast - Day 2

 8:15 am - Wednesday - February 2nd - Newell House, AZ - 48° F, 27% humidity, wind 8 mph out of the northwest.....clear, blue skies today with a forecast high of 60° F.  On this date in 2013 we were enjoying a spectacular sunset at Cedar Key, FL.....the water was so calm that evening that it perfectly reflected the sunset......↴

I've watched a lot of YouTube videos over the past year showing guys trying to remove shocks on old bus conversions that have been in place for decades, and it isn't pretty.  You see some videos in which it takes them literally hours to remove one shock.  As near as I can tell, the shocks on our Newell are the originals, so they are at least 40 years old....I see nothing in the documentation I received with our Newell which indicates the shocks being replaced, ever, so I began Tuesday with a little healthy fear, and some trepidation.  By the way, I checked the date codes on the old Firestone airbags and they were made in the 16th week of 1981....yup, they are the originals!  My goal for Tuesday was to remove the old shocks, and install the new Koni adjustable shocks, but I get ahead of usual.

I was very sore when I awoke Tuesday morning around 7:30 am, and could not imagine going back into the belly of the beast again.  Around 9:20 am TLE suggested I go take a Jacuzzi to mitigate some of the soreness, so I did.  What a tonic!  As I sat immersed in that 104° F water I could literally feel the soreness oozing out of my muscles, and within 20 minutes I was ready to go!

In preparation for removing the shocks I sprayed liberal doses of Kano Aerokroil penetrating oil, whose motto is "The oil that creeps", over two days, and does it ever!  Before I crawled under the Newell for the first time Tuesday I assembled the tools I felt I would need to get all four shocks removed......

Amazing penetrating oil! the top of the picture below is a large breaker bar for the tough to remove 1 1/2" nuts, three Craftsman pry bars, a shorter breaker bar, a closed end 1 1/2" wrench, articulating socket wrench with long handle, a 3/4" drive socket wrench, and a large crescent wrench.....all of which I would use removing the 4 shocks....

....I began with the right front shock using the shorter breaker bar in the picture above, and much to my surprise the nut moved quite easily!  I immediately retrieved the 3/4" drive Craftsman socket wrench to finish removing that nut.  Would the next nut be as easy.....answer, yes it was!  Next up was to physically remove the shock from the two threaded mounting posts....the bottom moved quite easily, however, the top would not budge.  Instead of wasting a lot of energy on removing that front shock I sprayed the bushings on the top of the shock with Aerokroil, and moved on to the front left shock, giving the Aerokroil time to work its magic on the right front shock.

This is where I ran into the first, but only stubborn nut....the top nut.  I had to utilize the large, long handled breaker bar to get that nut moving, and within seconds it began to spin counter clockwise.  I was able to use the 3/4" drive Craftsman socket wrench to finish removing it, and then moved onto the lower was as easy as the first two. Once I had both the nuts off the left front shock I sprayed the bushings (upper and lower) with Aerokroil, and returned to the right front shock.  In just 10 minutes the Aerokroil had penetrated the subborn bushing, and the shock came off quickly.

I returned to the left front shock after about 10 minutes, and experienced the same amazing results.....I was able to just pull the shock off both mounting bolts with just my hands.....

The right front shock

Two down, two to go was only 11:15 am by this time and I already had two of the 4 shocks removed.  I'm thinking, maybe I can get all four off by lunch time, so I moved to the rear of the coach to begin removing the nuts on those two shocks.  I was able to get all four nuts removed from those shocks, but I couldn't get them (the shocks) to budge, so I soaked all four bushings on the shocks, and took a lunch break.  After lunch I spent time in the trailer using my bench grinder wire wheel to clean up the eight 1 1/2" nuts, and washers, then began to prep two of the Koni's for installation on the front.  I applied some lube to the 8 bushings so they would slide onto the mounting posts easily, then went under the coach to install them..... only took about 10 minutes per shock, and I was half way home. From there I moved to the back of the coach again to remove the remaining two shocks, and once again the magic Aerokroil had done its job....I had them both off in less than 5 minutes...... can see in the picture above how tight the space is there.  I prepped both shocks, and took everything under the coach with me so I could get them both installed without having to crawl out for anything.  In spite of the tight conditions I was able to get them both installed in about an hour.  I called TLE over and began to push out the tools for the last time on the shock job.  TLE snapped a few pictures as I emerged from the belly of the beast.....

Thumbs up!

Am I ever happy!

I was also very tired, and very filthy! the end it was not nearly as difficult as I had imagined.......isn't that almost always the case?  After resting for a couple of minutes I gathered my last reserves, stood up, and removed my gloves, skull cap, jump suit, and shoes then headed for the wash sink to begin removing grease from my hands (mostly wrists) and face.  The skull cap kept my hair pretty clean.  After a suitable interval I headed into the man cave shower for a 30 minute hot shower.

In reflection, I was able to meet my goal of removing the old shocks, and installing the new Koni shocks in one day.  It took me a little over 4 hours, so I've got about 9.5 hours invested so far with at least another 4-5 hours to go. By changing my airbags, and shocks myself I've probably saved at least $1,000 in labor costs, if not more, and I am learning a lot more about my coach than I knew before.  I still have to mount the new airbags, and reconnect the airlines on Wednesday.  I'm slightly optimistic I can get them all done in one day, but we shall see what we shall see.  So far everything has gone way more smoothly than I expected.

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  1. Good job! Great to read and see the photos.

  2. What setting did you use for the new shocks...soft, midrange, firm?

    1. Based on Richard's post I set them on soft. Actually, they came already set on soft so installation was easy.

  3. What condition were the old bags in? Cracked? Leaking? Was there any resistance left in the old shock absorbers or were they completely shot? I replaced my front shocks last year with Bilsteins and was able to easily compress them by hand after removal. I might as well have had no shocks at all.


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