Front Suspension Leaf Spring Compressor and Removal
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Thread: Front Suspension Leaf Spring Compressor and Removal

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    Über OpelGT.com Moderator My location kwilford will become famous soon enough kwilford's Avatar
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    Front Suspension Leaf Spring Compressor and Removal

    A while ago, I rebuilt my GT's front suspension. There are several excellent threads on the topic, but I thought I would build a thread showing what I did to fabricate and use a front suspension leaf spring compressor.

    So, to start, you don't HAVE to use a compressor tool to disassemble the front suspension on a GT. If you have the suspension still mounted on the car, you can "compress" the front leaf by placing jacks under each A-arm at the ends of the transverse leaf (the "spring eyes"; this might not work if you don't have the engine still in the car; the weight may not be enough). Then you remove the "spring eye bolts" and lower the ends of the leaf (make sure that the car body is still supported!). Then the rest of the front suspension clip can either be disassembled, piece by piece, while it is still on the car, or you could then remove it as an assembly and disassemble it on a bench. But you have to install it back in the car to reverse the process, and I have heard that it can be tricky to get the spring-eye bolts back into place using this method.

    Since I wanted to do a complete rebuild, including sand blasting the components and re-painting them, I decided to build a proper GT Leaf Spring Compressor. The FSM (Factory Service Manual) provides a portion of a photo that shows the proper factory tool. That, and a photo posted by Stanley P. provided the template that I used to build mine.

    First, I needed a device to clamp onto the leaf spring. Here's what the FSM show:
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    Keith Wilford
    If I could only find the time to work on my '71 Opel GT...

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    Über OpelGT.com Moderator My location kwilford will become famous soon enough kwilford's Avatar
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    Here's what the compressor clamp has to attach to. It occurred to me that this is a "critical component". If the clamp fails, then the spring unloads, and the spring compressor becomes a high velocity projectile. Probably terminal!
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    Keith Wilford
    If I could only find the time to work on my '71 Opel GT...

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    Über OpelGT.com Moderator My location kwilford will become famous soon enough kwilford's Avatar
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    I first thought about building a clamp, similar to what was shown in the FSM. But I found the local Princess Auto (a really terrific automotive and farm, new and surplus, store, http://www.princessauto.com ) had a Pitman Arm Puller. I only had to slightly grind the arms to fit under the leaf spring clip
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    Last edited by kwilford; 12-25-2004 at 02:46 PM.
    Keith Wilford
    If I could only find the time to work on my '71 Opel GT...

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    Über OpelGT.com Moderator My location kwilford will become famous soon enough kwilford's Avatar
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    Here it is installed, waiting on the rest of the Leaf Spring Compressor tool. I removed the centre bolt, to allow the new Redi-Rod threaded rod to be installed, along with the beam. I especially like this design with the cross bolts that hold the puller tightly together. The idea of pulling the front leaf into compression (lets see, that would be, oh, about 1000 lbs of load) and then having the puller slip out from leaf clip scares the crap out of me!
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    Last edited by kwilford; 05-16-2004 at 09:34 PM.
    Keith Wilford
    If I could only find the time to work on my '71 Opel GT...

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    Über OpelGT.com Moderator My location kwilford will become famous soon enough kwilford's Avatar
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    Next, I fabricated a "beam", that would push against the spring eyes, and used a 5/8 inch threaded rod (Redi-Rod) to apply the required compression. It is just a piece of 2 inch square hollow tubing. The main beam is 43 inches long, dictated by the fact that it had to sit on the spring eyes, but fit within the disc brake backing plates. Since the Pitman Arm puller is somewhat taller than the FSM clamp, I also needed to weld another section of the square tubing to each end of the beam, to create sufficient space for the puller. On my first attempt, I only attached a piece at each end, 4 inches in length. But as I de-compressed the leaf, the width between the spring eyes got MUCH smaller, and the spacers threatened to drop off the spring eyes. So I welded another piece on the inside at each end. The minimum inside dimension is 30 inches, but it could have been less. Here's the beam:
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    Last edited by kwilford; 05-16-2004 at 09:35 PM.
    Keith Wilford
    If I could only find the time to work on my '71 Opel GT...

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    Here is what the tool looks like installed and just starting to compress the leaf. The Redi-Rod has a nut under the puller, and another on top of the beam. When I used it, I had a large washer under the beam nut, but I forgot to install it for the photo. I just tightened up the beam nut, compressed the leaf a bit, and pulled out the spring eye bolts. OK, I had to fight a bit to get the spring eye bolts out, but I found that turning them released the corrosion. Then I used a brass drift to drive them out
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    Keith Wilford
    If I could only find the time to work on my '71 Opel GT...

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    Here is a photo of the puller and Redi-Rod. Since I had the suspension clip upside down on a bench, I didn't care how long the Redi-Rod was. But if you are using a similar tool under the car, you need to cut the rod down. But don't make it TOO short; the leaf de-compresses about 12 to 14 inches.
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    Here's a view of the beam at the spring eye end
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    Keith Wilford
    If I could only find the time to work on my '71 Opel GT...

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    And that's about it. To completely disassemble the front suspension clip, including removing the lower A-arms so the bushings can be replaced, the A-arm perches have to be removed (WHILE THE SPRING COMPRESSOR IS IN PLACE!), which was the hardest part of the job. If you are planning on a complete front suspension clip re-build, have a search around for related threads, particularly this one: http://www.opelgt.com/forums/3a-front-suspension/398-front-suspension-problems-solutions-get-rid-shimmy.html where Stanley P chronicles his front suspension rebuild, and a number of members shared their projects.

    HTH
    Last edited by kwilford; 05-20-2004 at 01:56 AM.
    Keith Wilford
    If I could only find the time to work on my '71 Opel GT...

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    Member svopel svopel's Avatar
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    Caution

    Then you remove the "spring eye bolts" and lower the ends of the leaf (make sure that the car body is still supported!). Then the rest of the front suspension clip can either be disassembled, piece by piece, while it is still on the car, or you could then remove it as an assembly and disassemble it on a bench.
    CAUTION! The spring is still LOADED (compressed) even after removing the spring eye bolts. I know from personal experience. I disassembled the conrol arms and spring in my driveway (spring eye bolts were already removed) and I'm lucky to have escaped that task without injury. The spring let go when I removed the second bolt from the first control arm -- I should have gotten a clue that the spring was still compressed when I didn't have to hold the bolt head while removing the nut. Probably the thing that saved me is that, although I thought the spring was not compressed, I was still skeptical and kept my head and other body parts from the spring's likely trajectory. However, the last nut from the bolt keeping the spring compressed is probably still in orbit -- and this "nut" learned a lesson.

    All the more reason to use a proper tool. Thanks Keith ...

    Ken

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    Opeler bear is on a distinguished road
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    I have mine all apart and wainting on my new refresh parts. My question is :: How do I put the spring back into the crossmenber that is already out of the car?
    BTW>
    Great pics

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    Old Opeler My location GTJIM will become famous soon enough GTJIM's Avatar
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    You see the big long thread on the spring compression fixture? Well put the spring into the cross member attaching it with a new or good rubber bit in the center. Then, with the fixture cliched on and the nut on the thread waaaay out at the end (and lube on the thread and the pads the spring eyes go on) wind, wind, wind, till the spring flattens enough to fit into position.
    Note that the ends of the spring are fitted through the lower wish-bones
    before compression, under the inner pivot bar which is stepped to accomidate them. Then, simply fit the bolts through the eyes and the outer end of the wish-bone!
    GTJim
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    Opeler My location nbrcrnchr is on a distinguished road
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    Short of building your own compressor, where would you find the GM J-21689 Leaf Spring Compressor even if you wanted to purchase one?

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    Old Opeler My location GTJIM will become famous soon enough GTJIM's Avatar
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    Each Buick Dealer who sold GTs would have had a service department equiped with the required tooling to fully service and repair the car.
    Pop in to the service department of some of your long established Buick dealers and have a chat to the old guy in the corner - he probably remembers working on Opels when they were new and may be able to put you on to a cache of Opel tools and spares...........

    Making one from scrap materials can be done by any halfway competent home handyman with a welder..........
    GTJim
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    5,000 Post Club My location namba209 (R.I.P.) is on a distinguished road namba209 (R.I.P.)'s Avatar
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    Before you "Cobble" something together, and possibly get yourself hurt, may I suggest you do what I did. Check out your local yellow pages for a mobile welder. Go to a metal supply and pick up enough 2 X 2 square tubing to cut the three pieces Keith has pictures of, with the dimensions and have the Mobile welder put it together for you. A hole in the center if easy enough to do with a drill and a rat tail file, get some good hardware and your set, once you get the appropriate puller. The reason for this response is, I got a used lower control arm out of a wrecking yard, the mech there almost cut himself in half when the spring sprung. I yelled at him prior to the spring coming out and probably saved him. He was shocked that the spring came out so far and FAST. This is NOT a coil spring that drops a couple of inches.

    Ron

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    Über OpelGT.com Moderator My location kwilford will become famous soon enough kwilford's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GTJIM
    Yes, once some tension is up on the front spring by the device the whole thing turns into a great big, very powerful, cross bow!
    It is imperative that everything is strong enough and the threaded rod anchored immovably to the center of the spring.
    If it lets go then then ...........
    Ooh. Cross bow. Graphic analogy. It isn't the power of the bow, as much as the travel. Arrow (or tension bolt) through the body...

    What surprised me when I disassembled my front suspension wasn't the "force" (as in the load) stored in the front leaf. It was the "displacement". I was worried at first that the 2 inch square tubing wouldn't be strong enough. But I saw NO deflection in at at all (although I did have to put a pretty big washer under the tension nut). But the sheer magnitude of the leaf expansion surprised the hell out of me, and how much it narrowed as it expanded. I was glad I hadn't cut down the tension bolt.
    Keith Wilford
    If I could only find the time to work on my '71 Opel GT...

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    Opeler My location nbrcrnchr is on a distinguished road
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    I was thinking instead of welding the two extensions to the main bar, what about using using two bolts, with the appropriate washers on both ends to hold it together. When I saw what you were using to "PULL" the puller with at the center, I was thinking maybe do something similar on the ends to hold the extensions on.

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    Old Opeler My location GTJIM will become famous soon enough GTJIM's Avatar
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    The face of the extensions in contact with the spring eyes has to be flat and unobstructed as the spring eyes slide in (removal) or out (instalation) along this surface. They move a LOT as the spring is almost "U" shaped when decompressed - that is why the threaded rod is so long.
    A plate each side would be OK with two bolts each piece - with the bolts fore and aft rather than up and down. Easier to find someone in the neighbourhood who can actually weld - one inch of "bird-****" will hold a ton!
    Actually the whole thing is in compression when being used so that the method of attaching the end pieces is academic. The weld/bolts is just so they don't fall off while setting the whole fixture up into place.
    GTJim
    Opel Owner since last Century!

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    Moderator My location soybean is on a distinguished road soybean's Avatar
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    Keith, The article on the spring compressor is great and timely too, as I am going to pull the front end on our daily driver in the next couple of weeks. I've made the beam as per the instructions and had a few questions. The short piece of 2x2 tubing. I noticed it stuck out a little bit. Is this on purpose, and if so how much is sticking out? I had no idea how far it stuck out, so I made mine 1/2 inch longer each end than the beam. The puller itself, I noticed the jaws were held in place by two bolts. The Matco pitman arm puller only has one. Do you think that would be sufficient? The website you had listed was down for maintenance, so I couldn't find it listed. Was it very expensive? Matco and Snapon wanted an arm and a leg for theirs.Thanks, Jarrell
    Last edited by soybean; 05-28-2004 at 11:12 PM. Reason: spelling

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    Über OpelGT.com Moderator My location kwilford will become famous soon enough kwilford's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soybean
    The short piece of 2x2 tubing. I noticed it stuck out a little bit. Is this on purpose, and if so how much is sticking out? I had no idea how far it stuck out, so I made mine 1/2 inch longer each end than the beam. The puller itself, I noticed the jaws were held in place by two bolts. The Matco pitman arm puller only has one. Do you think that would be sufficient? The website you had listed was down for maintenance, so I couldn't find it listed. Was it very expensive? Matco and Snapon wanted an arm and a leg for theirs.Thanks, Jarrell
    There was no particular reason the small pieces stuck out from the main beam, other than I welded the beam spacers on after I had cut the main beam to length, and found I could make it a bit longer. The maximum length of the beam is determined by the width between the brake backing plates with the leaf fully compressed. If it is too long, it won't fit between the backing plates (or rotors) and yet still contact the spring eyes. But if the beam spacer is too short (too wide a space in between), they fall off the spring-eyes as the spring expands.

    As for the puller, the Princess Auto site is "up" tonight, but I can't find the Pitman Arm Puller I bought "on-line". It might have been a surplus item, but I think they still had them in stock a few months ago. But one bolt should be fine, so long as the lip on the arm fits securely under the leaf clamp. HTH
    Keith Wilford
    If I could only find the time to work on my '71 Opel GT...

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