311 Front Shocks and Springs Tech Section
So it is time to replace those worn out front shocks or put those new competiton springs in. Not a difficult job by any means. The description below has worked well for me on the several occasions I have completed the job.
First we need to break the front wheel lugs loose. Jack the front of the car up and support with jack stands. Remove the rims and tires. Loosen and remove the front sway bar.
Loosen the two nuts holding the shock to its bottom mounting point. Next, there are four bolts holding the lower a-frame to the the frame mounting point. Loosen and remove all four bolts. You might want to put a jack under the a-frame just in case the spring kicks loose. I have never had a problem with it but better to be safe than sorry. The a-frame should be lowered and moved to one side or the other. The spring may be pretty wedged up into the top mounting point so a couple of good whacks with a rubber mallet should free it up. Pull the spring out of the way.
If you are replacing the shocks-remove the top two nuts securing the shock in place. Since this may be the first time in 30 plus years these nuts were last touched they may be very hard to remove. I use heat from a torch to loosen things up. Heat is an excellent rust buster. There is also a handy dandy tool called a nut splitter. Any good automotive place should carry them. They usually come in several sizes and they are not a one size fits all. The splitter fits over the nut and there is a hardened chisel that gets tightened with a cresent wrench. They work great on the really stubborn nuts. Another tool you can use is an impact wrench. Once these are loose the shock should fall freely out of it position. Install the new shock making sure the new bushings and metal cups are in the right place. Check to make sure the rubber mount is still in place at the top spring mounting point. If it is bad order a urethane replacement from one of our vendors.
Next either reinstall the old spring or install the new competiton spring. Twist the spring until it seats in it's top mounting point. I usually use the floor jack to support the a-frame while I am doing this. Once you have it in place and have the shock lined up with its bushing in place where you want it jack the a-frame back up into position. You may have to jockey it around a bit to get the bolt holes to line up properly but it is not difficult. Get all four bolts started and tighten them up to the recommended specs. Put the bottom bushing on the shock along with the metal cup and bolt the bottom of the shock into place.
NOTE: If you used the competition springs you need to cut the bump stops down to allow for the shorter spring. The bump stop is that black rubber thing that looks like a big nose. It is secured to the a-frame with one bolt on the bottom. The Bob Sharp Competiton Manual recommends several profiles. I cut mine to 1-1/2" and they work fine. I used a hack saw to do the intial cut and then rounded it and cleaned it up with a file. Put the modified bump stop back in place securing it with the nut.
Go to the other side and repeat the process. Once both sides are done reinstall the sway bar. Put the tires and rims back on. Jack the car up and remove the jack stands. Next, I usually drop the front of the car a couple of times to seat the springs. That pretty much covers the front end.
It would probably be a good idea to get the front end aligned at a shop any time you do some work on the suspension. Even slight geometric changes can affect performance.
Now, go enjoy the ride