After I got the custom rear air suspension built for Project Pile House, I could now move on to the front suspension. The rear was relatively easy since there was a ton of room under the bed, but the front isn't so easy. After some research on mini truck websites and the S10 forums, I found that most guys suggested upgrading to the larger 2600 series air bags in the front when you are planning a V8 drivetrain (as I am). The 2500's apparently require much more air to get the truck up to an acceptable ride height and driving the truck at those high pressures makes the ride very harsh. Ideally for the best of both worlds you want the vehicle to ride at a mid-range pressure that will give you a nice ride, but still handle well. The downside is that the bag is obviously larger and requires a bit more modification to the spring pocket to fit.
I began by disassembling the front suspension, you can see above it was definitely time to address the front steering and suspension components on this chassis! I started the job by removing the tie rods out of the steering knuckle. Many struggle dropping the ball joints and popping the tie rod out of the knuckle when doing this job. I was taught a trick long ago that makes the job really easy.
What you want to do is remove the nut from the tie rod (or ball joint) and clean off the outside of the pocket where the tie rod is seated. Look for a casting mark where the knuckle was formed. Some vehicles (like this one) it's a flat area, while others it's just a rough raised line. You then take a large hammer (I like to use my 5 pound sledge), and take one REALLY good swing at the pocket; aiming directly for that casting mark you previously found. If you have good aim and swing hard enough, this will shock the conjoined parts loose and the tie rod or ball joint will be free enough that you can pull them out by hand. Sometimes the tie rod will even just fall right out. This is a great trick to show off to your friends and has saved me loads of time over the years.
After knocking the tie rod out, I moved on to removing the bolts holding the shock in place. I then used a jack to compress the coil spring and slowly dropped the jack down relieving the pressure off of the spring. With the spring pressure relieved, I could remove the spindle, control arms, and other steering and suspension parts. This procedure was a good test for the new Eastwood 1/2" Composite Impact Gun. Even with the extra long air hose we have running to this side of the shop (can cause a pressure drop), it performed flawlessly removing bolts that probably haven't been touched since the chassis was newly assembled!
With the old suspension out, I now could start on the front air ride fabrication. The nice thing about these larger bags is that they give a ton of lift when aired up, but when fully compressed they are probably a 1/3 of the size of the stock coil spring. For fun I sat the two next to each other before I began the job. Talk about a huge difference in height!
That's it for the first part of this tech series, stay tuned for our next entry where I will show you how we mated the air bags to the stock suspension and chassis. Then we clean and detailed it all with some help from some Eastwood chassis coatings!
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