If you’ve watched my recent videos about changing the leaf springs on my Jeep Cherokee, you know it turned out to be a difficult process. If you didn’t watch them… well, let me tell you where my mind went throughout the ordeal.
I started off the adventure with the highest of expectations and though to myself, this will be a fun challenge. I researched and ordered parts, read reviews, and familiarized myself with the basic procedures of changing leaf springs.
Then… I got into some in depth reading about what challenges I was going to face… and I will be 100% percent honest…. I was SCARED by the end of it. I read horror story after horror story. I read stories about people giving up and having to pay hundreds of dollars to get their Jeep towed to a mechanic to fix the mess that they created and spending tons of cash before it was all said and done.
By the time I actually got around to trying to actually do the repair, I had psyched myself out so much, that I was, once again, totally intimidated to be working on my own vehicle.
And I will say, I probably didn’t psyche myself out enough.
The whole process turned out to be one of the most challenging and physically demanding things I have ever done. Not just on my vehicle, but ever… It wasn’t the most mentally draining task I’ve ever undertaken, or the most physical, and it didn’t get me the most emotional, but when you average all of them together, I will rank it as one of, in not THE, most challenging things I have ever done.
When I first started on the repair, it was going relatively smoothly. I wasn’t running in to many obstacles that were to daunting or hard to deal with. It all changed when I got to those stupid leaf spring bolts. They were a nightmare beyond what I had anticipated. When I was figuring out times, to decide if this was something I could tackle in a single weekend, I ended up underestimating the time it would take to deal with those bolts by HOURS. I figured the whole job would take roughly 8 to 10 hours, but at the end, it took over 24 hours, spread out over 2 1/2 days. I was not prepared for this.
It took a big emotional toll on me. So much so, that at several points, I was actually thinking of throwing in the towel and either just scrapping the whole Jeep or calling someone to come and tow it to a shop.
I guess the blessing and curse was the fact that I didn’t have another vehicle to drive to work on Monday and I didn’t have any extra money to be paying someone else to fix my vehicle. So circumstances forced me to continue on with the repairs, even when I was ready to call the whole thing off.
After spending 12 hours in the freezing cold winter weather on Saturday, I dreaded having to go back out on Sunday and finishing things up. My gas tank has a small leak, and the smell of gas was really bothering my wife inside the house, so I had to keep the garage door open the whole time, allowing the snow and wind to swirl around me while I was torching, cutting, swearing, sweating, cursing, and banging underneath my Jeep. The added cold certainly didn’t help my disposition, but there were no other options.
By the time I was done on Sunday evening, I didn’t want to think about working on this Jeep ever again. I swore to myself that I would never deal with leaf springs again, and I promised myself that if I ever doubted my own abilities, rather than trying to muddle through, I would take it to a professional. I was seriously considering pulling the whole Heap of Jeep youtube channel and website down, because right at that point, I felt like a fraud. I no longer wanted to be a backyard mechanic. I no longer wanted to work on my own vehicles. I didn’t ever want to pick up a wrench or ratchet again!
Thankfully, a couple of weeks have passed, and a calmer head has prevailed. On Monday, when I could barely move because my body was so banged up, I was joking around at work, saying I would look back on this in a couple of weeks, and say, “That wasn’t so bad… I could do it again”
Truth be told, I think I could do it again, and more than that, I think I WOULD do it again. I’m certainly a lot wiser about how to tackle this particular job now, but time has healed my wounds and a part of me… that little part that keeps pushing me to do this… is once again taking hold and telling me I can do it, it really wasn’t that bad, and now that I know what I’m doing, I can probably get it done in half the time it took me.
I don’t know if all of that is true, but what I do know is, just like every other repair I have done on this Jeep, I now look at it, and rather than seeing and remembering the nightmare, I see and feel the pride of fixing a problem on my own vehicle.
So, I’m thinking my next few projects won’t be anything close to being that difficult, in fact, I think my next major project is going to be fabricating a roof rack, but the thing with that is, if I don’t finish in one weekend, I can still drive to work on Monday, so there won’t be anywhere near the pressure I was under with the leaf springs.
Would I encourage anyone to undertake changing leaf springs as a backyard mechanic? That is a hard one to answer. I’d say it all comes down to how comfortable you are around your vehicle, how determined you are to complete the task yourself, and how big is your tool collection is. My tool collection is not huge, but I have all of the basics, and a few more specialized tools, and I think I used about 85% of all my tools on this job. Not every socket or wrench, but every type of socket, deep well, impact, impact extensions, swivel heads, all kinds of wrenches, all kinds of pliers and vice grips, saws, grinders, welders, punches, chisels, vices, and the list goes on and on. So as long as your mentally ready, physically capable, and have a big enough tool collection, then I think you’d be okay at tackling this particular challenge.
If any of those things are missing though… I’d either remedy that before I started, or cut your losses and hire someone before you find yourself in a position that will cost you more money than taking it to a shop from the get go.