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Softening the rear

  #1  
Old 08-26-2014, 01:30 PM
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Default Softening the rear

I have had a 1999 Jimmy for almost 5 years now. I love almost everything about this beast my daughter has affectionately nicknamed the Jimmy Buffett truck. The one thing I really do not like about it is the rear suspension. I have compressed discs in my lower back. Combine those with the Jimmy's very stiff rear suspension and I literally wince every time I hit a bump.

Not wanting to trade my Jimmy in for something else, I have been looking into options for softening the rear. I do not haul anything heavier than a cooler full of ice on beach trips and a rather minimal sound system (need room for the cooler and beer). I have looked into removing the main load spring, but I am concerned about any negative affects from this, like axle wrap.

I talked to one guy with a slammed S-10 about his bag setup and he warned against bags for comfort "My ride doesn't get comfortable until I am riding about an inch from the ground." To me this just means he has his upper bag mounts too high. It seems to me if I do not notch my frame and keep the bag mounts lower on the frame, I should be able to achieve a comfortable ride at a higher point (I wouldn't mind losing an inch or three, but I can't do slammed any more).

More recently I had an epiphany and decided to look at the rear suspension of the Escalade and saw that it rode on coil springs. Since Caddies are known for comfort (I haven't ridden in a escalade myself), I am guessing this means they have a much better ride than the standard leaf spring setup.

So I guess my questions are:
Do the cons of removing the load leaf out-weigh the pros? Does it even noticeably improve ride?
Am I right in my reasoning on a bag setup? Find the 'magic point' of air pressure and then place the upper bag mount in a position where I get near-factory height?
What is the feasibility in changing out the rear suspension for an Escalade's? The first thing that hits me is the weight difference between the Jimmy and the Escalade. Would the difference be enough that I would be back to a stiff ride because the rear isn't heavy enough?

It might seem easier to just get a different vehicle, but I really do like this truck and I have already put a lot of time and money into getting back to mechanically sound.
 
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Old 08-26-2014, 08:47 PM
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And actually, looking at the 05 and up Trailblazers and Envoys, they use a 4-link and coil spring setup. So it need not be a Caddy suspension.
 
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Old 08-27-2014, 07:36 AM
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All of them can be done, just some are a lot more work and expense than others. Both bags and coils would require heavy fabrication and a fair cost. Both would need a link setup to be fabricated.


Personally, I would start with playing with the leaf packs, it's easy and cheap and might get the suspension comfortable for you. Take out one of the lower leaves and see how it feels. I wouldn't take out the longest leaf personally.
 
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Old 12-28-2014, 06:31 AM
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I would take it to a spring shop, many truck shops offer this and see if they can build you a custom leaf pack that will be softer but still firm enough to support the vehicle properly. If the truck gets to soft in the rear end it will affect the front suspension in adverse ways and could be dangerous. The cost to have a custom set of springs really would not be that expensive at all compared with the other options and would be the safest route to go also.
 
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Old 12-30-2014, 08:58 PM
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What about switching to ladder bars and coilovers? The ladder bars are available in bolt on or weld applications and install in place of the leaf springs. Coilovers would replace the shocks. A few other suspension parts are required but it's an option to think about.
 
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Old 01-02-2015, 07:06 PM
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I will look into that Gregg. I knew, sorta, that there were shops that built custom spring packs for those who wanted to lift their trucks, but never heard that they also work to soften them for daily drivers.

TZFBird, someone I know actually suggested Coilovers, but also said that they might still make the rear too stiff for my spine, so I had not looked into it. I might do that if I can't find a local shop that will do the spring pack rebuild.
 
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Old 01-02-2015, 09:00 PM
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Have you looked in to leaf springs for a Blazer ZR2? They are only rated at 1100#, which is the softest spring available for S & T body vehicles. Standard springs are rated at 1200# and RPO Z85 springs are 1350#. I have 1400# on my 04 4X4 4 door and yes, it is a stiff ride, but I tow with it and need the extra capacity. 1995 - 2005 Blazer ZR2, Jimmy Highrider rear leaf spring, 3 leaves, 1100 lbs capacity

The Z85 option is what GM calls "Firm Ride Suspension". If "Z85" is on your RPO code sticker in the glove box, going with softer torsion bars in front would also soften the ride.

The main problem with adjustable rear suspensions is that each time you adjust it, front chassis ride height, camber, and toe, all change on the front wheels. If / when any one of those are out of spec, handling changes, and tires wear out faster.
 
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Old 01-02-2015, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by BuffettTruck View Post
TZFBird, someone I know actually suggested Coilovers, but also said that they might still make the rear too stiff for my spine, so I had not looked into it. I might do that if I can't find a local shop that will do the spring pack rebuild.
I think they make variable rate springs. You can get some where the first couple inches of travel are soft and then it gets stiffer. Perhaps you should look into the suspension off a late 80s early 90s Lincoln or Mercury. It's like floating on a cloud even at 100.
 
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Old 01-03-2015, 05:19 AM
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What kind of rear shock asorbers are on it? Also what brand/model tires? Shocks make a huge difference plus they are a cheap fix. Tires also can have a lot to do with ride stiffness depending on how many plys the tread and sidewalls have. I have owned 4 Blazers, 2 Bravadas, and 1 Jimmy. Let me know make and model on tires an shocks
 
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Old 01-03-2015, 07:08 AM
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As far as RPO codes go, I see Z82 for the tow package, but not Z83 or Z85. Not knowing about the RPO codes, I have now gone through a downloaded list and can't find any off the 'Chassis Package' codes in mine. (And now that I do know about them, I'm going to go through the list and see what options I DO have.)

The shocks right now are indeed an issue, I knew that when I put them in. But at the time of purchase, I was told they were the only shocks that would fit my application. I have since looked at changing over to softer shocks, but I have tried driving without shocks and it is still a very stiff ride. Though without the shocks it turns into stiff AND bouncy. On the very rare occasion when I load my Jimmy down with too many bags of soil/mulch, that is when these shocks, Monroe, come into action and then they work great. But until that moment of load, they just keep the rear from bouncing. The tires were replaced within this last year with 235/70 15 BFGoodrich Longtrails. After properly inflating them and getting them 'properly' balanced (never trust Sam's club to do this right), the improved both ride and handling a bit, but the stiffness of the rear is still very noticeable.

Captain Hook, I used to be into lowrider trucks back in the 90's and I am aware that the suspension height changes geometry. While I mentioned the air bag option, I had no intention of adjusting while driving or otherwise. I just have been under the impression that you can get a really smooth ride out of them if properly installed.
 

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