Suspension Upgrade with New Shocks Increases Ride Height



Since L and I first got our 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome, there has been an issue that we have noticed every time we drive our RV. You’ve probably noticed it too if you’ve seen any of our YouTube videos, and that is the constant squeaking, creaking, groaning, and banging noises when our Cortez is moving.

We hoped replacing the anti-roll bar bushings would have done the trick, but unfortunately it didn’t so we continued trying to eliminate these sounds.

One evening after work, I ventured to the Cortez solo with a target in mind of removing one original shock absorber, bump stop, and drop link bushings to be able to order replacement parts …

The first job was to unfasten the shock. Shocks help maintain a comfortable ride. This was an about 10-minute job as the shock came out alarmingly (and concerning-ly) easy. It was here I confirmed what I’d thought for a while:

The shock was rusty and dead … as in proper dead and fully compressed with no rebound.

In fact, when I manually extended the shock, I heard the same squeaking, creaking, and groaning noises. For comparison, here is how a shock should look fully extended:

Next up was the bump stop, which is a simple rubber component that prevents damage to the chassis. This was a right mission because the nut initially came loose before seizing. Without power accessible, the use of power tools wasn’t an option so a range of tools — from saw blades, chisels, hammers (of various sizes), and pliers — were used to finally get the nut undone. As far as the bump stop, I couldn’t tell you exactly how as (Number One) my memory is not apparently as good as I thought, and (Number Two) our camera battery died. Either way, it took way longer than expected; and by the time I got it out, it was in two pieces. The result was also not good:

The bump stop was torn, brittle, and split, so it was also dead.

The last job was to remove the drop link to get off the bushings. Bushings are rubber mounts that absorb vibration when driving. With the sway bar (or anti-roll bar) under tension as the RV was only lifted on one side, I naively thought it wouldn’t be too much of an issue. I started at the top by undoing the nut where it connects to the sway bar and — with one final turn of the spanner — there was an almighty bang as the tension was released! At the same time, my spanner, nut, and bushing were catapulted in multiple directions at high speed, including at my face! Fortunately, there were no injuries, and I even managed to find all of the parts after I’d recovered from the scare.

By undoing the lower nut, the drop link was easy to take off and shortly after, the bushing was also removed.

Both the drop link’s upper and lower bushings were squished to the point of being deformed and split so definitely ready replacing, too.

Having all the parts needed, I packed up and headed home ready to order new ones … which were found in time for L and I to work the following weekend.

With new parts in hand, we started on the driver’s side by jacking up the Cortez, securing our RV on two heavy duty axle stands, and removing the wheel.

The drop link was the first part we worked on and got off quickly. After that, I worked to removed the bump stop.

L evicted me from this job … before realizing she actually needed help to stop the bump stop from spinning as she unscrewed the nut holding it in place. Meanwhile, I was worried this would be difficult (remembering how much of a pain the passenger’s side was), but within a couple of minutes L got the old one off. Obviously, I got the difficult one.

Now it was time to get our driver’s side shock out and, after some persuasion, we pulled out a matching old, dead one.

I’ll be the first to admit this: This might be the first time I’ve told L we were going to change something … and it genuinely need changing.

With all parts removed, we cleaned a section of the chassis and the drop links to take off surface rust. Then, we started reassembling our suspension with the new parts …

Grease was smeared into suitable locations before sliding the new upper and lower bushings on the drop links.

Starting on the passenger’s side, I set L on the job of reinstalling the new bump stop — With a simple nut threaded onto the stud, the bump stop was in place and then tightened up, so we were one job down!

Moving back to our drop links, when reinstalling them, we unfortunately realized our upper bushings were too tall so they would need to be cut down to fit. (By the way, there are a limited amount of bushing sizes available so finding an exact replacement is not possible due to ours being made specifically for the Cortez.) First, a knife didn’t work … and neither did a fine-toothed saw.

By this point, I was a bit miffed (annoyed, for colonials) about cutting these bushings down, but for the life of me I cannot remember why I was so upset with them. (Sometimes, I’m an over-emotional being.) Even so, after a short time at the garage with a vice and saw again, we had three bushings cut to size and one close enough.

On the way back to the Cortez, L pulled out two apples (where from, I’m not 100% sure) and announced that she was going to feed the cows and that I should continue to work on the Cortez alone. Not knowing when I’d see her next, I cracked on — The upper drop link bushings were slid on, the bottom bushings were pushed into place, and the drop link was shoved up and secured on the passenger’s side.

Here, L returned with the saddest face you’ve ever seen … and two uneaten apples still in her hand. “She ran from me” was all L could say.

To get over L’s broken heart, I set her to work on the passenger’s side new shock. We got heavy duty shocks, which are used for RVs, trucks, and the like.

One was bolted in place at the top; but when working on the bottom, the bushing was extremely tight on the bolt as the shock was mounted. (I would later realize a larger diameter bushing was needed so we swapped it out.)

With the passenger’s side suspension reassembled, we moved to the driver’s side. Here, our steps were repeated, except L expertly installed all parts and I supervised (and gave nuts and bolts a tighten check as L doesn’t trust herself).

“Oh no,” I heard L gasp when working on the bump stop. “I dropped my nut.” By the way, we did not have replacement nuts so this was one of the last ones we needed to finish the job. This hiccup though was resolved with careful prodding and poking. 

Installing new bump stop

Here’s where the job went briefly south — L released the shock from the retaining strap and compressed the shock fine.

However, she lifted the retaining strap, her finger slipped as the shock extended, trapping the tip of her finger.

As soon as she started shouting, we were both pushing the shock back down and she got away with a slightly squished fingertip but relatively unharmed. Add this to our list of injuries! (The good news too is that she didn’t damage the shock either!)

Installing new shock

With all of the new parts installed, it was time to put both wheels back on and see if all of our hard work had been worth it. Although we were both exhausted, the driver’s side was dropped back onto its wheel and all of the lug nuts tightened.

Right away, it was clear that we gained a good three inches in ride height.

This needs to be addressed, too: Normally, shocks do not affect ride height. I know ride height is affected by springs and torsion bars. However, yes, these shocks did alter ours and that’s because our shocks are gas-charged. When we posted this video and shared it, I had a rather heated debate with someone who told me I was wrong … so I showed him evidence and if you also disagree, I can show you evidence, too.

Back to our work: The passenger side was completed, and we were both super excited to see how much higher the Cortez now sat.

“Are you even going to be able to get in?!” I asked L as I opened the passenger side door.

“Let me try!” she said excitedly … only to announce she would get in another day when I reminded her to watch out for snakes after we found a snake inside our RV.

Fears aside, we still wouldn’t have been able to take our Cortez for a test drive as the engine had no belts –- They were removed because they needed to be replaced, which means belts and a test drive are our next story …

Author: Andy

Ey up! I’m the calm, laidback, English one of the two. If L is the fuel, I’m the engine -- Without her, I’m pretty happy being sat still. That said, when I’m out and moving I make the most of it. I’m super squeamish, a stickler for the rules, and if I’ve not had a cup of coffee in the morning it’s probably best to let me be. I love fishing, hiking, and vehicle mechanics and I’m not scared of learning something new!

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