Installing A Belltech 4" Drop Shackle And Hanger Kit

Written by: Mike Ervin

The first thing the instructions said was you needed to remove the truck bed.  I thought to myself, I can do this without removing the truck bed.  After doing some further investigation, do as the instructions say, remove the truck bed.  If you really didn't want to remove it, you may could get it done but it sure would be a pain.  But with it out of the way, it is a piece of cake.

As I said above, the first thing you need to do is remove the truck bed.  But before you do, use a soap pencil or some other marking device and make a mark where the leaf spring is at in relation to the bed support.  Make one about 1" on either side of the spring.  This is where you will need to notch it so the spring and shackle won't hit the bed after you are done.  More on this later.  There are 8 bolts that hold it on, but before you remove the bolts you need to take the gas filler neck (necks if you have dual tanks) loose.  Take the spare tire out from under the truck, unplug the tail lights, backup lights and tag light.  Now you can remove the bolts from the bed and lift it off.  I know it sounds easy to say lift it off, you will need some strong help and somewhere to put it.  Once the bed is out of the way it will be fairly easy to work on.

Use a floor jack to raise the truck and put some jack stands under the frame directly in front of the hangers.  Take the wheels and tires off to get them out of the way.  Now put the jack under the rear end and raise it just a little, enough to take the pressure off of the springs.  Remove both shock absorbers so you can lower the rear without it hanging on them.  Remove the bolt that holds the leaf spring to the hanger on both sides of the truck.  Now lower the jack to where you have access to the hangers  To remove the hangers, you have a couple of choices.  They are held on with big rivets.  You can use a side grinder and grind the rivet heads off or you can use a big hammer and chisel to cut them off.  If using a grinder, grind them down flush with the hanger and then use a large punch and hammer to knock them out.  If you use a hammer and chisel (the method I used), a few good licks and they should pop right off.  I couldn't really tell you how many licks it will take, it's just according to how hard you hit it.  With either method, be sure you use some sort of eye protection.  You know you only have two eyes and they are hard to replace.  When the old hangers are off, you can install the new ones.  They come with all the mounting hardware to bolt them on.

I recommend installing new urethane leaf spring bushings when putting them back in.  It's up to you, but it will tighten up a sloppy suspension.  To install new bushings in the spring eyes you will need to remove the springs from the housing.  The reason, you will need to use a press to get them out.  Another way, if you don't have access to a press is to use a torch to melt the rubber on the old bushings.  This is a real stink but it works.  Just don't heat up the spring.  One more way, which is the hardest, is knock them out.  You need to lay the spring across something to support it.  Then take a BAH (big ass hammer) and a old socket or something similar and beat your brains out.  I don't recommend this way, but it would work if don't have access to the above methods.  If you are planning on new bushings, measure the spring eye so you know what size to order.  I think there were three different sizes on our trucks and you need to make sure you get the right size.  Either way you decide to go, you can install the front end of the spring back into the hangers now, don't tighten the bolts all the way yet.

As a side note, my leaf springs had five leafs.  I wanted to soften the ride a little, so I removed one leaf from each side, the bottom leaf, the one above the main leaf.  It will probably have the corners cut on an angle on each end.  If you only have four leafs now, I would leave it the way it is.  I tried it with three leafs and it was too soft.  Besides the back was lower than the front a little then. 

Anyway, where were we?  Oh yeah, the back end of the springs.  Remove the spring from the shackles on both sides of the truck the same way you did for the front hangers.  After the springs are loose lower the jack a little and remove the old shackles.  Now you can mount the new shackles to the frame and install the springs back in the shackles, don't tighten the bolts all the way yet.  The factory bump stops mounted to the frame above the rear end housing are too thick and should be shortened.  I left the rubber about 1/2 inch thick and cut the metal part so it wouldn't hit.  The best tool I found  to use to cut the metal is a saws all (reciprocating saw), with a metal cutting blade of course.  Wear some safety glasses while doing this.  The metal shavings are rough on the eyes.

I recommend using some drop shocks, (i.e. Doetsch Tech).  The stock shocks are too long and will bottom out when you hit large bumps.  After the shocks are back on you can put the wheels and tires back on and lower the truck.  Before you put the bed back on you will need to cut the notch in the bed support where you made the marks.  Again, using the reciprocating saw.  If you have access to a 4" side grinder, use a metal cutting blade to make the notch.  I cut a notch about 4" wide and 1-1/2" up.  I recommend smoothing the cut and priming the bare metal.  Then you can paint it black to match the other area.  Once this done, install the bed and hook up the filler necks and plug up the lights.  After everything is back on and hooked up, slide under the truck and tighten all the bolts at the shackles and hangers.  This will keep any undue stress off the bushings.  If they are tightened with the spring hanging, it will cause the bushings to twist when the truck is lowered to the ground.

That's it, you are done with the back of the truck, now you need to do the front.  I used Eibach 2" drop springs to lower my truck 2" in the front to go with the Belltech 4" drop in the back.  See the article on installing Eibach 2" drop front coil springs in the Tech Section.


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