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Velvet Ride Shackle Install

Source:
Jim Rose
jimrose@lightstream.net


DZLJIM (Jim Rose) walks us through the installation of a set of Velvet Ride Shackles on his 1996 F-350. The Velvet Ride Shackle kit fits '77-'97 trucks/vans so I would think these directions would work for previous model years as well.

As always, click on the picture for a larger view.

Velvet Ride Shackles

     Velvet Ride Shackles, made by BF Goodrich Aerospace, are designed to replace the rear spring shackle and create a more comfortable, less buck-board feel ride by absorbing some of the harsh bouncing of the stiff heavy-duty springs.  They basically use a rubber torsion device inside of the shackle.  I bought mine from 4 Wheel Part Wholesalers for $178.95, shipped to my door.  Part number PCC274-3000 fits 1977 through 1997 F-250, F-350, and E-Series vans and includes a pair of shackles; one shackle for each side.  Below is what I went through to install a set on my truck.

Overview of Project:

     The installation of the shackles is very straight-forward, complicated for me because of six years of corrosion due to road salt used during out Ohio winters.  I torched on all the bolts and nuts that had to come off as I knew they would not come off otherwise.  If a torch is not available, soak everything with penetrating oil days ahead of time and use a breaker bar on a ratchet where possible.  Essentially, you want to support the rear of the truck by its frame taking weight off of the springs, unbolt the shackles from the springs and the shackle mounts, and install the new shackles.

Removing the Old Shackles:

First, you want to make sure that the axle will separate from the frame easily.  I removed the shocks since I replaced them at the same time as the install, or you can just unbolt them from the bottom bracket at the axle and let them hang from the frame.  If you have a sway bar, you will need to disconnect that too.  I thought it was easiest to unbolt it from the axle housing, two nuts on each side, than to mess with unbolting the link rods at the bushings.
Now you need to support the truck to take the weight of the truck off of the rear springs.  I jacked up the truck from my rear hitch, then placed a jack stand on each side just forward of the front spring perches of the rear springs.  This lets the axle hang freely, thus un-springing the leaf springs.  Place a floor jack under the differential housing to hold the axle up slightly and once the shackles are unbolted, you can let the axle down to remover the shackle bolts.  Note a third jack stand on the far left, placed under the driver's side leaf spring to limit how far the axle will drop while I worked on the passenger side.  This is to make sure I do not tear the brake line from the axle!  I removed that jack stand when I worked on that side and was able to keep an eye on the rubber brake line.
Remove the nut form the top of the shackle first, though this bolt will not yet come out.  Leaving the bottom bolt in until the top nut is taken off will help hold the shackle while wrenching on it.
Remove the lower shackle nut and bolt, then make sure the shackle will swing freely on the bolt still attached to the spring.  The passenger side is shown but do the driver's side at that same time to make it easier to lower the axle.  Note the wood 2x4 in the picture.  I was too lazy to take the hitch off completely, so I unbolted most of it and wedged the 2x4 in there to create a space for the bolt to slide out.  I also had to loosen the tire on the carrier to push it side to side to make room for the bolts too.
With the shackle able to swing free, slowly drop the axle down to the location shown in the picture.  This is just below the frame and you can now slide the bolt out of the spring and the shackle.  The springs seem to bind on the perches at this point too, so keep an eye on them when you go to jack the axle back up.  I kicked the underside of the spring a couple times with just enough force to pop the springs up above the perches.
Shackle removed, ready for installation of the Velvet Ride Shackle.

The Hardware:

Here is a visual comparison of the Velvet Ride Shackles on the left, and the factory shackle on the right.
The nut and bolt on the bottom is the factory hardware.  The heat from the torch destroys the hardened properties of the hardware but I knew that using the torch was the ONLY way for me to remove the bolts.  I knew I had to replace them.  What I did not know was that no Ford dealer stocked them (they cost about $7.50 each from Ford) and they took 3-5 days to get them.  I was taking a trip out of state within the week and had to get the thing back together NOW!  The hardware on top came from a local fastener supply company and cost me $25 for the bolt, lock nut and two washers!!  Multiply that by four bolts and... OUCH!  They are 14 mm, 10.8 hardness which is metric for grade 8.  Factory was 9.8, roughly equal to grade 6.5 (no such rating but you get the idea).  I tried using a 9/16" diameter bolt.  The threads on the bolt fit in the bushing but the shoulder did not.  You may be able to drill out the bushing slightly to make them fit, that is up to you.  I wanted to stay within factory spec and boy, did I pay the price...

Installation of Velvet Ride Shackles:

Connect the new shackle to the spring but do not tighten the bolt.  Raise the axle up until you can line up the hold of the bushing with the hole of the spring perch.  I used a drift to help center these up.  Then install the last bolt and tighten all three pieces of hardware.  The new bolts are slightly longer but pose no problem with clearance.  You will notice I used white lithium grease on all the hardware.  Anti-seize compound may have been better but I was too tired to make another trip to the store.  The smallest new bolt at the top came with the new shackle.
This picture shows the new shackles installed, with weight applied to them as the truck normally sits.

Results:

     I took the truck on an 800-mile drive a few days after completion.  I installed Rancho 9000 shocks at the same time and the combination of the new shocks and shackles makes an incredible difference in the ride quality.  A little experimenting with dialing in the shocks and the harshness of the ride is gone!  My bladder will never be the same again.  Absolutely amazing.  Two thumbs up; I am very impressed!

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