Over the years, your vehicle's leaf springs would have been exposed to plenty of friction, heat, force, and other damaging elements. After all, they're meant to absorb shock and support the axle as parts of the suspension system. However, just because they're engineered to handle some of the toughest jobs under the vehicle, it doesn't mean they're indestructible. A leaf spring may be built to last your vehicle's lifetime, but it needs regular maintenance to last such a long time. To keep these springs in top shape, here are some tips when cleaning and knowing when to replace them:
Cleaning a leaf spring
Because of their location, leaf springs are exposed to plenty of dirt and road debris. After years of use, dirt particles can get stuck between the metal leaves. And when dust and dirt accumulate in-between suspension springs, premature rusting and wear can occur. Here's what you should do to remove grime:
- Wire brush
- Clean rag
- Silicone-based lubricant
Step 1: Spray the springs first with the right amount of degreaser to get rid of stubborn dirt.
Automotive degreaser is designed to deal with tough grime, so spraying the right amount should make removing road debris easier.
Step 2: Wire brush the grime away from the springs, focusing on the springs' open ends.
The open ends are more exposed to road debris, making them more prone to grime buildup. This is why this step can get very messy. To prevent ruining your garage's floor, be sure to put newspapers or plastic sheets under the vehicle. Just keep on brushing until every trace of grime is removed.
Step 3: Wipe each leaf spring with a clean rag after brushing away the hard-to-remove particles.
This makes sure that no dirt or degreaser residue remains on the surface of the springs. You can then spray the springs lightly with a silicone-based lubricant to protect them from corrosion.
When to replace the leaf springs
While you're cleaning these suspension parts, this is also the good time to check and see if they need to be replaced. Take a closer look at each spring and see if it's showing the following signs:
A leaf spring that's significantly flatter than the others - This usually means that your vehicle has a pronounced tilt either to the left or right side. If the sag is significant or is very obvious, replace the worn-out leaf spring as soon as possible.
Fractured spring - Cracks or fractures can't be welded, so you have to get a new spring if the old one is showing these signs.
Severely corroded hardware - Shackle pins, nuts, and u-bolts connecting each spring should be free from rust. If these parts are showing severe corrosion, it's time to invest in new springs.
Now you might be tempted to restore severely damaged springs yourself. However, this isn't really advisable since the task is very difficult, time-consuming, and requires special equipment. Your best bet would be to let a professional mechanic handle extremely worn-out or damaged springs.