Tip: Replacing shocks on 31ft Excella from 98
I knew it was not going to be easy to replace the original shock absorbers the moment I saw the upper mount. There is basically no clearance to put one back on, since the bolt is welded to the axle assembly with only 3/4 inch of clearance between the tip and the frame.
I was able to twist off the original ones. I just took the nuts off, pulled the shock off from the lower bolt and then twisted it off from the top one. In most cases it damaged the upper bushing, which was being thrown away anyway.
I called the factory and asked for installation tips. Their recommendation: bend out the upper mount on the axle about 1/2 inch with a crow bar. Then leave it like that. This should give you enough clearance for the installation and for any future replacements.
I did not particularily like that idea. I thought about it for a while and discovered an easier method of getting it back on. Just pop the top bushing out of the new shock. Sleeve the bushing onto the top bolt and then twist the new shock back over the bolt and new bushing.
I popped the bushing out by using WD-40 and a 1/2 inch socket wrench extension that fits perfectly in the hole, assuming you push it in using the square end. Just make sure to spray around the bushing, but not in the center hole. Push the rod about half way in and then twist. It comes out real easy.
Put some more WD-40 on the bushing, slide it on the top bolt, add some more WD-40 on the bushing and then in the top hole of the shock it self. Loop the shock around the bushing from behind. The shock will only come over the bushing on a 45 degree angle. I used a 1 inch wrench between the frame and the shock to "force" it against the bushing so I could loop it around the bolt. The rest was easy. Some more WD-40 on the bushing and then just pull real hard towards you and the shock slides right back over the bushing.
I'm pretty sure these instructions will work for any widebody from 96 and on, since the shocks are the same.
I took some pictures. I'll see if I cannot upload them. I also installed mud-flaps while I was tinkering in there. Got a set from VIP for about $10. This might help reduce the amount of debris that gets thrown up on the dump pipe and handles.