1949 CJ-3A Broken Leaf Spring - Moab EJS 2016 #EJS2016Posted in Moab Experience: 2016 on March 29, 2016
Leaf springs have lived under Jeeps since the first jeep first rolled down the road or over dirts more than 75 years ago. Leaf springs do many jobs and can do those jobs surprisingly well. They locate the axle, provide spring rate and lift, control axle wrap and more. Still leaf springs are not perfect and they can bend or brake. The stock YJ springs on the front of our tan ’49 CJ-3A have seen lots of abuse. Between the locked axles, 35-inch tires and general abuse off-road we cant fault our 21 year old (at least) leaf springs for breaking. We were tugging backwards on a buddy’s Willys truck that was pretty stuck. Our Jeep was on solid high-traction Moab sand stone when we heard a loud bang. After checking u-joints and making sure our tires still turned we noticed a large break in one of our front leaf springs. Here’s how we safely limped off the trail, and a slightly more permanent fix that could last a few days until a new leaf pack can be sourced.
Our pal Phil’s 51 Willys Pickup is heavy. Amos, as the truck is known almost made it to the top of this hill despite its flat head 6-cylinder and heavy payload (including two spare tires, two spare transmissions, and at least one spare Spicer 18 T-case. For some reason we decided to give Amos a tug backwards with our flattie. After stuff broke we realized how dumb of an idea that was.
Here’s the broken spring. The issue is that since the main leaf is broken the axle can move forward. That could lead to more damage.
Our trail fix includes a length of chain some all-thread, a graded bolt, some bailing wire, and a piece of firewood. We jacked the front of the Jeep up and tried to get the parts of the leaf roughly back in place. The firewood is held in place with bailing wire. By tightening the bolts and all-thread the chain helps keep the axle from moving forward. The wood helps keep the Jeep at roughly the ride height. This let us limp off the trail and drive back into town…slowly.
Once near a welder we welded the cracked leaf and then welded the secondary leaf to the main leaf inside and out along the edge of both leaves about an inch and a half fore-and-aft of the now welded crack. This fix is good enough to last a little while off-road or allow us to flat tow the Jeep home after EJS. The weld will cause a hard spot where more cracks will develop as the spring flexes.