How To Replace Front Shock Absorbers on a C3 Corvette

Replacing front shocks absorbers on a C3 Corvette is a bit more challenging than replacing rear shocks. But to be fair, I used the method I'm familiar with and there may be other approaches to achieve this task that could make the effort easier, so I encourage you to investigate those possibilities.

I chose to keep the wheels in place and lifted the front of the car by using my Rhino Ramps. And as easy as that sounds, in my case—and thanks to the Pace Car front air dam—it turned into an involved project requiring a couple of 2x4 pieces and a floor jack just to get the front wheels on the Rhino Ramps.

In hindsight, I should've used the QuickJack lift and then used the floor jack to raise the wheels along with the control arms, to make installation easier.

Of course, I am guessing that such an approach would've been easier and I will not know for sure until the next time I replace the front shocks.

At the end of the day, my approach worked just fine, but it was not as easy as I recalled or had hoped for.

By the way, there is a simple test you can do to determine if your shock absorbers need to be replaced. All you'll need is your body weight to see how the shocks are performing. If there isn't a lot of resistance as you push on the front or rear fender, and there's excessive bounce, it would be a good idea to replace them.

This short video shows how mine performed before and after I replaced the shock absorbers.

The three photos below show what I had to do in order to get the front of my car on the ramps thanks to the Pace Car air dam.

Step 1: Roll the front wheels onto 2x4s so the floor jack can reach the front suspension cross member.

Step 2:With the car lifted to the right height, quickly remove the 2x4s and place the Rhino Ramps under the wheels.

Step 3: Lower the car front wheels onto the ramps.

Of course, I had to repeat this process in reverse once I was done replacing the front shock absorbers. And yes, I could have lifted one side at a time, but I do not feel comfortable doing that.

The factory diagram below shows how the front shocks are installed as well as how the bushings and retainers fit, plus the recommended torque settings for the upper mounting nut and the two bottom bolts.

(I added the yellow highlights and torque numbers).

My new ACDelco front shock absorbers also included an instruction sheet along with new bushings, bushing retainers, upper nut, and a locknut (photo below).

The next photo shows how the bushings and retainers fit the shock absorber shaft.


I started by removing the upper mounting nut. The old KYB shocks had two identical nuts, one acting as a locknut. Once those were out, I removed the retainer and upper bushing.

The photo above shows the LH upper shock mount nut and retainer (with a rubber bushing under it).

Once the top nuts, retainer, and bushing were out, I removed the two 1/2" lower mounting bolts shown in the photo below. At this point, the front shock slides out.


Installation of the new shock absorbers is a reversal of the steps shown above, but keep in mind that the shocks will be totally extended and they will need to be compressed a bit in order for the bottom mounting tabs to reach the base of the lower control arm to allow installation of the bolts.

At the same time, you want the lower rubber bushing seated properly in the frame hole so the shaft will be centered. As the photo below shows, both rubber bushings have a "lip" that must be aligned with the frame upper mounting hole.

I used a piece of masking tape to protect the threaded area of the shaft in order to prevent damaging the threads during installation, and I also used a small bottle jack to compress the shocks so I could start the bottom mounting bolts.

You will need a bottle jack to accomplish this as there is no way to do it by hand.

Once the lower bushing was aligned, I installed the upper bushing, retainer, and nut. Then tightened the nut until the rubber bushing started to flatten and swell a little bit larger than the upper retainer.

At this point, you can torque the nut provided the shaft is no longer spinning. In my case, I had to torque it "by ear" as the shaft kept turning.

By the way, you will need a 1/4" wrench to keep the shaft from turning while you tighten the nut. This part was a slow and tedious process as there's hardly any room to do this comfortably.

Another alternative is to secure the shaft with a pair of small locking pliers. As a side note, at first, I tried using a 1/4" Harbor Freight wrench only to have it fail under the smallest amount of pressure. 

As much as I like HFT products, sometimes you just get what you pay for. A Kobalt wrench, on the other hand, had no trouble holding its own and got the job done.

Once the shock shaft nut is torqued, you can install and secure the locknut (photo below).

With the shock shaft secure in place, I torqued the bottom bolts to 150 inch-pounds per the factory Service and Overhaul Manual.

Needless to say, I used wheel chocks to keep the car from rolling back and off the ramps, which can totally ruin your life if it happens while you're under the car.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

As with the new rear shock absorbers, body height went up by approximately 1/4 of an inch, and the overall ride feels much tighter and body roll is almost nonexistent, which is precisely what you want in a Corvette.

By replacing the shock absorbers yourself, you can easily save a couple hundred bucks or more, while knowing the job was done right.

Thank you for following my 76 Vette Blog!

Product Links... (#sponsored)

• ACDelco 530-315 Gas-Charged Shock Absorber (Front)

• ACDelco 530-4 Gas-Charged Shock Absorber (Rear)

• 1963-1982 Bilstein Front & Rear Shock Absorber Set