Quick & Easy Shock Replacement, 2001 GMC Sierra

by Benjamin Chady

After 9 years and 122,000+ miles, it was time to change the stock shocks on my 2001 GMC Sierra. The ride was harsh, the body was rolling too much and I was getting annoyed by the ride. After a visit to my local auto parts store, I was the proud owner of four new Monroe Sensa-TracTM shocks. A professional technician friend of mine recommended these shocks as great replacements for the full size GM trucks, so I figured with his 15+ years of experience with a wide range of vehicles, I couldn't go wrong! 

The process started by collecting all the tools necessary for the job, including filling up the air compressor, ear plugs, safety gloves, hydraulic jack, jack stands, impact wrench, impact sockets, penetrating fluid and wrenches. Thankfully, by design or coincidence, access to the shocks on full size GM trucks is quite easy.

I checked the repair procedure necessary for both front and rear shocks on ChiltonPRO (www.ChiltonPRO.com) and followed the process.

The front shocks were up first, so after safely jacking up the vehicle, placing jackstands under the frame and lower control arm, I was ready to remove the front tire. While the picture below doesn't depict jack stands, they were in fact used for safety. 

After removing the center cap, the wheel can come off and be set aside.

Access to the shock is quite simple. There is an upper nut and a lower nut and bolt. The upper nut is secured to the upper shock housing, and is easily removed with some penetrating fluid and a 15mm GearWrenchTM. Because the shock is held in place with two rubber bushings, it is necessary to use a ¼" or adjustable wrench on the top of the upper shock housing, to prevent it from spinning.Once the upper nut is removed, the lower nut and bolt can be zipped free quickly.

Taking a look at the shocks in comparison to one another, the difference is like night and day, or black and blue.

According to www.ChiltonPRO.com, and as the saying goes, "installation is the reverse of removal." And so is the case here. I first inserted the upper nipple into the upper shock mount, and then secured the lower shock mount to the lower control arm, with the existing nut and bolt (noting orientation).

After torquing the upper nut and lower nut and bolt to the right specifications, it was time for the wheel to go back on. The process was repeated for the right side, except in a mirror image. As an aside, I've always found performing a basic inspection of all the front end components is a good idea when rotating tires, or whenever they were off. In this case, save for some rust, everything was in good working order.

As for the rear shocks, I jacked up the rear of the truck, mid-frame, and secured the vehicle with jackstands. It wasn't necessary to remove either of the rear wheels, although it might be slightly easier with them off (especially if you are rotating them as a maintenance item anyway).

I did start with the left, non-exhaust side, as the truck was recently driven. For safety sake, I figured burns and trips to the emergency room should be avoided.

The left upper shock nut and bolt were loosened and then the lower. The shock came right out and the new one went right in, a very easy process. Installation was indeed the reverse of removal.

Comparing the stock rear shock to the replacement shows how overdue the replacement really was.

The differences between the stock and aftermarket replacement components are, well, shocking. Forgive me for the shameful selection of analogies but you knew it was bound to happen. MonroeTM has certainly figured out the weak point of the design and "beefed up" not only the exterior metal housing, but also the internals. The OE shock has a plastic upper, which has cracked in this case and the external housing is severely rusted and I'm sure equally worn internally. I wouldn't be surprised if these were original shocks to the truck, definitely time to replace.

In conclusion, this was a great Saturday morning project, taking just over an hour and a half for both front and rear. That included a test drive after installing the front shocks, to compare and contrast the differences. I checked the trusted Chilton Labor Time for the repairs and found I was just barely over the OEM time, about even with the Chilton Labor Time and under the Severe Time.

Operation

OEM

Labor Time

Severe Service

Front Shocks, both

0.6

0.8

1.0

Rear Shocks, both

0.5

0.8

0.9

Total

1.1

1.6

1.9

Actual Ben Time

1.5

1.5

1.5

Surplus (Deficit)

(0.4)

0.1

0.4

 

 

When the project was completed, the vehicle tracks, handles, brakes and rides significantly better than before. It's not a night and day change, but certainly worth the effort and money. Shocks can definitely be an underlooked safety feature of a vehicle, which can affect braking, steering and suspension and certainly in my case, driver fatigue and frustration.

 

 

 

Special Thanks:

Chilton (and www.ChiltonPRO.com)

New Scotland Auto and Joe Kaiser http://www.newscotlandauto.com/

GearWrenchTM

CraftsmanTM wrenches, sockets, impact sockets and aluminum hydraulic jacks

Ingersoll Rand and their astonishing Thunder GunTM impact wrench. This is by far the best impact wrench I have ever used, with an acoustic tuning that rivals a well-tuned motorcycle for beautiful sound and power.