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Discussion Starter #1
This is to share the experience of trying to replace the rear shocks on 3rd gen (1996 GV, 187k miles), a work in progress. Start with comments about jacking and space to put a tool on. On the first try, I got started, but ran out of time. I only loosened the first bolt and retightened it.

I have a nice 25" breaker bar. But it's unratcheted, and that's looking impractical when it can only swing 60 degrees approaching the shock bolts from the left (from the front) and 30 degrees approaching from the right (from the rear). Yeah, it's better than nothing for breaking, and I do have short handled ratchets.

When removing a shock, first the lower mounting bolt, then, the upper. Vice versa when installing. Only the lower end has a bushing. When installing, the vehicle is supposed to be on the ground so that the bushing will settle right. But I forgot that yesterday, I had the tire off for both loosening and tightening the lower mounting bolt.

The jack I used barely fits under the lift point, so I couldn't raise the screw of the ram. I couldn't raise the vehicle enough to get a jack stand under the axle, which cost a lot of ground clearance. What I can do extra is to drive the rear wheels onto boards. This will give that screw room to rise.

I found that without getting standing room underneath the car (via a pit or a hydraulic lift), it's virtually impossible to assume any other posture than on your back when working on the rear shocks. Bad news for body leverage. On these vehicles, I wonder how advisable it is to stand at the side of the car and reach over to the shock mounting bolts with an impact wrench or a hand tool extension bar, because the frame (actually, the frame and the wheel well splash guard) slightly eclipses the upper mounting bolt while the hub slightly eclipses the lower bolt. The problem I see in this is that although you actually can put a socket on an impact wrench or extension bar and get the socket onto the bolt head, the tool will be forced to approach at an angle off vertical. I actually did take off the tire and start loosening the lower bolt with an impact wrench, but when tightening the lower bolt, the tire has to be on. To improve access to the upper bolt, in theory you could take a hacksaw and cut away the edge of the frame.

Wrenches have about twice as much room to swing when you approach each mounting bolt from the left (from the vehicle's forward direction) as from the right. In the upwards direction, the wrench can go as far as being in parallel with the shock.
 

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I've replaced the rear shocks on 97 and on my 05. I found it fairly easy. I used an electric impact wrench both times. You have to get it off the ground on both sides, supported on jackstands on the frame. Pull both rear wheels. I did need an extension on the socket to reach the bolts and it does have to be slightly angled in there but they spun out real easy. With the van supported on the frame and the axle hanging at full extension the bolts go in fairly easy. Snug em up with the impact and then torque to spec. I could probably do it now in about an hour. (And I suck at mechanical work)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Why jack up both sides simultaneously?

One of my complaints above was in error. At the upper end, the fender and splash guard do not eclipse the mounting bolt after all.

I tried the replacement again and would have finished, only I realized that the new units were incompatible, despite what Web sites say. When I started screwing in the lower bolt, after the upper bolt, now I could see in between the shock end and the undercarriage, and the fit wasn't proper.

You can use one bottle jack to gain clearance to rest a second bottle jack on one or two boards, the second jack can get you a higher final rise.

Removal starts with the lower end, installation starts with the upper end. I started out intending to leave the tire on and not to jack the vehicle at all. I saw that as the lower bolt was coming out, the weight of the vehicle was pushing downwards on the shock, pinching the bolt. To relieve this pressure, I jacked just enough to lift the tire off the ground.

The 2 foot breaker bar connected to a 1 foot extension bar loosened the upper bolt like butter. Next time I'll use the impact wrench.

For installation, I put the vehicle down, the tire too, so that the shock would be in neutral position (neither extended nor compressed). The upper bolt again can be approached from outside, with the extension bar. I only have bottle jacks, couldn't seem to raise the vehicle enough to get the 11" jack stand under the axle. For the lower bolt, this situation gives wrenches little swing room whether you approach from front or rear. I'm not buff, so to get up to 75 ft-lb I used a board, 2x10 and 2 feet long. I braced the low end of the board against the edge of the tire, and pulled the board down against the wrench, like a seesaw.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The KYB Gas-a-justs were not incompatible after all. I thought they were (as I wrote the previous post) because there would be metal against metal (lower end of shock against undercarriage) with no bushing in between. But customer support assured me this was OK as long as I torqued to the original spec. The representative insisted the lower end of the shock wouldn't move at all, wouldn't rotate around its mounting bolt. I still don't see how that can be possible geometrically. Whatever, they're doing their job well.
 
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