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The ’04 Super Duty Blues: Revamping the Leaf-Spring Suspension

Revamping the Leaf-Spring Suspension With Atlas, LMC, and Icon

Jul 1, 2019
Longtime readers will definitely recognize our '04 Ford Super Duty project. Over the last few years, we've updated the 6.0L Power Stroke engine, added a stellar audio system, filled the bed area with storage solutions, and tried out various grille and bumper combinations. And that 6.0L statement combined with the mention of leaf springs in the title brings up a really good point regarding the uniqueness of this truck. Even though this body style started in 1999, there were many changes along the way. Most importantly, it was the last year for the leaf-spring front suspension, but it was the first year for the 6.0L Power Stroke engine, essentially making this a one-year-only truck as far as the most popular modifications are concerned.
So why have we addressed just about everything on the truck except the suspension? Well, the main reason was the truck was already equipped with a 4-inch lift from Icon Vehicle Dynamics—and it still worked great. But the time came when we wanted to run 37-inch tires on the truck. After looking at new kits on the market, including coilover conversions—which we were advised against for this particular truck, by the way—we decided we could cobble together exactly what we wanted for less than the cost of a new off-the-shelf kit.
Photo 2/41   |   Our '04 F-250 didn't look all that bad to begin with, but after tens of thousands of off-road miles, the stock suspension components had seen better days—and we really wanted the truck sitting on 37s. We would, however, retain several components from the 4-inch Icon kit that was installed several years ago.
We retained most of the original Icon kit, including the front spring mounts, the track-bar drop-down bracket, and the dual shock mounts. To get the extra 2 inches of lift we were looking for, we contacted our pal Fernando at Atlas Suspension. He knew exactly what we were looking for in terms of height and ride quality—and how to build springs to accomplish it. We also replaced the stock spring and block in the rear with a dual-rate setup. Since Icon was the company of choice the first time around, we revisited the Icon crew for a set of 2-inch aluminum-bodied shocks up front and 2-inch reservoirs in the rear. LMC Truck replaced the ball joints and all the steering components with Moog Problem Solver products, with which we have always had great luck. We topped the new steering setup with a dual stabilizer kit from Icon, complete with two more aluminum-bodied shocks. Before we bolted on the wheels and tires, we updated the brakes with a set of tried-and-true EBC rotors and Orange Stuff brake pads. Then we grabbed our new 20-inch Vectors in satin black from Fuel Off-Road and wrapped them in 37-inch General Grabber X3 tires. Since this was by no means a traditional lift story, we performed the main build at Atlas Suspension in City of Industry, California, then headed over to New Century Tire in Westminster, California, for mounting and balancing of the tires and a professional alignment.
When all was said and done, we accomplished exactly what we set out to do: a brand-new suspension with more lift, more travel, better road manners, and, of course, 37s! Our plan worked perfectly, and we are looking forward to many more off-road miles in our old Super Duty. Follow along as we make the transformation and check out the websites in the source box for products to make your own truck perform better on the pavement and the dirt.
Photo 3/41   |   The source of our additional lift will come from a fresh set of leaf springs from Atlas Suspension. Up front, we would move from a 4-inch spring to a 6-inch spring, with lots of additional features that come standard on Atlas products. In the rear, we opted for an 8-inch dual-rate spring, which is necessary to compensate for the factory block we would be removing.
Photo 4/41   |   Since the original kit came from Icon Vehicle Dynamics, we stayed loyal and upgraded the shocks to a set of 2-inch aluminum-bodied units up front and a matching set of reservoirs in the rear.
Photo 5/41   |   We also upgraded the missing factory steering stabilizer to a dual kit from Icon with matching 2-inch aluminum-bodied shocks. And this setup actually increases ground clearance from the stock version!
Photo 6/41   |   We were looking to replace just about everything on the front end, so we looked to LMC Truck, which offers all the factory-style Moog Problem Solver parts we needed, including the upper and lower ball joints, tie-rod ends, drag link, and adjusting sleeves.
Photo 7/41   |   EBC 3GD slotted and dimpled rotors and EBC Orange Stuff brake pads are a no-brainer any time we're working on a truck's suspension. New replacement parts that look and perform better than stock items make EBC our go-to product. And the black-anodized rotors always look great behind black wheels.
Photo 8/41   |   Speaking of black wheels, we chose a modern classic from Fuel Off-Road in the form of the 20x9 Vector. It has a +1 offset to keep the wheels mostly under the fender lips.
Photo 9/41   |   General Tire Grabber X3 provides just enough of the aggressive look we wanted with plenty of road manners, in the 37X13.50R20 size we needed.
Photo 10/41   |   We showed up at Atlas Suspension, and, within minutes, the truck was on the lift with the old wheels removed. We tore into the stock suspension, beginning with the tie-rod ends, which needed a little persuasion.
Photo 11/41   |   Since it was all being replaced, we removed the system in one big piece. The steering stabilizer was long gone after it got bent to oblivion during an off-road excursion.
Photo 12/41   |   Next, the calipers and stock rotors were removed.
Photo 13/41   |   The hub was disassembled and unbolted from the knuckle. Then the axle was slid out behind it.
Photo 14/41   |   It's tempting to skip the ball joints on these trucks because they're a lot of work to get to, which is why we knocked them out first. It took a little persuasion to break them free.
Photo 15/41   |   It's not the fastest process, but from here it was simply a matter of pressing out the old ball joints and pressing in the new ones.
Photo 16/41   |   Soon, we were reattaching the knuckles to the axlehousing and reinstalling the axleshafts and hubs.
Photo 17/41   |   The EBC anodized rotors were set in place, and the factory calipers were loaded up with EBC's Orange Stuff brake pads, which work great in heavy-duty applications like this.
Photo 18/41   |   We assembled the entire steering assembly on the floor, being careful to set the lengths as close to the old stuff as possible. This would keep the alignment close enough to get to the tire shop the next day. First, the Moog tie rod was bolted up to the dropped pitman arm left over from the old Icon kit. You can also see the dropped track rod bracket we would be reusing.
Photo 19/41   |   The passenger-side tie rod was installed next. And, just like that, the Super Duty had all new steering components.
Photo 20/41   |   Now we moved on to the heart of the rebuild, by removing the U-bolts from the old leaf springs.
Photo 21/41   |   Then the front and rear mounting bolts were removed.
Photo 22/41   |   The hardworking Atlas crew muscled the old leaf pack out of the way.
Photo 23/41   |   Our custom-built 6-inch Atlas spring was lifted into place and hung from the front and rear mounting points.
Photo 24/41   |   The upper spring plate also acts as the dual shock mount, so it was removed from the old shocks next.
Photo 25/41   |   We removed the shocks from the upper mounts next. The Icon dual shock mount is another component that will be reused.
Photo 26/41   |   We were ready to set the spring plate in place and drop on the new U-bolts.
Photo 27/41   |   Before we snugged down the U-bolts, the new brackets for the Icon dual steering stabilizer slide on. The driver side was first.
Photo 28/41   |   The passenger side was next, and we installed the shock before snugging things down.
Photo 29/41   |   The left stabilizer was attached and the center mount's final location was determined, then the U-bolts, center mount, and shocks were all tightened up.
Photo 30/41   |   The new Icon shocks were bolted in place to the existing Icon mount.
Photo 31/41   |   Finally, the spring mounting bolts were torqued down. With the front end complete, we turned our attention to the rear.
Photo 32/41   |   In just a couple of minutes, the Atlas crew had the U-bolts removed and the front and rear spring mounting bolts out and were dropping out the rear spring.
Photo 33/41   |   Atlas found us a fresh set of factory-style shackles before mounting the front and rear of the new 8-inch Atlas rear springs. Remember, we're looking for 6 inches of lift and eliminating the factory blocks, giving us more travel and a better ride.
Photo 34/41   |   New U-bolts were thrown in and the Atlas springs were bolted to the axle.
Photo 35/41   |   Just like the front, we installed the EBC dimpled and slotted rotors and Orange Stuff pads before buttoning up the rear of the truck.
Photo 36/41   |   The Icon 2.0 aluminum reservoir shocks were bolted right up to the stock location.
Photo 37/41   |   At this point, our transformation was nearly complete. The Atlas crew knocked this entire rebuild out in one day and we were off to New Century Tire.
Photo 38/41   |   New Century Tire is one of our go-to shops for mounting and balancing as well as alignment, and the team handled our 37s with ease.
Photo 39/41   |   Soon, our Fuel wheels and General tires were mounted on the truck and we had it up on the alignment rack, where we only had to make a few adjustments before we were on our way!
Photo 40/41   |   We only went up a couple of inches with the lift and tires, but with all the new front end and steering parts, shocks, steering stabilizers, and brakes, this truck felt like an entirely new vehicle. It drove down the road straight as an arrow and sucked up the bumps better than it ever had before.
Photo 41/41   |   And the looks improved greatly. The fresh General 37s and 20-inch Fuel Vectors looked great and the Icon shocks and EBC brakes peeking out from behind just add to the eye candy. This Super Duty is now ready for many more thousands of off-road miles!

Sources

Atlas Suspension
626-315-1777
http://www.atlassuspension.com/
EBC Brakes
Las Vegas, NV
702-826-2400
http://www.ebcbrakes.com
Fuel Off-Road
800-493-7891
http://www.fueloffroad.com
General Tire
Charlotte, NC
800-847-3349
http://www.generaltire.com
Icon Vehicle Dynamics
Riverside, CA
951-689-4266
http://www.IconVehicleDynamics.com
LMC Truck
Lenexa, KS
800-562-8782
http://www.lmctruck.com

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