No shock for my hearse - is this a problem?

I noticed that the back of my 1989 Buick Estate Wagon hearse was looking a little low in the back.

My mechanic says I have - or rather, HAD - air shocks, and that both are blown out. He feels that trying to replace them may mean breaking a bolt or two, and that because of the amount of rust around the area, there’s nothing to weld replacement metal onto…that, basically, if we try to replace the shocks, we could and probably would total the car.

The hearse handles fine. I’ve had him for just over two years, and I’m assuming that the shock issue has been - at best - a slow change. My mechanic insists that not having shocks is not a problem. But with all of that weight, I’m not sure I agree.

Any thoughts would be appreciated!

First off, good on you on getting a hearse. I can appreciate someone with such a unique taste in automobiles.

As for the shock issue, is it possible that instead of replacing the air shocks, can you just remove them and replace them with normal hydraulic shocks? Or does the mechanic think the same damage will be caused?

Not having working rear shocks will cause a much harsher ride in the rear, although that likely won’t pose much of a problem - the rear passenger won’t be complaining…

Thank you! He’s been a good car so far. :slight_smile:

I think the same problem would occur - the concern is the bolts holding the shocks in place. My mechanic is adamant that trying to get those bolts loose is a Very Bad Idea. (I do plan to have another mechanic take a look, just in case; this guy, however, has dealt with a bunch of hearses.)

re: rear passenger
Heh! No, not really.
Some of the quirky things about a hearse that you don’t think about until you get up close and personal with one are: no inside door handles back there, and the windows don’t go down.

…Because why would the traditional hearse passenger need either?

If it’s rear-end sag you’re concerned about (many ladies are), it would, probably, be better to have an alignment shop do something with the springs. They can re-bend, put in adjustment blocks, or replace them to get the ride-height right (you know, just the right amount of lift).

You need an opinion from a body and frame repair shop. Really. If you want to go on a highway, you don’t want the car to roll over after loss of control.

First of all, I assume a hearse has fairly heavy springs in the rear for what it was originally designed for. As such, shocks probably don’t make much difference. I’ve had shocks on pickups in the rear that were completely gone and never noticed it. I don’t see that being a problem.

That said, I hardly see how removing a shock bolt could possibly bust the mount bracket unless the mount bracket is rusted off as is now. In which case, I’d find a mechanic with a welder and little bit of common sense to rebuild the shock brackets before the shock falls off on it’s own.


I had a similar problem on a 1950 Chevrolet 3800 series 1 ton pick-up truck. The truck didn’t pass ispection because one rear shock was broken. My mechanic saw how heavy and stiff the rear springs were and removed both rear shocks. I then went to another inspection station and passed. They didn’t notice that there weren’t any rear shocks. I couldn’t tell any difference in the ride, which was horrible anyway. This was 35 years ago, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on the truck since I only paid $115 for it. I drove it three years and tried to get my money back, but the buyer talked me down to $110 (maybe he wanted a discount because he saw that the rear shocks were missing).

I’ve had to deal with the problem of having framerot to the point where there really was no usable material to weld to. Even the best ASME and AWS certified welder cannot weld to vacant space and rust.

In cases like this the only option is gussets, and in some cases that isn’t even feisable.

Personally I think I’d just keep driving it.

That vehicle is a pretty heavy tank to be moving around with a shaky suspension. It would make me a bit nervous and I can’t say as I agree with your mechanic.

Maybe you should get another opinion on just how bad this rust is. If the rust is really that bad then the hearse is unsafe to drive anyway and should be scrapped.
Maybe your mechanic is using this language as a polite brush-off because he simply does not want to wrestle with it.
JMHO anyway.

Guys, this is not like a standard suspension set-up. The springs in the back, if it has any, are intentionally weak. The air shocks provide the extra spring strength to maintain ride height. If the load is light, the car will automatically drop the pressure in the air shocks, and if the load is heavy, will increase the air pressure. Whatever it has to do to maintain that ride height setting. Just replacing with regular shocks will let the rear sag always. One solution is to replace the air shocks, which will be expensive. The other is to convert back to a typical suspension set-up, meaning different springs and regular shocks to get back to a ‘standard’ suspension for this model. Hopefully it can be done without having to cut or weld. But with as much rust as your mechanic says is back there, and he’s afraid to just remove the air shocks at all, I think you may have a hard time getting either fix done. I think you may just wanna ride this out until the wheels fall off.

replace them may mean breaking a bolt or two, and that because of the amount of rust around the area, there’s nothing to weld replacement metal onto…that, basically, if we try to replace the shocks, we could and probably would total the car.

That’s ludicrous. Is this mechanic walking around with white gloves and a top hat? I can’t tell you how many rusted shocks I have replaced where the bolt is completely rusted inside the shock mount. The solution is not to stress out the parts by trying to unscrew the hardware, you cut them off using a torch or reciprocating saw. If the brackets are currently supporting the shocks, then unless you destroy them with caveman tactics, they will likely be fine for the next set. Even so, any competent mechanic should be able to attach new mounting brackets if the thing isn’t already a death trap.

The larger question will be if you go with new air shocks or just put on some standard shocks. That would depend on the condition of the rest of the system.

I have to say it . . . I 've replaced shocks on a few vehicles . . . even installed air shocks on a few. Not all of my applications were direct replacement. I bought a pair of air shocks at a swap meet and modified the bracket set-up to fit my need. I think that I’d go to another mechanic . . . get a pair of after-market air shocks . . . and make 'em fit. Don’t drive without shocks . . . in addition to being bouncy you can have handling problems and may run into someone . . . and end up in the rear of your own car. Rocketman

…And I have no idea how this part of the car is constructed to even begin to understand how big the problem could be.

If the hearse was dangerous to drive, I think this mechanic would have noticed - at least, I hope! (He’s serviced quite a few at this point.) But yes, because of the weight of the vehicle, I feel like this should be a bigger deal than ‘no it’s fine just drive it’.

try an off road shop they know how to lift frames.