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so, my trusty manual says nothing about how to take apart the rear shock...ie taking the spring coil off of the strut. I'm guessing they're all pretty standard in how they are put together, so I'll do my best to describe it without a picture.

The assembly bolts onto the swingarm at the bottom, and when not connected to the rest of the frame it freely moves. the bottom of the actual shock has an old attempt at adjustable shocks with a rotating ring for varying degrees of spring compression, with the coiled spring and strut going through the center, at the top theres a large "washer" type ring that caps it all off. The strut goes through that and ends in an eye that is the attachment point at the top to the frame. If you compress the spring down, it reveals what appears to be a nut. We feebly attempted to hold the "eye" portion and loosen that nut, and either we weren't doing it right (most likely) or there's another way to dismantle this piece. As best as I can figure, that's the correct way, because once that comes off....its a straight shot to remove the coil.
so, my questions are: 1. any special tools to use? 2. getting it off is one thing, how about getting it back together? 3. is it too much of a pain in the ass? I'd like to pain the coils as they have some rust/pitting and think it would generally look better, but if its too much trouble, I'll just do what I can to clean 'em up as is.
if you need a picture because my description sucks...I'll work on that.
 

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It can be done. You the have to compress the spring, and slip the retainer(s) out, and let the pressure off the spring SLOWLY.
I made a very dangerous tool to do just that, but they can be purchased. I've seen them on eBay - shock spring compressor.

I think you should skip it, and get new shocks. Depending on the age of the bike, yours are probably worn out.
 

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If it is the bike in the picture of your bio, then those look like stock Yamaha shocks and Judey is right, replace them they were worthless when new. However, I don't recall those having a nut locking the top eye to the shaft. That sounds like some aftermarket rebuildable type so they might be worth the effort. Are they chrome or black? Do they have a name on them?

Ken
 

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Kinda ghetto....but you can get some heavy duty zip ties and hold the spring down with them to get them apart. They don't have to be compressed very much to get the collar off - usually
 

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you didn't mention what kind of bike/shock.

on mine, you compress the springs - there are two semi-circular metal flanges at the top of the shock that will pull out when the spring is compressed. Once those are out, you can pull the top retaining ring off, and the spring slides right off.

how I did it by myself with no tools:

pulled down on the spring covers with the shock hanging from the top mount from a bolt in a solid frame, then I pulled the flanges out.

put them back in mostly the same way. the right tool would have been 1000x easier.
 
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