1980 CJ-5 -- Questions about Shocks and Springs ? / Also, Hard to Start, Hot and Cold

I have a 1980 CJ-5. It has only 43K actual mileage, but these miles are mostly mountain gravel roads and a few rough trails over the years.
I replaced the front and rear shocks some time ago, but I cannot hardly guess when it was. It must have been about 12-15 years ago. I know that I got them from Sears, and bought a "better" grade. I don't think they were gas shocks, but I am not sure.
I have begun to notice that when I go over a pretty bad bump, this Jeep doesn't seem to have any "cushion" in its suspension. In other words, it is "rough." It almost feels like the Jeep body slams down hard on the frame, that is the only way I know to explain it.
I am not the mechanical type, but I "suspect" that I need new shocks or possibly even new springs. Here are my basic questions:
1. Do springs themselves ever go bad and stop "springing" ?
2. Is there a simple test to "test" the functionality of springs?
3. Are springs expensive, and are they hard to replace ?
4. Do shocks go bad over time, even if they have relatively low mileage ?
5. Are gas shocks the best for me? I use this Jeep on vacation, mostly on mountain gravel roads. There is no long distance use of this vehicle.
6. Are Sears shocks decent, or is there a better product for the money?
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This Jeep is also hard to start, regardless of whether it is cold, or at normal engine temperature. It runs great, does not hesitate, and I don't notice any sluggish behavior or anything like that. It is just hard to start. The starter runs fast, so I know it isn't the battery or the starter itself. (Almost a new battery, less than a year old).
As you might detect from this post, I don't do much maintenance to this vehicle because it is vacation use only, and because it doesn't cause me many problems. But, perhaps some items need attention, huh ?
What are the main items for me to consider on the "hard to start" issue?
The collective wisdom of this esteemed group shall be most appreciated and useful to me !!!!
Thanks for any comments or advice !
--James-- snipped-for-privacy@fdn.com
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