Strut Replacement

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Thanks go to George Fourchy for this tutorial on replacing the struts :

This originally answered a specific question about a specific car and a specific set of struts. I have edited it to try to make it generic. Basically the instructions are for a Gen 1. The struts and springs are the same for Gen 2, so I'd think the procedures aren't all that much different, but some changes could be there that I don't know about. Portions in parentheses are updates with newer better procedures I have come across doing the job several times. Read the whole thing so you won't start a replaced procedure. I've left the old procedures in so you can have choices in doing a given operation.

The hardest part of the whole job is removing and installing the rear struts from the vehicle. The fronts are easy. Total time....about 5 hours, depending on the difficulty you encounter in taking the rear seat and stuff out....(or if you even take it out.)

1a. Make sure you have a spring compressor of some type. Mine is a cheap set for 9 bucks I got from Post tools. Works great. They've done lots and lots of cars. An air compressor and impact gun help, too, to tighten and release the spring compressor quickly without wearing your arms out, and for taking the big bolts out of the suspension.

1b. Loosen..only a turn or so.... the big nut at the top before you remove the struts...fronts and rears. (Rears will be impossible to loosen if you don't take the seat and seat belt retractors out. You can loosen them on the bench, using a box wrench and vice-grips, but it is more difficult.)

Fronts

2 Remove all attaching bolts and hoses from the bottom of the strut. On the fronts, these include the brake hose bracket, and the sway bar bushing. On the rears, add the strut rod bushings at the bottom of the spindle. The big pinch bolt that squeezes the spindle is supposed to be replaced, but I have not done it yet, with 3 or 4 removals....just torque it good...70 pounds or so. (Unless yours is rusty...I hear that is a common problem in the north and east.)

3. Wiggle the spindle downward so that it slips off the bottom of the strut. New complete struts are a tiny bit bigger, and sometimes VERY hard to slide into the spindles during installation. If you have installed Koni cartridges into your old struts, they will go in easier. New ones (Tokicos) can be made to fit better sometimes by (Old Data) grinding the welds around the bottom just enough to make them truly round. Repaint the ground portions so they won't rust immediately. Use some grease to assist their slide into the spindles. (New Data....Do not grind or grease the new struts. Use a really BIG flat bladed screwdriver, and use the pinch bolt to force the clamp portion of the spindle open. Knock the spindle down below the welded bolt guide on the strut so you can get the screwdriver in the slot of the spindle, then screw the pinch bolt in backwards, through the threaded side of the spindle, so it pushes on the screwdriver, and therefore on the other side of the spindle, forcing it open. Just about 3/16ths of an inch is enough, and the spindle will slide easily off the strut.)

4. Loosen/remove the 3 nuts at the top, after you slip the bottom out of the spindle, and it is out. Fronts are out and in in 20 minutes per side once you do it a couple of times, and get the bolts freed up.

5. The rears are harder. The bottoms are similar, except they have to slide farther...it helps to remove the strut bushing at the bottom of the spindle, and the sway bar fasteners, too. You will need to remove both sides at once to allow the sway bar to rotate downward so that the sway bar rod is disengaged from the strut bracket. (At reassembly, you will have to fight the sway bar rod on the second side to get it into the strut bracket. Rotate/twist the strut counterclockwise (left side) or clockwise (right side) enough to allow the rod to go in the bracket, or you can remove the whole rod (only the second side is the hard side) and reinstall it after finishing with the struts. ) All this allows the spindle to go down farther to get off the strut. NOW....(Old Data....longer way, but easier to get to the top nuts) you have to take the back seat out, and lift up the carpet/speaker/seat belt cover assembly to get to the top bolts. One is almost accessible from the trunk, but the others are under the seat belt retractors. Takes Torx sockets to remove the retractor...big ones...two different sizes. It took longer to remove just the top nuts for both rears than it did to remove, swap, and install the fronts. (New Data...remember, mine have been out 3 or 4 times, but I tried it from the trunk this time, and it took only about 10 minutes to take all three nuts off from inside...new unworn nuts will be much harder and take longer. Try one of those easy slip open end wrenches from Sears....I forget the size...maybe 13 or 14 MM.)

6. If you have a Workmate worktable, that is great. Clamp the strut in the center of the table gripping the sway bar bracket (which will be towards the ground). The strut should be laying over about 60 degrees from vertical while you work on it. Put the spring compressor on, with as wide a setting as you can, to get as much of the spring as possible, and clamp the spring down 'til it is loose on the strut. Don't stand in front of it during the time the nut is off of the top. Better safe than sorry. Remove the big nut at the top and take all the components off in order, and lay them down so you can remember how they go back on. The big nuts are not interchangeable from old struts to new ones. Be careful of the bearing plates at the top of the fronts...they can pop apart when off the strut and all the ball bearings will go everywhere. Been there!!

7. Reassemble and reinstall...do one at a time, so you can look at the other side if necessary and see how it goes together. Make sure the rubber spring insulator is oriented properly on the new strut spring seat. IMPORTANT...Notice the orientation of the top bracket. The three studs are not equally spaced in an equilateral triangle. Make sure you have the plates oriented correctly relative to the holes in the body, or it will NEVER go together. If you replace the springs, transfer all rubber pieces removed from the old springs to the new ones. Remember, ...ALSO IMPORTANT...especially for rears....you don't want to get the top nuts all in and tight, then have to take them out again.....the brake hose goes outside the strut, towards the tire...not behind it. Tighten all suspension components securely. Realignment of the front end is usually not necessary, though a toe check is good....I have not had my SHO on an alignment rack since I finally got the rear camber correct thousands of years ago. But the toe was off a tiny bit when the Tokicos went on....needed to come out just a bit. If you have one of those drive over gauges available, they are perfect.

8. Tighten the big nut at the top as tight as you can....you won't strip it, just use a single ratchet or breaker, no cheaters.

Can't think of anything else....the rears are the toughies...fronts are fun.

Ask if you have any questions....Sorry for any confusing verbage....a picture is worth a thousand words...!