Finally, started redoing the entire suspension in the car. I went ahead and removed the strut assemblies first, that way this writeup is more meaningful.
- Various sockets, wrenches, pliers & ratchet
- Cheater bar for those stubborn nuts & bolts
- Spring compressor
- Bench Vice
- Monkey wrench or large channel locks
- Dremel tool (maybe, see step 4)
Front Removal (pictures show driver’s side replacement)
1) Raise hood of car. Remove the strut top dust cover, and loosen the 22mm bolt holding the strut in place. Do NOT remove the nut, just loosen. This will help you later on.
2) Loosen lug nuts on front wheels.
3) Raise and support front of the car. Remove wheels.
4) Long step. Take a look at the brake line and how it is attached to the strut assembly.
There is a clip holding it in place below the tab. Pull this out with a pair of pliers.
Quick pic of the clip out:
Now, to avoid having to remove the brake line from the caliper, and having to refill the brake fluid, you should be able to bend the tab out of the way. On mine, the tab already had a slit in it to make this possible. I’m not sure if this is how it is stock or not, so you may have to cut at it with a dremel tool.
You can easily move the line out free from the strut assembly.
5) Remove the sway bar end link. I chose only to remove it from the bottom, as the top nut/bolt is a pain to get to. So I didn’t remove it completely until the strut assembly was off the car. (I have aftermarket adjustable endlinks, so the stock ones won’t look like this.)
6) Remove the three 14mm bolts holding the strut top to the frame of the car.
7) Support the control arm, under the ball joint with a jack.
8) Scribe a mark onto the lower strut bracket, so that when reinstalling the camber will be fairly accurate. (Ignore the bolt being loose, that’s the next step)
9) Remove the two 17mm nuts/bolts holding the strut assembly to the steering knuckle.
10) It may take some working of the strut assembly and wheel hub to get it loose. Once it does, be prepared as the hub will fall toward you.
11) Remove the strut.
12) Disassemble the struts. Unfortunately, I do not have any pics of this part of the process, as I did this over at a friend’s house who has a vice. I’ll try to go through the steps though. It’s fairly straightforward. Take a look at my rear strut disassembly write-up for some pics of this part of the process.
Take spring compressor to the springs, to relieve pressure from the top spring perch. Remove top 22mm nut from the strut top. It should be easy to do, if you loosened it back on step one while the car was on the ground. If you didn’t happen to do this step for some reason, you can put the top spring perch in a vice (need 6+” vice) and then loosen the nut. The strut insert may eventually begin to turn with the nut. If so, grab the very top of the insert with a pair of vice grips. Since you are replacing these it shouldn’t matter too much.
Ok, now that you have the strut top off remove the spring from the assembly, and release the spring compressor. You now will have the shock absorber held into the strut assembly. Put the assembly in the vice, and go at the nut with a monkey wrench or channel locks.
Here’s a picture of the strut assembly & the nut.
Here’s everything all laid apart, excluding the dampener, as I threw that thing away immediately…
1) Insert the new dampener in the strut housing. Add a coolant or oil bath in the housing, filling it up about 1-2″ below the top of the assembly. Consult your strut instructions for more about this.
2) Place the housing in a vice and tighten the gland nut (a new one should’ve come with the struts) with a large pair of channel locks or monkey wrench. Make sure not to score or scratch the dampener.
3) Once the appropriate torque is applied to the gland nut measure the distance left in the threads. It should be within spec of the dampeners. Consult their directions. You may need to obtain a spacer. (btw, I had no problems with the Illuminas.)
4) If you are replacing the stock springs with performance lowering springs, you most likely will need to cut the stock bumpstops. Consult the directions that come with your new springs. For my ST springs it was recommended to cut at least half of the bumpstop. I cut along the notch as indicated below with a hacksaw.
5) Slide the bumpstop on the strut, and place the new spring. Make sure the spring is placed the correct way.
Also ensure that the end of spring sits off the edge on the lower spring perch.
6) Next up is the insulator and upper spring perch. Notice the notch in the perch should fit into the top of the strut, so that it fits only one of two ways.
The correct way is so that the arrow points to the outside of the vehicle. Double check how the assembly will fit in the car to get this right.
7) Slip a new dust seal over the top of the strut.
8) Now attach the strut top and the new bolt that should’ve came with the struts.
If you purchased the TRD bushing set and happen to be doing this modification while you have the struts out, you will need to either drill a hole in the strut mounting location or press out one of the bolts in the strut top. I decided on drilling the holes. Here’s the new strut top placed upside down to mark the location of the new hole. The strut top only goes in one way, notice the bolt circled in blue is offset from center.
Here’s the new hole.
9) Now it’s time to put the assembly into the car. Push the steering knuckle out of the way and insert the top of the assembly first. Make sure to align the stut top appropriately so that the top spring perch is pointing the correct way. Remember the “OUT” Arrow in step 6?
10) Temporarily secure the strut assembly by placing the 3 (or 4 if you have the TRD strut top) 14mm nuts.
11) Position the assembly onto the steering knuckle. This takes a little wrestling with the two pieces. You may need a mallet and block of wood to encourage them along. Insert the two 17mm bolts making sure to place the camber adjuster in its previous location.
12) Tighten everything down to spec and put everything else back together that you took off to get to the strut assemblies.