Let's talk front struts for just a minute... the strut is secured at the top
with three 14mm nuts that tighten against the inner fender well. At the
bottom, it is held in place by the damper fork. There is a pinch bolt at
the top rear of the damper fork that holds the fork/strut in place. The
other end of the damper fork bolts to the lower control arm with a 17mm
through-bolt and nut.
I'm omitting some of the removal details here... once you've got the strut
out, look carefully at how it's assembled. Note that the center space
between the square mounting brackets (where the brake line attaches) a
little way up from the bottom of the strut is in line with a small
rectangular square of rubber protruding at the bottom edge of the damper
mounting base. Before you attempt to disassemble the strut/coil spring,
take some nail polish or chalk and mark the spring coils from the top to the
bottom so that there is a straight line down the side of the coil spring
from the rubber square at the top to the bottom coil in line with the center
space between the square brackets. Note also that the end of the bottom or
last coil is dead against the stop on the strut.
Notice that the strut has another set of hooked-shaped brackets for brake
line attachment opposite or to the rear of the square brackets. At the top
you will see a small rectangular indention in the bottom edge of the damper
mounting base that lines up perfectly with the center space of the
hook-shaped brackets. Also up at the top, you see that one of the long
sides of the triangular-shaped spaces between the mounting bolts is at 90
degrees from the line you made on the spring and from the lower square
brackets space. All this alignment is what we want when we put it back
together. It is essential.
Now let's take the thing apart hopefully without injury to us or to the
part. A good set of two spring compressors is essential to do this. You
want to put them on so that the adjusting head of the compressor faces the
bottom of the strut. Also, you will need another person to help you do
this. Tools needed include the aforementioned spring compressors, an air
compressor, impact wrench, a regular pry bar, an extra large pry bar, 14mm
socket, a 17mm deep socket, a 5mm allen wrench, maybe a 17mm open end
wrench, torque wrench, a rubber mallet, some chalk or nail polish and maybe
a few other things.
Start by having a good working space available. Then lay the strut down so
that the square brackets at the bottom are facing up. Have your
partner/helper put the regular pry bar down between the coils at a point
about one or two coils below the top. Have the helper twist the pry bar so
the coils are forced apart. Then you can insert the lower ends of the
compressors while the coils are open. Once you get that done, go to the
other end and have your helper put the pry bar between the coils at the
bottom of the strut at a point about one or two coils from the spring
bottom. Once the coils are open, slip the compressors in. If the
compressors have safety clips, push them in now. What you should have is a
strut/coil spring with two spring compressors attached and directly across
from each other with the top ends or adjusting ends of the compressors
facing the bottom of the strut/coil spring.
Get the correct socket size for the spring compressor ends and a ratchet and
start tightening up. Tighen a certain amount on one compressor, then switch
and do the same amount on the other compressor. You will be able to tell
when the coils start to shorten; the ratchet gets steadily harder to work.
Pull the coils down in compression so that there is about a 1/2" or less
Take the air wrench and the 17mm deep socket and set the wrench to loosen.
Put the socket on the nut at the top of the strut and let fly. It may take
a couple or three loosenings to get the nut all the way off. If you don't
have an air compressor and an impact wrench, insert the end of the 5mm allen
wrench into the top of the strut rod to keep it from turning as you loosen
the nut with a 17mm open end wrench and remove the nut by hand.
You will want to lay the parts out in order as you take them off the
strut/spring. First off is the nut, then washer, then damper mounting
base( there's a sleeve and a rubber bumper in it), then a very small washer,
then a large dust cover plate (washer), then the dust cover, then the
stopper. That's how it was on our car. Yours may vary but it should be
close to that.
Remove the restraining wire on the replacement strut. Take the replacement
bellows and assemble the bumper in the bellows, then slide the bellows on
the new strut rod with the bumper facing to the top and put the works into
the coil spring. Put the dust cover plate (washer) back on, the small
washer, the damper mounting base, the washer and the replacement nut. Make
sure everything lines up. Double check your mark, the bottom brackets and
the little rubber square and make certain that it's all in alignment.
Don't be surprised if it's difficult to get the damper mounting base on the
strut rod in exactly the right position. Just keep working at it and it
will happen. Make sure too that the end of the bottom coil is against the
stop on the strut.
Once it's all in line, get the impact wrench and the 17mm deep socket and
drive the nut down on the strut. Or use the allen wrench and the open end
and tighten it up. There should be about an inch or so of threads showing
on the strut rod when it's tight. Now remove the spring compressors.
If you are rebuilding the front suspension, installation of the strut will
probably go easier if it's done before the steering knuckle is replaced.
Whether the knuckle is in place or not, take some kitchen dish soap and lube
the top of the damper fork and the bottom of the strut. If you removed it,
the damper fork goes on with the pinch bolt behind the strut. Then put the
strut back in place. If your prior alignment is correct, the strut goes on
with the square brackets facing out directly behind the steering knuckle.
Put the top bolts through the holes in the fender well and have your helper
put the nuts on loosely while you support the strut below. Then bring the
damper fork up and move the strut bottom over so that the fork slides up
over the strut. Push up on the fork as best you can and wiggle it
vigorously to make it go up on the strut. Using an extra large pry bar will
help if the suspension parts are in place and if the assembly proves
difficult. Slide the pry bar behind the backing plate down on top of the
stabilizer and under the bracket behind the lower control arm and push down
to get some leeway for getting the damper fork and strut together.
Once you get the damper fork onto the strut, get the mounting holes of the
fork and the lower control arm lined up and replace the through-bolt and
nut. The head of the bolt faces the front of the car with the nut to the
rear. The 17mm nut torques to 47 ft. pounds, and you will need an opposing
wrench to tighten. Replace the pinch bolt, again head to the front, tighten
to 32 ft. pounds, replace the nuts on the damper mounting base and tighten
to 28 ft. pounds.
Take a break and get something cool to drink. Congratulate yourself and
your helper for doing a job that would set you back at least $450 if a shop
did it for you.