99 Camry struts assembly and strut mounts

Need to start thinking about replacing the front and rear struts on my mother's 1999 6 cylinder Camry. Also plan to replace the strut
mounts. There are all sorts of options available but need to narrow down the choices. The care is driven in all sorts of driving conditions. Several miles of gravel roads, highway & some town/city driving. She will put on around 20,000 miles per year. Still has the original units at 154,000 miles. She plans to keep the car a while so that will eliminate the cheap have we got a deal for you stuff. I will do the work myself. It is not a big chore because I have the proper tools and have done this type of work before. (Not a Rookie)
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My Dad and I installed 4 Monroe Quik-struts on his '97 4-cyl over two afternoons. It was about 8 hours of labour all-told but that included a couple of trips to the hardware store. Someone with experience changing shocks could probably do it in half-3/4 the time.
He's happy with the struts, although he thinks they're slightly "harder" than the OEM ones, even when the OEMs were new.
He got a pretty good price from the Shock Warehouse in Florida. The shipping to Canada was no hassle and he paid no duty since they are American-made car parts, exempt under NAFTA. I think he paid about C$1300 all told.
I guess you could do it cheaper if you're willing to use a spring compressor, but we figured we'd pay a little more to avoid the risk of anything "exciting" happening. Plus there seems to be a lot of fiddly little parts to keep track of when you disassemble a strut.
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Never tried it yet but here's what I found from toyota.com
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES, USA, INC.
Lifetime Guarantee Parts
Question Which parts does Toyota cover under the Toyota Lifetime Guarantee?
Answer Toyota's lifetime guarantee is a continuation of its quality and customer satisfaction. Toyota makes a commitment to test and manufacture parts specifically for your Toyota vehicle to help ensure maximum fit and performance. Toyota's lifetime guarantee covers Genuine Toyota mufflers, exhaust pipes, shocks and struts installed at Toyota dealerships. If you pay for the installation of a part covered by Toyota's lifetime guarantee, and under normal driving conditions the part fails, bring your vehicle back to an authorized Toyota dealership and the lifetime part will be replaced at no charge. The Toyota Lifetime Guarantee remains in force as long as you own the vehicle. The only requirement for this lifetime part replacement is a copy of the original service repair order as proof of purchase.
When you need to install a muffler, exhaust pipe, shocks or struts in your Toyota vehicle, look for the commitment that stands behind them.
For additional details, please contact your local Toyota dealership.
What Is Not Covered Under This Guarantee:
1. Repairs and adjustments required as a result of misuse (i.e. racing, overloading), negligence, modification, alteration, tampering, disconnection, improper adjustments or repairs, accidents and use of add-on parts/materials. 2. Mufflers, shock absorbers, struts and strut cartridges installed prior to January 1, 1990. Exhaust pipes installed prior to January 1, 1992. 3. Parts installed on a non-Toyota vehicle.
Note: Valid only in the continental U.S. and Alaska
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That's why I think the Gabriel Ultra would work better in more situations with the multi-stage inertia sensitive valving.
wrote:

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Clay wrote:

========Everyone's got an opinion: here's mine. Use genuine Toyota replacement parts. Just my opinion, but I did not like the ride quality of the Monroe Sensatrac installed by the prior owner - gave a jolt over a certain bridge crossing that didn't seem right. Orignial equipment struts are gas charged and designed to fit the handling requirements for the 6 cylinder while preserving ride quality. To my view a stiffer ride is not better, a well dampened, controlled, comfortable ride is better, with struts tuned to match the stabilizer bar, bushings and springs. Here's my criterion for strut replacement - sometimes Toyota parts last a very, very long time, check first to see if they have actually deteriorated: (not my words) -- Best test for a shock (short of dyno-testing) is to drive it fairly aggressively - but carefully - over rough road. If the car remains under control, then the shocks are, likely, okay.
If one end or the other tends to "wash out", then new shocks (or struts) are indicated. =================================The "test rig" that Jason refers to is known as a shock absorber dynamometer.....and I own one.
Basically, it gives you a graph of the pressures produced as compared to the shaft velocities at which they are produced when the shock is moved at different speeds - ranging from a shaft velocity of one-inch-per- second to 20 i.p.s.
Basically, a shock that creates 200 pounds of resistance pressure while moving at a shaft velocity of five i.p.s will better control a car than a shock that only produces 100 pounds of resistance pressure at the same shaft velocity.
We use these graphs a bit differently in racing applications to "fine- tune" the suspension with shocks, but the above information is pretty much all you need to know for standard passenger automobiles....more shock pressure at a given shaft velocity controls better than less pressure at the same velocity.
When internal valves and springs weaken and wear out (imagine how many cycles a shock valve control spring experiences in 50,000 miles of compressing to open and close the valving each time the shaft moves in or out) , they allow fluid to pass more easily at lower pressures - usually with no external leakage to suggest that any sort of problem exists.
The so-called "bounce test" only tells you if a shock will control a car while negotiating "Mickey D" parking lot speed bumps at less than five mph with a carload of rug rats and Happy Meals.
"Hand-testing" a shock off the car moves the shaft at a velocity of approximately one-half i.p.s.
A shock can "feel" good at slow "bounce-test" or "hand-test" speeds of one i.p.s. or less because it is only passing fluid through its designed, low-speed, bleed orifices and/or bypassing the seals, but be a complete failure at higher shaft velocities once it gets up onto the valving....sometimes, actually providing less resistance at five i.p.s. then at "bounce-test" velocities once the valves open up.
On a smooth road, the shocks will likely be working in the 2-6 i.p.s. shaft velocity range....which simply cannot be duplicated by bouncing on the bumper of the car.
Best test for a shock (short of dyno-testing) is to drive it fairly aggressively - but carefully - over rough road. If the car remains under control, then the shocks are, likely, okay.
If one end or the other tends to "wash out", then new shocks (or struts) are indicated.
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The stock Toyota struts are firm and harsh, making the driver feel the paint stripes and pavement cracks. There are other struts out there with lifetime parts warranty that provide more comfort for local driving and more control on the highways.
For typical driving, modern struts should be equipped with multi-stage inertia sensitive valving (especially if your mother drives on gravel roads.) Top of the line Gabriel Ultra and Monroe Reflex are the common ones. I'd recommend the Popular Mechanics 2003 Editor's Choice Award winner, Gabriel Ultra. They work as advertised and are available at your local Autozone. KYB (aka Keep Your Bilsteins) doesn't yet have the technology. IMO the GR2 is back in the stone ages.
Check out the Gabriel G-Force story video: http://www.gabriel.com/gforce1/eng/default.htm
The advantage of using Monroe's QuickStrut is that you get all new parts. The thing about the QuickStrut is that currently it still uses the SensaTrac. This strut is being phased out in favor of the newer Reflex. The Reflex, opposite to the SensaTrac, is normally firm but softens very briefly while hitting a bump (> 1.5G I think). It's cost effective and I would have used QuickStrut if it weren't for the SensaTrac strut with "position sensitive valving".
In your case the spring and the upper spring seat/bearing plate are the only things you may want to keep. Most front mounts come with new bearings. Spring seats (upper and lower), and the strut bumper should also be replaced at this time. Monroes upper spring seats and dust boot are more generic, but you may prefer the OEM integrated upper spring seats/dust boot. Toyota has TSBs on noisy mounts since 97 and even for 2006s. So I'd stay away from Toyota mounts for 97+.
And no, the excellent Bilsteins are for pre 1997 only and Autozone also carries them.

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