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HOW TO KNOW I SHOULD CHANGE MY SUSPENSION

You need new shocks (and/or struts) if your original shocks (or
struts) are worn out, damaged or leaking. Leaking is easy enough
to see (just look for oil or wetness on the outside of the shock or
strut) as is damage (broken mount, badly dented housing, etc.).
But wear is often more of a subjective thing to judge. There are
also instances where the original equipment shocks may not be
worn, damaged or leaking, but may not be adequate for the job
they're being asked to do. In such cases, upgrading the
suspension with stronger, stiffer or some type of special shock (or
strut) may be recommended to improve handling, for trailer
towing, hauling overloads or other special uses.
Shocks and struts do not require replacing at specific mileage
intervals like filters or spark plugs, but they do wear out and
eventually have to be replaced. How long a set of original
equipment shocks will last is anybody's guess. Some original
equipment shocks may be getting weak after only 30,000 or
40,000 miles. Struts usually last upwards of 50,000 or 60,000
miles.
But when exactly a shock or strut needs to be replaced is hard to
say. Because the damping characteristics of shocks and struts
deteriorate gradually over time, the decline in ride control often
passes unnoticed. So by the time to think you need new shocks or
struts, it's usually way past the point when they should have been
replaced.
One way to evaluate your need for new shocks or struts is to
consider how your vehicle has been handling and riding lately.
Does it bounce excessively when driving on rough roads or after
hitting a bump? Does the nose dip when braking? Does the body
roll or sway excessively when cornering or driving in crosswinds?
Does the suspension bottom out when backing out of the
driveway or when hauling extra passengers or weight?

A "bounce test" is still a valid means of checking the dampening


ability of shocks and struts. If the suspension continues to gyrate
more than one or two times after rocking and releasing the
bumper or body, your shocks or struts are showing their age and
need to be replaced.
Why Replace Them?
Weak shocks and struts won't necessarily create a driving hazards
if you continue to drive on them, but there are studies that show
worn shocks increase the distance it takes to stop a vehicle on a
rough surface. Increased body sway due to weak shocks or struts
can also increase the risk of skidding on wet or slick surfaces.
Worn shocks and struts also increase suspension wear (though
marginally) but can have an effect on tire wear. If the shocks .
The reason why most people decide to have worn shocks or
struts replaced, however, is to improve overall ride quality. If
you're sick of bouncing and rocking on rough roads, a new set of
shocks or struts will firm up your suspension and restore proper
ride control.
If you're interested in performance handling, you can upgrade to
premium "gas" charged shocks or struts. These are charged with
high pressure nitrogen gas to help minimize foaming in the
hydraulic fluid inside the shock. This lessens "fade" on rough
roads and helps the vehicle maintain better ride control when
cornering.
There are also "heavy-duty" replacement shocks and struts that
have larger diameter pistons than stock. These too, provide
increases resistance for greater control -- but may be a little too
harsh for everyday driving. So some shocks have special valving
or adjustable valving that allows the amount of resistance to vary.
Another option to consider if you tow a trailer or haul extra cargo
are overload or air-assist shocks. Overload shocks have a coil
spring around them to increase the load carrying capacity of the

suspension (these also tend to ride stiffer than standard


replacement shocks). Air-assist shocks have an adjustable air
bladder that acts like a spring to carry extra weight. With this type
of shock, air can be added on an "as needed" basis when hauling
extra weight.
Replacement
Shocks and struts are generally replaced in pairs -- though this
isn't absolutely necessary if only one shock or strut is leaking or
has suffered damage at a low mileage.
Shocks are a popular do-it-yourself item on most vehicles
because they're fairly easy to replace. But struts are not. Most
struts require a fair amount of suspension disassembly as What's
more, the wheels must usually be realigned after replacing a strut.
For this reason, you're probably better off letting a professional
replace your struts.

This is a guide to understanding the shimmy and shake of your


car. If you suspect your suspension or tires have a problem and
you feel inclined to tackle the cause, this guide will help you
through how to identify and fix some common problems.
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EditSteps

1.

# Try to really "feel" your self. A vibration in your private areas


suggests a problem in the front of the car (most likely in the
steering linkage). It may be a tie rod end or a bushing in the car's
control arms. Seat vibration suggests a problem in the back of the
car. It may be a wheel bearing or a run out condition in a tire.
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2.

Once you think you know where the problem is, park the car
and let it cool. Grab your gloves and safety glasses. If you choose
to lift the vehicle, put the car on a flat surface and use the proper
supports. NEVER rely on the jack alone to support your vehicle,
and never use bricks or lumber to hold your vehicle up. Use
proper jack stands and chock the wheels. Test the car's stability
before you get under it. Push it, lean on it and shake it. Make sure
it is solidly on the jack stands and does not move when you push,
pull or shake it. Now you can get under your vehicle in the
suspect area and get to work.
3.

Be sure to know what you are looking at. Many suspension


parts can be diagnosed by grabbing or rotating the part. For
example, the tie rod ends, the Pitman arm, the idler arm, and
other parts of the steering linkage. As for wheel bearings,

bushings, and tires, you will need to have the wheels off the
ground.
Tires are frequently the main culprit in these "not-so-good
vibrations", due to different degrees of tire run out (such as
the tire being shaped liked an egg, or the tire having a bulge
effect in the side). With the tire off of the ground, spin the wheel
and look at it head on. You may be able to see that the tire shows
the above symptoms. However, you cannot always see this with
the naked eye. While you have the tire in the air, grip the top and
bottom of the tire. Wiggle the tire back and forth. If the tire shows
signs of play, you have bad (or dry) bearings, or a bad tie rod end.
You may also want to check to see that the lug nuts are not loose.
4.

If you can't find anything through this basic inspection, you


may need to take your car to a professional mechanic, where
the proper diagnostic tools can be used.

Remove the Struts


-------------------------Raise the vehicle up on the jacks
and make sure it is supported
safely.
Remove the wheel to access the

strut.
Remove the swaybar end-link from
the control arm or strut. Now is a
good time to inspect and replace
the end-link if it is damaged or
worn.
Remove any brake hose brackets or
ABS wire clips that may be on the
strut.
If the outer tie rod attaches to the
strut body, remove it using a 2-jaw
puller. If the outer tie rod attaches
to the steering knuckle, you should
be able to leave it as is.
Loosen the strut-to-knuckle bolts
at the bottom of the strut to remove
the brake caliper. It may be
necessary to remove the rotor to
access the bolts.

Sometimes these bolts are


splined and need to be
hammered out of the knuckle.
To avoid damaging the threads
on the bolt, turn the nut until it's
flush with the end of the bolt.
This way you can hammer on
the nut without damaging the
bolt threads.

REMEMBER: Once the strut


knuckle bolts are removed, the
lower suspension is free to move or
fall. If it moves enough it can over
extend the CV driveshaft, messing
up your the CV joints. Make sure
the lower suspension has some
sort of support once the strut bolts
are removed to prevent damage to
the driveshafts.
Remove the upper strut mounts
nuts and bolts.
REMEMBER: Do not remove the
center strut shaft nut; you'll be in
for a disaster!
If you plan on reusing the old
mount, mark one of the strut
mount holes and bolts so the
mount can be reinstalled the same
way.
Once you've removed all the nuts
and bolts from the top and bottom,
remove the entire strut assembly
from the vehicle.
Using the strut spring compressor,
compress the spring to take
pressure off the upper strut mount.
REMEMBER: Springs are under
extreme pressure. They must be

compressed properly to avoid


injury. If you're not comfortable
doing it yourself, take the strut
assembly to a reputable garage.
With a wrench on the strut shaft
nut, and a socket or wrench on the
end of the strut shaft, remove the
shaft nut. The strut mount should
now be able to be removed.
The strut assembly can now be
disassembled. When you remove
parts, pay attention to component
placement. You need to put it back
together the way it was.
Inspect all components for wear
and determine what needs to be
replaced (strut mounts/bearings,
insulators, bump stops, etc.)
Transfer everything you are reusing
and the new replacement parts to
the new strut.
Torque the strut shaft nut onto the
new strut and carefully remove the
spring compressor. Remember to
follow the torque specs. Don't over
tighten.
Before you install the new strut
assembly, check other parts that

might need replacing before you


install the new strut assembly:

Brake pads

Rotors

CV boots

Brake hoses

ABS ring and sensors

Ball joints

Tie rod ends

Bushings

Swaybar end links

Installing the Struts


Reinstall, in reverse order of
removal, the strut assembly, brake
parts, brackets, swaybar end-link,
and any other parts that were
removed. Make sure you use the
right torque setting on all nuts and
bolts.

Use anti-seize on the strut-toknuckle bolts to make future


alignments easier.
Double-check your work. Did you
check for wear and tear on other
parts? Are the torque settings are
correct?

If you're completely satisfied with


your work it's time to re-install the
wheel. Lower the vehicle and
repeat for other side.
Once both struts are done, the
vehicle should have an alignment
check and be adjusted as soon as
possible to prevent any damage to
the tire or suspension from
misalignment.

When a nut is difficult to reach


and you need to install it, use
electrical tape in the socket to
hold the nut secure.
FIGURE A - Typical Macpherson
Strut Assembly

Suspension Types: Front


So far, our discussions have focused on how springs and dampers
function on any given wheel. But the four wheels of a car work
together in two independent systems -- the two wheels
connected by the front axle and the two wheels connected by the
rear axle. That means that a car can and usually does have a
different type of suspension on the front and back. Much is
determined by whether a rigid axle binds the wheels or if the
wheels are permitted to move independently. The former
arrangement is known as a dependent system, while the latter
arrangement is known as an independent system. In the
following sections, we'll look at some of the common types of
front and back suspensions typically used on mainstream cars.

Dependent Rear Suspensions


If a solid axle connects the rear wheels of a car, then the
suspension is usually quite simple -- based either on aleaf
spring or a coil spring. In the former design, the leaf
springs clamp directly to the drive axle. The ends of theleaf
springs attach directly to the frame, and the shock absorber is
attached at the clamp that holds the spring to the axle. For many
years, American car manufacturers preferred this design because
of its simplicity.
The same basic design can be achieved with coil springs
replacing the leaves. In this case, the spring and shock absorber
can be mounted as a single unit or as separate components.
When they're separate, the springs can be much smaller, which
reduces the amount of space the suspension takes up.
Independent Rear Suspensions
If both the front and back suspensions are independent, then all
of the wheels are mounted and sprung individually, resulting in
what car advertisements tout as "four-wheel independent

suspension." Any suspension that can be used on the front of the


car can be used on the rear, and versions of the front
independent systems described in the previous section can be
found on the rear axles. Of course, in the rear of the car,
the steering rack -- the assembly that includes the pinion gear
wheel and enables the wheels to turn from side to side -- is
absent. This means that rear independent suspensions can be
simplified versions of front ones, although the basic principles
remain the same.
Next, we'll look at the suspensions of specialty cars.

Tools for these jobs:


Floor jack (if applicable, to support suspension arm)
Coil spring compressor (if applicable, to compress strut
spring)
1/2-inch drive breaker bar, 1/2-inch drive socket ratchet,
and 1/2-inch drive sockets of appropriate sizes
Box end wrenches of appropriate sizes
Hex or Allen socket (if applicable)
Penetrating oil
Time for these jobs:

At least the first time, these are jobs that require an open-ended
time commitment. Dont even start unless you know you wont
need the car that day. In fact, this is a good Saturday job. That
way, if you encounter problems, theres still Sunday.
NOTE: If you replace struts, you must have those wheels
realigned. Replacing struts inevitably alters the existing
alignment. So, you should also plan to take the car to an
alignment shop on Monday.
Advance Planning
First, you need to know what type of suspension system you
have. If you have coil-overs, i.e., the shock or strut is inside the
coil spring, youll need a coil spring compressor. You will not
need that tool to replace shock absorbers or struts in a non-coilover system.
The most basic and common type of coil spring compressor
consists of two long bolts, each of which has a hook at both ends,
as shown in the picture at the beginning of this chapter. One unit
is used on each side of the spring. Turning the bolt pulls the
hooks toward the center. Putting one on each side of the spring
and turning the bolts alternately compresses the spring. These
retail for about $50, but can be rented for much less and are
sometimes available for loan at parts stores without charge.
If any of the nuts that must be removed are rusted (and its likely
some are), put the car on jack stands the night before and
thoroughly soak the rusted parts with penetrating oil.
You will need the torque specifications for the various nuts and
bolts that you will be removing during disassembly, so that they
may be properly tightened after installing the new struts or shock
absorbers.

Finally, check to see if you have all of the tools you will need.
Suspension components use large nuts and bolts. To do the job,
you may need a wrench or socket larger than any you have in
your tool chest. Also, a special tool may be required to remove
the damper shaft nut at the top of the strut. If so, the factory
shop manual will state the tool required and probably provide an
illustration of it.
NOTE: While most MacPherson struts are non-serviceable and
must be replaced as a unit, on some older cars the shock
absorber function is performed by a cartridge that slides into the
upper part of the strut and can be replaced without replacing the
entire strut. In some instances, this cartridge can be replaced
without removing the strut from the car.
Hazard Warning
Compressed springs contain enough power and tension to
support the car, so anything that suddenly releases one creates a
large projectile moving at high speed that can cause serious
injury. Be very, very careful while using a spring compressor and
handling the compressed spring. Do not allow children to be
present.
Getting under a car is dangerous. Always use secondary supports
and ensure that the car is securely positioned on jack stands.
Lets do it:
MacPherson Front Strut Replacement
MacPherson struts are removed as an assembly with the spring.
The spring is then removed from the strut at the workbench.

As soon as you have removed the wheels, examine the various


bolts holding the strut in place, or holding things to the strut, and
apply (or reapply) penetrating oil to any that are rusty. On a front
wheel drive car, there will be a rubber boot for the constantvelocity joints in the front axle located directly under the strut.
Drape a shop rag over the assembly to catch any dripping
penetrating oil, so that oil does not get on this rubber boot. Use a
wire brush to clean rust off any exposed threats. Otherwise, the
nut may stall as it is removed because it cannot cut through the
accumulated rust.
A word about penetrating oil: patience. Penetrating oil may not
work in thirty minutes or an hour, or two hours, or three. It took
over 6-hours before penetrating oil freed the stabilizer link bolt
on the car in the pictures. Thats one of the reasons this is a
Saturday job and why it pays to apply penetrating oil the night
before youre going to start the job.
If it is necessary to replace a nut or bolt used in the suspension,
be absolutely sure that the new part is of at least the same
strength grade as the fastener being replaced. Both standard and
metric bolts and nuts are labeled with strength grades. Standard
fasteners use short radial lines on bolt heads and dots on the face
of nuts to indicate grade; the more lines or dots, the higher its
strength. Metric fasteners use tiny numerals; again, the higher the
number, the stronger the fastener.
If a new fastener is needed, you may be able to purchase it as a
replacement part from the dealership parts department or a parts
store, which should provide assurance that the new fastener will
meet the old fasteners strength standard. You can also get nuts
and bolts of the proper strength grade at Fastenal (online
at fastenal.com), which has almost 2000 locations in the United
States.

On the top of the strut tower there will be two or three small
nuts and a removable plastic cover. The nuts hold the top of
the MacPherson strut in place. The struts damper shaft
nut is under the plastic cover.

The damper shaft cover can be easily pried off with a


screwdriver.
Now, look at the top of the strut tower. Youll see two or three
small nuts. These hold the top of the strut in place in the strut
tower. Gently pry the plastic cover from the top of the strut tower.
Underneath, you can see the top of the strut and the large
damper shaft nut that holds the upper spring seat, i.e., the
collar that restrains the top of the spring. That nut will be
removed only after the strut and spring assembly has been
removed from the car.

Examine the damper shaft nut before proceeding further, to


ascertain whether it will require a special tool to remove it. If
a special tool is necessary, acquire before starting the job.
Take a close look at the damper shaft and its nut. Once the strut
has been removed from the car and the spring compressed so
that it is no longer applying pressure, the normal way of removing
the damper shaft nut is to prevent the shaft from rotating. Do this
by holding it with a wrench or inserting a socket ratchet with the
appropriate hex or Torx socket bit into a receptacle in the end of
the shaft, depending on design, and then loosen the bolt with a
box end wrench. If the method for removing the nut is not
obvious, consult the factory shop manual to determine if a special
tool is required. Now to begin:

The strut extends from the top of the steering knuckle to the
top of the strut tower. The spring is contained by a lower
spring seat that is part of the strut and an upper spring seat
that is attached to the top of the strut. There is a bearing
assembly attached to the top of the strut above the spring
seat and directly below the top of the strut tower. This allows
the entire spring and strut assembly to rotate as the front
wheels are steered.

The bottom of the strut attaches to the steering knuckle with


large bolts. The bottom of the strut is close to the level of the
wheel center to minimize changes in wheel geometry during
cornering.

Remove any wiring or hoses that are held to the strut by


brackets, such as this anti-lock brake wiring, which is routed
through a bracket on the strut to the brake caliper.

Remove the bracket that holds the brake hose to the strut.

On most cars, the brake hose does not need to be


disconnected from the caliper to remove the strut. However,
be careful to prevent the strut from falling on the hose when
the bolts holding the strut to the strut tower are removed.
On the strut itself, inside the wheel well, there will be brackets or
clips holding the brake hose and anti-lock brake (ABS) wiring, if
so equipped. These route the hoses and wiring past the strut to

the brake caliper. There also may be an electrical connector to


the strut itself and, in the case of rear struts, an air hose
connection. All of these must be removed from the strut. Remove
the brackets, unclip the hoses, and disconnect the electrical and
air connectors to the strut. These may simply press on, or there
may be a clip holding the connector in place.
If, for some reason, you plan to reinstall the same strut that you
are removing, before doing anything else use a sharp tool to
scribe a clearly visible line around the strut bracket, around the
nuts holding the bracket to the steering knuckle, and along the
edges of the strut at any other place the strut contacts the
knuckle. That way, you can reinstall the strut exactly as it was
previously installed and, hopefully, avoid the need for a wheel
alignment.

Disconnect the link to the stabilizer bar. In on this car, there


is no hexagonal bolt head. To remove the bolt, a Torx socket
is inserted into the end of the bolt to prevent rotation as the
nut is removed with a box-end wrench.

The nut holding the stabilizer bar link to the strut was badly
rusted and would not turn. After repeated applications of
penetrating oil over a period of 6 hours, it turned and was
removed. As the saying goes, patience is a virtue.
Disconnect the link from the stabilizer bar (also called an antisway bar) to the strut, if the vehicle is equipped with one that is
connected to the strut. The connecting bolt may be the typical
hex bolt and nut combination. Or, it may be more like a carriage
bolt: rounded at one end, but with a receptacle in the threaded
end of the bolt that accepts a Torx or hex socket bit, so that you
can prevent the bolt from rotating as you remove the nut.
It is now time to remove the bolts holding the bottom of the strut
to the steering knuckle.

Remove the first of the two bolts holding the bottom of the
strut to the steering knuckle, starting with the top bolt. Hold
the bolt head with a socket wrench and breaker bar while
turning the nut with a box-end wrench.

Remove the second bolt from the bottom of the strut. These
are large bolts, so be sure you have wrenches that are big
enough before starting this job.

When the second bolt is removed, the strut may shift slightly,
putting enough weight on the bolt that it cant be easily
pulled out. If so, it can be unscrewed from the strut with a
socket ratchet.
Using two wrenches, one on the bolt and the other on the nut,
remove the nut from one of the bolts. Then remove the bolt.
Remove the nut from the other bolt. This second bolt may not
slide out, because the weight of the strut may have shifted and be
applying pressure to the bolt. If so, after the nut has been
removed use a wrench to unscrew the bolt from the steering
knuckle and strut.

The bottom of the strut can now be pushed away from the
steering knuckle by prying with a large screwdriver.
With the bolts removed, you should be able to pull the bottom of

the strut away from the steering knuckle. You should also be able
to tilt the disc brake assembly outward, from the top. This will
provide clearance for removing the strut.

Remove the nuts that hold the top of the strut to the strut
tower. Either have someone hold the strut while this is done,
or, brace it with a block of wood so that it doesnt drop out of
these holes when the last nut is removed.
The last step is removing the nuts holding the top of the strut in
the strut tower. If you can arrange to have a helper at this stage,
do so. You can do this job alone, but its easier with help. Have
the helper remove the nuts while you hold the strut in place.
Then have the helper hold the disc brake assembly out of the way
as you gracefully and smoothly guide the strut from the wheel
well. If you dont have a helper, wedge a block of wood under the
strut so that it does not drop when the last nut is removed from
the strut tower.
It is easier to remove a strut if you can swing the bottom out from
the car while the bolts on the top are still sticking through the
strut tower bolt holes. This gives you the maximum amount of
clearance possible between the strut and the brake assembly
components.

Removing the strut from the car is easiest if you start with
the struts top bolts still in their holes in the strut tower. That
maximizes clearance at the bottom of the strut to move
around the brake caliper and rotor as you remove the strut.
Remove the strut. Direct the bottom end through the opening
and then let the strut come out of the holes in the strut tower as
you lower it out of the wheel well.
Youve completed Phase One. Phase Two is removing the spring
from the strut, so that you can install the new strut.

Before beginning to disassemble the strut, use a felt tip pen


to mark (on the insulators and upper and lower spring seats)
the exact position of the springs ends, both top and bottom.
The spring must be positioned in the new strut exactly as it
had been positioned in the old one.
Before you begin disassembly, use a felt tip pen to mark the
location of the spring ends on the insulators (the pads between
the spring and the spring seats), on the upper and lower spring

seats, and on the bearing assembly at the top of the strut. That
way, you can easily reassemble them in their original positions.

Attach the spring compressor to the spring. Be sure to use the


safety pins or clamps supplied with the compressor. Tighten
the bolt finger tight and then tighten it with a wrench just
enough that it holds itself in place on the spring.

Attach the other spring compressor to the other side of the


spring.
Then install the spring compressor, following the manufacturers
directions. Spring compressors come with pins or clamps
designed to prevent the compressor from slipping off of the coils.
Be sure to use them. All springs have an anti-corrosion coating
and you should try to minimize to damage it during
compression.

Tighten each of the compressor bolts, alternating at


reasonable intervals so the spring is compressed evenly.
Compressing the spring is real exercise. The spring is designed to
support more than 1/4 of the cars weight. Moreover, its
probably a progressive rate spring, which means it gets stiffer as it
is compressed. Brace the strut assembly with a block of wood so
that it is stable or put the bottom end of the strut in a vise. Using a
socket ratchet, turn the compressors bolts, alternating between
the two bolts at reasonable intervals, to compress the spring.
During this process, you may have to switch to using a breaker
bar rather than the socket ratchet to get additional leverage.

Compress the spring until it pulls away from one of the


spring seats.
The objective is to compress the spring sufficiently that it pulls
away from the insulators and spring seats. Once you have created
a gap between the spring and either of the spring seats, you can
stop.

With the spring compressed, the damper shaft nut can be


removed. This requires two wrenches, one to prevent the
shaft from rotating and the other to loosen the nut. On most
cars, the nut is removed with a box-end wrench, but this car
required the dreaded special tool. The special tool was
improvised by using a Vice-Grip to hold a socket of the
proper size and routing a Torx bit thought the hole in the
socket to the shaft.
Next, remove the damper shaft nutthe large nut at the end of
the strut. It will be necessary to keep the shaft from turning as the
nut is removed. Ordinarily, the shaft is designed with a head that
can be held by wrench as another wrench turns the nut or with a
receptacle for a hex or Torx socket bit. On some struts, the nut is
recessed into the bearing assembly. If so, it may require a special
tool a strut rod nut socket, which is a socket with a hole in the
back and an ear to the side that accepts a socket ratchet to
remove it.

Remove the bearing assembly, upper spring seat, insulators,


dust cover, and spring from the old strut.

With the damper shaft nut removed, the spring and strut
assembly can be completely taken apart. Remove the bearing
assembly, the upper spring seat and insulator, the dust cover, the
spring, and the lower insulator.
Before transferring components to the new strut, place a mark on
the spring seat of the new strut that corresponds in location to
the mark you placed on the old struts spring seat before
disassembly. Inspect the insulators and replace them if they are
not in good condition (or else you may have suspension noises)
and inspect the bearing that holds the top of the strut. If it shows
signs of wear, it should also be replaced.
To install the new strut, reverse the removal and disassembly
process.
Start by installing the lower insulator onto the new strut,
positioned exactly as it was on the old strut. Then slide the spring
onto the strut. Install the dust cover, the upper insulator, the
spring seat and bearing. Install the damper shaft nut and tighten it
to the manufacturers torque specification. To accomplish this,
install the torque wrench in place of the wrench that was
preventing the damper shaft from turning, and then tighten the
damper shaft nut against the torque wrench.
Carefully decompress the spring. As you do so, periodically check
that the spring is seating in the proper position on the insulators
and spring seats. Then remove the spring compressor.
It is now just a matter of reinstalling the strut and spring assembly
into the car.
Have a helper hold the strut and spring assembly in place
through the holes at the top of the strut tower and install the nuts

that hold the upper end of the strut to the car, finger tight. By
leaving these nuts finger tight, you will be able to rotate the
bottom of the strut slightly, as necessary to seat the strut onto the
suspension arm or steering knuckle.
Install the bottom of the strut and the nuts and bolts that attach it.
Reconnect the stabilizer bar link. Tighten all of those nuts to the
manufacturers torque specification. Reattach any electrical or air
connection and reinsert any hoses or harness wires into any
brackets on the strut. Now tighten the nuts holding the upper end
of the strut assembly to the manufacturers specification and
reinstall the plastic cover.
Installation of the new strut is now complete. Put the tire back on,
lower the car, after removing your secondary supports. Tighten
the lug nuts to the manufacturers torque specification, repeat
the procedure on the other side, and then take the car to an
alignment shop.
Rear Strut and Modified MacPherson Strut Replacement
Though they are conceptually similar to front MacPherson struts,
the procedure for replacement of rear struts may be different
than the front strut replacement procedure. Similarly, replacing
modified MacPherson struts always requires a different
procedure. This is because in many rear strut systems and all
modified MacPherson strut systems the spring is not part of the
strut assembly, but is mounted separately on the suspension arm.
Consequently, the suspension arm must be supported with a
floor jack or jack stands strong enough to support the vehicles
weight before the strut is removed to counteract the pressure
applied by the spring.
Shock Absorber Replacement

Shock absorber replacement is conceptually simple: remove the


bolt or bolts holding the bottom of the shock to the suspension
arm, remove the nut or nuts holding the top in place, then
remove the shock absorber. Its the execution that can be a
problem. Shock absorber mounting bolts live in a hostile
environment, exposed to dirt and water. So, they rust.

The shock absorber in this rear suspension is visible behind


the brake rotor.

Shock absorbers, unlike struts, are separate from the spring.


Shock absorbers do not support the carsprings do that.
Rather, they dampen the springs oscillations by forcing fluid
in one chamber of the shock absorber through a valve into
another chamber.
Soak any rusted parts with penetrating oil well in advance of the
time you intend to begin the job.

Remove any hoses or wiring connected to the shock


absorber, such as this air hose. Removing the clip releases
the hose.

With the clip removed, the hose pulls off. Air hose
connections are found on cars with automatic leveling. A
number of luxury cars have shock absorbers with
electronically adjusted valves between the fluid chambers.
Begin by removing any air hoses and electrical wiring connectors
from the old shock absorber that can be removed without having
to manipulate the shock absorber body. In some instances, the
body of the shock absorber may need to be moved to disengage
connections from a retaining bracket on the shock absorber body.

Remove the lower shock absorber mounting bolt.

Because shock absorbers dont support the weight of the car,


there is no need to jack the suspension when removing them.
But using a jack to slightly lift the suspension can make it
easier to pull the mounting bolt out of the shock absorber
and suspension arm.

You can also use socket extension as a drift to tap the bolt out
with a hammer. But be careful not to damage the threads if
the bolt is to be reinstalled.
Remove the bolt or bolts holding the lower shock absorber mount
in place. If the bottom mount uses a single bolt sliding sideways
through an eye at the end of the shock, you can use a floor jack to
slightly compress the shock absorber should removing the bolt
be difficult.
Now compress the shock absorber by pushing on it with your
hands to make it shorter. This will make it easier to remove from
the car once the top mount has been disconnected. Compressing
the shock absorber is easier while the top is bolted in place.
The last step is disconnecting the upper shock absorber
mounting. Shock absorbers mount at the top in several ways: the
shaft of the shock absorber may be threaded and held in place by
a rubber insulator and a nut threaded onto the shaft. The top of
the shock absorber may be a bracket that is bolted to a mounting
plate. There may be a large eye at the top of the shock absorber
accepting a large laterally positioned bolt and nut.
If the shock absorber has a threaded shaft, attempting to loosen
the nut will merely rotate the shaft unless the shaft is held in
position. The end of the shaft is usually squared off, so it can be
gripped with a wrench or a Vice-Grip. Another way to do it is with
Lisles number 20400 shock absorber tool. It consists of a

socket that fits over the shock absorber nut and can be turned
with a standard open-end or box-end wrench, and a second
socket, designed to fits a standard socket ratchet, which inserts
through the first socket and fits over the square end of the shock
absorber stem. This tool lists for under $15.

A nut splitter cuts through the side of a frozen nut. Expect,


however, to replace the bolt also. Even if it isnt rusted, the
splitter will probably damage the bolt threads as it cuts
through the nut.
If a shock absorber nut is so badly rusted that it cannot be
removed with a wrench, even after liberally using penetrating oil,
it can usually be removed with a nut splitter, a tool that costs less
than $15.. A nut splitter is a bolt in a frame that, when the bolt is
turned, pulls a hard steel wedge-shaped blade into the side of a
frozen nut, breaking it.
Install a new shock absorber at the top mounting first and then
extend it, by pulling down, to install the bottom mount. Except for
shock absorbers that mount with a large bolt laterally through an
eye at the end of the shock, new shock absorbers will include
new mounting hardware. Mounting bolts should, of course, be
tightened to the torque specification provided in the factory shop
manual, unless the shock absorber manufacturer specifies a
different value.

Suspension Upgrades and Modifications


Replacing original equipment shocks, struts, and springs is one of
the most popular and effective ways to enhance the handling of a
car. Through the possible resulting lowering of the car, it is also
one of the most popular appearance enhancements.
Gas charged shock absorbers and struts are one of the most basic
suspension upgrades, although they are original equipment on
some vehicles. These use pressurized nitrogen gas instead of air
inside the shock absorber. This reduces aeration and foaming of
the shock absorbers hydraulic fluid, which quickens the
response to cornering and road conditions. Gas shocks and struts
tend to be stiffer than original equipment shocks and decrease
body lean during cornering.
Replacing springs, however, is the most fundamental suspension
modification. By replacing springs, the car can be lowered, the
ride and cornering characteristics changed, and the handling
tailored to the drivers specifications. But these modifications, if
not properly done, can make a car virtually undriveable. If a car is
lowered too much, for example, available suspension travel can
be reduced to the point that handling is seriously degraded.
A number of aftermarket suppliers specialize in performance
suspension components and offer complete packages, at various
levels of performance, that are tailored to a specific make and
model of car. These packages include all of the parts necessary to
complete the modifications and have been engineered and tested

by people who know what theyre doing.