Struts are an important component of a vehicle’s suspension system. It works with both the shock absorber and the coil spring to give you a smoother, less bumpy ride. Struts help stabilize the movements of the car. These automotive components are subject to wear. Hence, they require replacement. This article will teach you how to replace struts on your car and a few other things about this important part of the suspension system.
Know When to Replace Your Struts
There are car manufacturers that recommend shocks and struts replacement every 50,000 miles. Mechanics say that these components are reliable enough that they can last up to 100,000 miles. While both can be correct, you also have to consider other things. The way you drive and the nature of the road where you drive your vehicle on can also have an impact on the rate of wear of the struts.
If you drive on uneven or rough terrain all the time, then the 50,000-mile recommendation may hold. It may also be lower than that. Driving on smooth, paved roads does not put so much strain on the vehicle’s suspension system. As such, front strut replacement can be done every 100,000 miles. Vehicle manufacturers will have their own recommendations. However, these figures are often based on normal driving conditions. It is for this reason that you will have to use your judgment in determining whether it is time to change the strut assembly of your vehicle.
One way you can determine if it is time to replace your struts is by checking for some of the telltale signs of worn struts.
- Presence of hydraulic fluid leaks from the struts
- Moisture or wetness at the top of the strut
- Pushing down on the hood bounces the car several times before settling down
- Visible bottoming out of the car
- Uneven tire wear and tire cupping
- Instability at high speeds
- The front of the car tends to dive more than normal during hard braking
- Car leans to one side when making sharp turns
- Excessive bounciness of the tires
- The rear of the car squats during acceleration
Prepare the Materials
Whenever replacing the struts on your car, it is best to replace it as a set. A complete strut assembly will include the strut mount and bearing plate, a coil spring, a jounce bumper, a strut boot, a spring seat insulator, and the strut itself. If you are going to have it replaced in an auto service shop, the strut replacement cost can be between $700 and $750. This already includes the installation of the assembly.
If you are going to replace it yourself, then you need to purchase a complete set. Make sure that it fits the brand and model of your car. Buy only brand-name, high-quality struts for your vehicle. You can save anywhere between $250 and $300 if you are going to perform the shocks and struts replacement yourself.
In addition to a brand-new strut assembly, you will also need a hydraulic jack and a jack stand. You may also need a rust penetrant, socket and ratchet, a breaker bar, and shop towels.
Remove the Old Strut
In performing the process of how to replace struts, it is best to do it one wheel at a time. Start by loosening the nuts of the tire lugs. Do not remove them yet. Place a jack under the car and raise it to a level where you can replace the jack with a jack stand. Remove the tire lug nuts and the tire. Secure the brake rotor by putting back at least two nuts to the tire lugs.
Look at the lower end of the strut. Spray rust penetrant to the bolts of the strut flange. Let it soak for a while. Remove or disconnect anything that may be connected to the stud. You will notice a stabilizer bar end link connected to the strut as well as brake lines. Remove this by loosening the nut and pushing the end link out of the hole. Also disconnect the wiring harness of the wheel speed sensor. Spray rust penetrant on the different bolts and nuts to help with the removal process.
Open the hood of your car and check the mounting nuts of the strut tower. Most cars will have a large center bolt surrounded by three bolts. Spray the three surrounding bolts with a rust penetrant to make their removal a lot easier.
Return to the steering knuckle and remove it from the strut flange by loosening the strut nuts. Push the knuckle in and out to help in the removal of the bolts from their holes. Get a pry bar and insert it between the steering knuckle and the strut flange. Pry the steering knuckle to remove its attachment from the strut flange.
Go back to the hood of your car and remove the three bolts on the strut tower. They should be easy to loosen and remove by now since the rust penetrant has already removed the rust that may have built up on the tread of the bolts. Before you remove the mounting bolts, however, you need to protect the CV boot. Slip a piece of plywood directly under the flange of the strut. This will help protect the CV boot the moment you remove the topmost portion of the strut assembly. You are now ready to loosen and remove the three bolts on the strut mount.
The next step in a front strut replacement procedure is the actual removal of the strut assembly. It would be best if you have an assistant to help you in this part. He can grab the different automotive parts in the wheel and move them away as you lower the strut assembly.
Support the strut assembly before you remove the last of the three bolts on the top mount. You can do this by reaching into the wheel well of your car. Once you remove the last bolt and nut, grab the bottom part of the strut. At the same time, support the lower end of the spring. Pull the strut’s bottom towards you while supporting the strut assembly at the coil. This will help tilt the strut assembly at an angle and facilitate easier removal.
Be very careful in lowering the strut assembly. Make sure that it is able to clear the strut tower before you lift it out from the wheel well. You can rest the strut assembly on the plywood that you slipped under the flange. You can now remove the strut assembly.
Install the New Strut
Get your brand-new strut assembly and install it following the same procedure as removing it. The only difference is that you will have to retrace your steps.
First, slip in the new strut assembly into the strut tower. Securing the strut to the mounting plate can be tricky. Having an assistant can help make the installation of the new struts a lot easier. He can hold the strut assembly in place while you secure the assembly on its mounting plate. Or, it could also be the reverse. When tightening the strut mount nuts, it is very important to use the specified torque. You do not want your strut assembly to come loose while you’re driving. You also do not want to damage the strut tower or the mounting plate if you make it too tight. Always check the torque specifications in your owner’s manual.
Once you have secured the strut assembly in its mount, you can start putting back the rest of the items you disconnected or removed in the initial stages of shocks and struts replacement. First, connect the steering knuckle to the new strut flange. Push the knuckle so that its holes will align with the holes of the strut flange. You can also use a pin punch for this purpose. This will make inserting a bolt a lot easier. Secure the bolts by putting on the nuts and tightening them.
Reconnect the wheel speed sensor wiring harness and the stabilizer bar end link. If you removed other components, you will also have to put them all back.
Remove the two tire lug nuts and mount the tire. Secure the tire by putting back and tightening the lug nuts. Raise the car using your jack and remove the jack stand. Lower your car and remove the jack.
Repeat this front strut replacement procedure on the other side of the car.
Take Your Car for a Wheel Alignment
Replacing the struts can affect the alignment of your wheels. That is why you should bring your car to a wheel alignment center as soon as you finish installing the new set of strut assemblies. This will help make sure that you have the correct camber for your tires. Incorrect camber can lead to uneven tire wear.
If you adhere to these steps, you can save at least $300 on the strut replacement cost. Car owners who may not have the time or have very limited knowledge about how to replace struts can always get a mechanic to do it for them.
- How to Replace Struts and Shock Absorbers in Your Car – Axle Addict