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To compress or not - that is the question

  #1  
Old 03-19-2012, 08:27 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 6
Default To compress or not - that is the question

Replaced the front struts on my 2000 Camry last weekend. There are a lot of information and diy video's available on the web. But when doing the job I still had a few surprises and setbacks. Just wanted to share my expeience so it might help someone. This is not intended to be a diy instruction.

I did some research to choose the right strut. Based on feedbacks, I choose KYB and ordered the front pair for $80 each. The price is for the struts only as I wanted to reuse the springs and other parts.

Parts needed:
Struts

Tools needed:
Torque wrench
Spring compressor
Wrench set, 8-19 mm
Ratchet
Sockets: 12, 14, 15, 18 deep, 19 and 22 mm
Hex bit socket: 5 mm

I started with the driver side. Placed the vehicle on jacks and removed the wheel to expose the strut. There are two heavy bolts that holds the strut to the control arm. These two bolts are different size on the driver side. The bottom one is 22mm bolt with a 22mm nut. The top one is a 15mm bolt with a 18mm nut. Also the top bolt is a little longer so a normal socket won't fit, a deep socket is required. For people who own complete socket sets - this should not be a problem. But, I had to run back to the store to get that. Also the top bolt is a special locking bolt - do not use hammer to take it out. Push while moving the controll arm back are forth - it should come out after a few tries.

The brake hose is held to the strut with a 12 mm bolt - this one is easy.

The sway bar has a 14mm nut with a hex head screw within it. You need a hex bit socket and a wrench to hold the nut.

I took the strut out. The coil spring insulator was damaged and needed replacement. Next step - compressing the spring. It takes a while - but not that hard. Make sure the bolt on the comporessor are on the top side of the strut. After compressing, as I took the top mount off, the bearing fell apart. Looks like I need the bearing as well. This is a common problem with Toyota struts.

Now I had to go to the web to search for the coil spring insulator and the bearing. A distant Napa had the insulators, but nobody had the bearing in stock. The only choice was to buy the strut mount which comes with the bearing and cost more of course. Anyways, got those parts and came back to assemble the strut. Decompressing the spring was harder than I thought. Its not easy keeping the spring in place while decompressing. It was late in the evening and I had enough, so I decided to stop for the day.

Later that night, out of curiosity, I searched for assembled strut prices in local stores. Turns out Monroe sensa-track complete assambly were about the same price I paid for the bare strut, insulator and mount combined. For some reason KYB complete sets were twice as expensive. From what I read, Monroe is not bad, though some people prefer KYB. So, next day, I returned all those parts and got a pair of pre-assembled Monroe's. Rest is downhill from there, took a couple of hours to complete the job.

Bottom line, de-compressing the spring is the hardest part of strut replacement. And there is a reasonable chance the bearing will need replacement as well, if not the insulator too. Getting a pre-assembled unit can save some headache and time.

Hope this helps making up your mind. I am getting pre-assembled ones for the rear struts.

BTW, the car feels great! - a firmer ride but not harsh.
 
  #2  
Old 03-20-2012, 12:47 AM
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: PTW
Posts: 11,738
Default

Great post!

Costs can up when adding in strut mounts, boots, etc. Assembled struts are one option.

Good job.
 
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