How to Replace a Strut on Your Car
Struts are used on the front end of every four-wheel drive vehicle. They act as a type of a shock absorber, supporting the weight of the vehicle while adapting to changes in in the road. If your vehicle is uncharacteristically rough to drive, it may be time for a strut replacement. Struts integrate many different parts into one assembly for suspension. These parts include the strut bearing, the shock absorbers, the coil spring, the spring seats, and the steering knuckle. The strut assembly should ideally be checked every time your tires are aligned. However, it is sometimes quite noticeable when the struts need replaced. The car may bounce, bottom out, sway, and show other signs that they are worn. The good news is that they are fairly easy to replace.
Loosen the Bolts on the Steering Wheel and Jack Up the Car
The bolts on the steering wheel need to be loosened; however, do not remove them. Pop the hood and loosen the bolts that secure the strut assembly to the strut tower. Jack up the car up by placing the jack in the position that you would use to change out a spare tire. Once the car is jacked up, secure it with jack stands.
Access the Struts
Remove the wheel to access the struts and place blocks underneath the control arm to support it. You should leave a gap of about four inches.
Remove the Strut Assembly
Pop the hood and locate the strut towers. They look like cylinders and are generally in the fender well. They are usually held into place by three bolts that need to be removed to extract the strut tower. Once these three bolts are removed, the strut assembly may fall loose. Follow the strut to the end, where it attaches to the steering knuckle. Remove the bolts that attach the strut to the steering knuckle and the strut should pull free. Take it out and place it on the ground beside you.
Remove the Spring and Strut Bearing
To remove the spring and strut bearing from the old strut, compress the spring with a spring compressor (following manufacturer instructions), and remove the nut that is on top of the strut bearing, which looks like a disk. Once the nut is removed the spring the strut bearing will be free from the old strut.
Install the Spring and Strut Bearing
In the new strut, you need install the spring and the strut bearing that you removed from the old strut.
Assemble the New Strut
To assemble the new strut, place the spring that you removed from the old strut over the new strut (including any rubber parts that came off of the old strut). Install the strut bearing over the spring and replace the strut rod nut.
Replace the Strut Assembly
Once you have completed reassembling the new strut, place it back into the steering knuckle, replacing the bolts with your hands. Tighten it, but not too much so that the assembly can move freely. Place the strut assembly back into the strut tower and replace the strut tower bolts. Tighten the bolts securing the strut assembly to the steering knuckle.
Replace the Wheel
Remove the blocks underneath the steering knuckle and replace the wheel. Tighten the lug nuts about as much as you tightened them when replacing the new strut.
Remove Jack Stands
Jack up the vehicle slightly more to be able to remove the jack stands and then lower the vehicle to the ground. Be sure to torque the wheel bolts and strut tower bolts to vehicle specifications.
Take a Test Drive
When you have finished, you should check that everything is secured and you didn’t miss anything. Take the vehicle for a test drive to see how it is handling. You may need to have your vehicle aligned after replacing the struts to improve handling.
Strut replacement is simple enough that it does not take an automotive expert to perform. You can save time and money by doing it yourself. One thing to be aware of is that you must thoroughly inspect any of the parts that you are reusing before you re-install the new struts. Damaged, cracked, or rusted springs need to be replaced. In addition, it is a good idea to check the spring compressor for poor design.