RWD - Replacing struts- a few lessons (long)

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Replacing struts- a few lessons (long) 200

Ok- so after two go-rounds with taking apart the struts apart on my wife's 88, and doing the same to my '92 wagon this morning, I'm starting to feel like a strut expert. I thought I'd share a couple tricks that I've come up with.

1. Sway bar. If you're doing this job alone, I recommend taking the sway bar apart where the link is bolted to the control arm- while this is different from the Bentley procedure, it seems to make it easier to get everything back together later without the need for an assistant.

2. Brake hose mount. It's only one 12mm bolt, but reassembly is a real PITA- I found that a needlenose vice-grip works great to hold everything together while you install the bolt.

3. Supporting the strut. Getting the strut out of the car is a physical challenge that sometimes requires that you physically stand on the a-arm to get enough clearance. Once the strut is out, I use a 1.5" wide web tiedown strap (the kind with metal hooks on the end) to support the strut (and save the brake lines) when its out of the car. Attach the hooks to the hole in the strut tower, tighten 'er up, and your good to go. So much easier not having to hold the strut. Fender cover is an essential for protecting the Fender.

4. Spring compressor. I am having great luck with the Craftsman spring compressor ($50). It looks like the same type sold by IPD, with wide seats for the spring and the locking pins. Use plenty of anti-seize on the threads before each use. Impact wrench is essential here unless you have lots of time and energy. Be sure the compressors are 180 degrees apart, and straight, and you should have no problems. Grab 4 coils and compress, alternating sides about every .5" of compression, until the distance between the two clamps is about 2.5". I use a screwdriver to pry around the upper spring seat to see if it's loose. BTW- keep your head well clear of the area above the spring at all times! When compressed, use the impact wrench to remove the strut rod nut.

5. Gland nut. There are many different types and shapes- this works on the three different types I was dealing with (Boge, Sachs, and KYB). I don't have any of the special tools for removing or installing the gland nut. Hopefully, the previous installer used antisieze and the old one will come right off (such as on my wifes '88) if you hold the strut with a pipe wrench and use a large channel lock to loosen the nut. If you are unlucky, and drive where there is a lot of salt, such as with my '92 wagon (ski car), the gland nuts will be rusted and seized and you will need to use PB Blaster followed by strong persuasion with an air hammer to remove them. This works ok but does destroy the gland nut. No problem if you have a new one. Careful not to damage the strut tube! BTW, use a new gland nut- I reused an old one on my wife's car, and it wouldn't tighten down properly. I had to take everything apart again to solve a mystery clunking sound.

Installation of the gland nut is accomplished by holding the strut with a large (24") pipe wrench and using a large channel lock pliers to grasp and turn the gland nut. I sit on a mechanics seat and hold the pipe wrench with my thighs while tightening the nut. This works very well, doesn't damage the nut, and you can get it nice and tight. BTW, a mechanic's seat make this entire job much more comfortable.

6. Putting strut back in car. I use a 3 ton floor jack to raise the strut once its in position. Getting it in position can be tricky. Again, standing on the A-arm may be required. A short pry bar can come in handy also. Mechanic's gloves will save your hands. Position the jack so you can reach it with one hand while holding the strut in position with your other. Slowly raise into position, check alignment, raise, etc. It will work. Make sure you maintain your alignment in some way, or you will be going to the alignment shop later. Its probably a good idea to do this any way.

7. Strut rod nut. The big 15/16" nut. Many theories on this one. I know that Bentley says to tighten this baby to 15 ft lbs and that IPD will sell you a special tool for $28 to do this. Bentley is wrong. From what I can tell, the torque spec is probably closer to 115 ft lbs, and the IPD tool and a 10mm wrench will not get you anywhere near this value. Once the car is back on the ground, use an impact wrench and tighten this baby up "gutentight". Its the only way I know to do this (unless you have the Volvo special tools), and get the nut tight enought that it won't make that god-awful clunking sound. When done, go and drive the car. If it clunks, its still not tight.

8. Miscellaneous. Take your time the first time through. You will get much faster. Keep all tools in reach. Allow plenty of clearance between the car and walls/obstructions to allow room to get the strut out of the car and have enough room to work. The flexible rubber brake lines can take a lot of abuse- more than you think. Pray that you don't have to take the whole damn thing apart again to solve a mystery clunk later!

Hope this helps someone! I apologize in advance if any of my so-called "tricks" are old-hat.

'92 240 wagon, 268k, '88 240 sedan 280k


New 7 Replacing struts- a few lessons (long) [200]
posted by  Adirondack Blues  on Thu Jan 25 08:59 CST 2007 >

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