The Basics of Strut Installation on 2/7/9 Series
Strut replacement can seem like a daunting task, however with a little guidance, a good shop manual and the proper tools the job is not beyond the abilities of experienced do-it-yourselfers. For safety reasons, you should have a friend that has had experience with Mac Pherson style struts help you.
Step 1 — Place the car on jack stands according to your workshop manual and remove the front wheels.
Step 2 — Disconnect the anti-sway bar from the control arms by removing the top nuts of the sway bar endlink on both the driver and passenger side.
Step 3 — Remove the brake line bracket bolt and pull the bracket out so the lines are not kinked when the strut is pulled out from the fender. Be careful as the metal portion of the brake lines will need to be bent a bit to allow the strut to be positioned for spring compressing. Do NOT disconnect the hydraulic fittings.
Step 4 — Disconnect the tie rod end from the spindle. First remove the tie rod end nut. If the tie rod end shaft spins while attempting to remove the nut, position a jack directly under the tie rod end and raise the until the car just begins to compress the spring. This should load the shaft enough that you can now remove the nut. If not, you may have to use a 1/2” air impact gun to shock the nut loose. Use this same method if you run into problems tightening the nut when re-installing. (Do not use the 1/2” air gun to finish tighten the nut).
Step 5 — To separate the ball joint from the spindle, use a medium to large sized ball peen hammer to strike the spindle at the raised vertical area as highlighted in the photo. The shaft of the tie rod end is tapered and the shock to the spindle will cause the joint to separate. It may take a few good whacks, leave the nut on as shown in the photo to protect the threads in case you miss the target. Do not hit the top end of the tie rod end shaft, as tempting as it may be, it usually doesn't work and you run a very high risk of ruining the part.
Step 6 — Push the strut assembly down as far as it will go for clearance to come out under the fender. It may be necessary to use your foot to push on the A-arm. Some people prefer to disconnect the ball joint and caliper so that the strut assembly can be removed form the car so they can work on it on a bench or on the floor. If you do this, be sure to tie the caliper up with a coat hanger so the lines aren't stressed.
Step 7 — Install spring compressors according to the manufacturers instructions. Keep the compressors at the 3:00 and 9:00 position and alternate compressing about every 1/2” to 3/4” of movement, i.e. don’t compress one side of the spring more than the other so that the spring becomes distorted. Compress the spring until there is no force on the upper spring seat. (ipd spring compressor part MPT4037 shown)
Step 8 — Confirm that the spring is loose ( no force against upper spring seat) and that the spring compressors are securely attached and 180 degrees opposite each other. Now use strut top nut holding tool to remove the main top nut (ipd strut nut holder part MPT5036 shown).
Step 9 — Pull the upper strut mount, spring seat, spring and bump stop / protective boot from the strut. Note where everything goes for proper re-installation. Check the upper strut mount for worn bearings and de-lamination.
Step 10 — Use a large pipe wrench to loosen the strut gland nut.
Step 11 — Pull out the old strut and insert the new strut. Note, some models may require the installation of spacers inside the strut tube for proper installation, be sure to follow any instructions included with your strut inserts. Clean the spring seat area and make sure the water drain holes are not clogged. Warning: Inspect the lower spring seat on the strut tube for signs of rust. If it looks pretty bad, consider replacing the strut assembly as we have heard of a cases where the lower spring seat has failed allowing the car to drop down onto the tire.
Step 12 — Re-install the spring and tighten the gland nut (very tight). Be careful to not scratch the chrome plated section of the strut during this process as any nicks or scratches on the shaft will lead to premature seal failure. The gland nut should tighten up before it bottoms out in the tube. Make sure that the new strut cartridge has no play in the tube which will cause knocking noises.
Step 13 — Install the spring: If you are installing lowering springs, you probably won’t need to compress them for installation, but be careful when removing the spring compressor from the free spring, only loosen them up about 1/2 to 3/4” at a time per side. Now install the boot / bump stop, upper spring seat, strut mount, any other hardware in the order they were removed. Now install and torque the top nut, making sure that the spring is properly seated in the spring seats as you loosen the spring compressors.
In the immortal words of Mr. Emanual Haynes, reassembly is the reverse of removal...