(Note: the author did not disclose what car this is, so maybe we can also turn it into a CC Clue)
I knew the car had the soft suspension which would have been what my father would have bought. Only after taking it over I thought is was too soft as in really too soft.
This particular car of mine is going to undergo some maintenance work over the next two months. Work ranges from a simple preventative upgrade, to moderate routine service, to involved preventive work to avoid a future break down. I am going to keep the car secret so all pictures will be tight. One can guess the car but I won’t show it until all the work is done.
I’ll start with the moderate routine repair since it was the most urgent. The car was bottoming out badly just going over a speed bump at 5 mph which didn’t happen with my Polara or Park Lane. So time for new struts and about 5 hours to do the work. I take my time and tend to be meticulous so my cars never see a mechanic for work like this even if they were faster. Besides I enjoy doing it. So let’s go through the process which yielded the picture above of the finished job.
The removal sequence
Remove two 12mm bolts to disconnect brake line and brake sensor brackets. Then unplug electrical connection for brake sensor behind rotor
Now remove the two 24mm nuts. To back out bolts place a nut on the top and whack away with a 3 lb. mallet. It will take some time as I found out.
As you can see the bolts are splined. Every other car I have done the bolts were smooth bored and easy to knock out with a punch. Not these.
Last are the three 15mm nuts on top. One is under the rubber seal which you just pull back with your fingers to see it. The strut does not drop once removed due to the rubber gasket on top of the mount which adheres to the underside of the frame. So you get down, pull it off, then angle the bottom to the rear and slip the assembly out.
Here we have a 19 year old strut. The strut will be replaced with a KYB Excel-G and the entire top mount with a KYB assembly. I also had a new bellows but turns out they were very generic compared to the original so I kept the original after an inspection. The top of the original was metal unlike these replacements and that metal top allowed the bellows to sit on top of the strut and not slide down.
This particular spring compressor has been very reliable. I have two different ones depending on how tall the spring is. Short spring here so this one. Screws down easily and most important doesn’t strip the rods like cheaper ones do. To now remove the top nut just put locking pliers on the stem and an impact gun on the top. The 22mm nut off in less than 5 seconds.
As you can see that strut was dead, dead, dead. That explains the front end wallow after going over a dip in the road surface.
Now I’ll point out a difference here. Actually two when comparing the OEM original to aftermarket KYB. Note the old uses a T-50 torx on the top of the stem while the KYB uses a 6 pt.hex. I can tell you the torx holds up far better when you get ready to torque down that 22mm nut on top to 55 ft.lbs. Also note the base of the original has hole at the bottom that the KYB doesn’t. You can also see the lip that the metal portion of the original bellows sat on.
That hole is used to put a fastener in to hold the rubber gasket in place. So I had to punch the spot, drill a pilot hole, and then drill the final 5/16″ hole.
This is where the hex vs torx comes into play. The two ways to do this is manual or impact wrench on the top. with the 22mm wrench below holding. I tired both ways with the impact first. The hex lasted until it eventually rounded out at 49 ft. lbs. of torque. Not quite 55 ft. lbs. I tried manual but the nut was tough to screw down and it was on correct. The second strut was done manual as seen. This one went easily either via the wrench or the racket. Achieved 55 ft. lbs. easily.
Here we have a finished assembly ready to go in after releasing the spring compressors bit by bit side to side. Note one must pay close attention to the direction the mount must face and which bolt faces out. On my 91 Mazda there are four bolts and their position determines camber on the car so you better pay attention.
My procedure to install the struts, by myself, is to place the top nylon pins in place and then install the outer bolt loosely. This held it up but also allowed me to pivot the bottom around for placement. I also don’t want to pull the knuckle too far out that it comes out of the transmission. So getting the two parts to meet was easy while getting the bolt holes to line up takes some work. If you have done this then you know what I mean.
Once a bolt is tapped in I went to the next after which I placed the nut on and torqued down to 135 ft. lbs. I have the lower bolt left to finish here and we then get the first picture above. Now those top three bolts were hand tightened down before I lowered the car. Once the car was down and the full weight on the suspension I torqued those three bolts to 35 ft. lbs. Now time for a beer or some french roast as I could go either way to relax.
This made a clear and pronounced difference in the handling. No more wallow and more steady in a sharp curve where I always see how fast a car can take them. Of course, the trade off is that I can hear more road ribs than I did before. That is OK as this car is mainly a cruiser for long hauls as it is so comfortable and spacious. In a few weeks I’ll get to the simple upgrade to extend the life of an important part. Restoration of the splinter shields, on Vulture’s Row of the USS Hornet, is on the final stretch of haze gray paint application which will take two weekends.
That was an enjoyable read, made more so by the lack of rust. You’d probably have to whack a lot harder to get those lower strut bolts out on any vehicle of mine.
No idea what the car is, looks pretty similar to my 2015 Grand Caravan but I’m sure most 2000’s FWD vehicles do.
Nice work, struts are a pain, I hate them. Give me a proper suspension with 2 control arms and a shock. Even a coil over shock.
Tightening the nut is a pain as you describe, self-locking nut only makes in worse. The internal torx type is better, maybe an external torx would be better yet.
What I prefer to do is use a regular nut and a jam nut with a touch of never seize.
I agree on hating them. My very first new car, Mk I Fiesta, was also my first strut car. Failed completely just after the warranty expired, and I mean completely, no resistance on jounce or rebound at all, yet no external leaks. Replaced with KONI adjustable ones that also allowed me to lower the suspension a tad.
BMW e36 struts started leaking after 100,000 miles, but were a pain to change out due to red Loctite applied at the factory on all suspension bolts. Tundra had coil overs, which had its own problems, but Toyota extended warranty to the rescue at 60,000 miles.
And why exactly is the vehicle classified info?
As I said, the author failed to identify the car when he scheduled this for posting. Rather than delay publication while I contacted him about that, I though it would be an opportunity to turn it into a bit of a guessing challenge.
Two reasons for it. One, is that the car has been in the “family” for practically two decades. That was a big hint. I didn’t buy it. Never talked about and so really no one here would know the car. So a short COAL when done.
Two, there have been many little snippets of a car and readers are asked to guess the car. Well these will be mechanical snippets. If you have done the work you will recognize.This snippet here is the most difficult. The next, on the transmission, will narrow it down to maker if you know your pans and basic parts. The third story, on the engine, will really narrow it down to maker and perhaps line.
Ahh yes bet I could get close with an engine pic-
Judging by the location and locking tabs on the side hydraulic engine mounts and the coolant tank, it’s a GM HBody.
I’m guessing the red Buick LaCrosse whose nose appears in the last picture of the Mazda 3 COAL.
Ahhh. The W Body used the wonderful brake hose routing clips and the H didn’t. I whiffed. The Epsilon and Theta platforms have incessant issues with brakes locking up when the interior of the hoses swells and pressure gets trapped in the calipers. Never seen that on a W, although they have a number of other common brake/suspension issues (rear calipers permanently locking because drivers never use the parking brake, the wonderful ABS harneses breaking in two in front due to normal suspension flex and steering radius, wheel bearings lasting 60k miles).
I’m not sure the engine would have been as big a clue in this case as most would assume, since the 3800 Series III was used with the same engine cover in 2 Buicks and 2 Pontiacs. I suppose if it’s a Lacrosse CXS, that’s the only W that got the 3.6 HFV6, although that would take some eagle-eyed spotters to recognize a W combined with that engine. I can’t remember the engine mount differences between 3.8 and 3.6 in the W.
Great analysis. But I cannot lie… I just skimmed the posts looking for a red car, while waiting for a software build to complete.
Ah, no not a W body. You were originally on the right track and it was a special edition car.
Well, final guess… the foam gasket deal that snakes around the strut tower says post-2000 G/H Body, the engine mount and locking tab does, too. The coolant bottle is the older style translucent non-pressure type which rules out anything with a Northstar. So that just leaves the Lesabre and Bonneville. I’m trying to remember if the lower control arm is a clue, it’s definitely aluminum on the Aurora and Cadillac K Body and might be steel on the Lesabre and Bonneville. The G, H, C and K bodies all kinda coalesced between the intro of the Aurora and 2000, all being heavily based on the G. So, I’m guessing post-00 Lesabre or Bonneville. That kinda candy apple red was popular on them and Auroras. The Aurora had a color called Cherry, and the Final 500s had Dark Cherry Metallic. Buick called it Cabernet, and seemingly every Lesabre Limited was either that or White Diamond. Lots of Bonneville SLEs came in those colors, too.
Wait, isn’t an H body a Vega or Monza? That sure ain’t no Vega.
Only if it is a least 43 years old.
Out of maker, line, and model the first two are eliminated. I didn’t think it would be that fast but clearly under estimated. I also thought there were no prior shots in other stories yet…
I’d guess a GM N-Body, as I had a 2001 Alero that had the splined bolts that you had to drive out.
Also that looks a lopt like the color of my Alero.
Drove it for 15 years until the Ohio tinworm finished it off.
Ive only replaced or removed struts on Japanese cars or Citroens in recent memory and Im sure its not a steel sprung Citroen or Peugeot, the fight to remove the huge lower control arm on one of those would have made print, no idea of the make but the job is familiar.
Be careful with those spring compressors. I used to use them when I was younger. Now I am afraid of them.
Appears to be an 02-05 lesabre. Wonderful cars rust free too. Quite rare in Ohio.
12mm bolt heads suggest something Japanese to me; they use 12mm instead of 13mm to avoid the “unlucky” 13. But then they also tend to use 14mm rather than 15mm, so the 15mm bolts securing the top mount threw me off. And that’s all I got.
The tags on the parts look GM. It’s FWD. The fasteners being metric suggest it is modern GM, probably 80s or newer. The splined bolts on the bottom of the strut suggest 2000s GM. My guess is G Body. Maybe a Buick Lucerne Special Edition? Here’s a video of a 12 year old changing struts.
From some discussions on another site, I actually know what the mystery car is, so won’t spoil the guessing here. I would almost certainly have known anyway since I have one that is nearly identical. Since new struts may be on my to do list soon, will definitely be saving this for future reference.
Awww, cumoooonnnnn Dan. Cummmooooon….