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If your ride hits the pavement every time you drive over a speed bump, it could be time to look at installing new struts. Even if your ride is merely 'bouncy' over bumps, new struts will put the stock firmness back into your car or truck’s worn out suspension.

While it may seem daunting, removing and replacing your struts is a relatively straightforward task. Use this article as a general guide to learn more about the task ahead. For more specific information, consult the workshop manual specific to your car or truck.

Tools for Removing Struts

Be sure to have these tools on hand before you start the job:
  • An impact wrench, either air or battery powered, for zipping fasteners off
  • An assortment of ratchets and sockets, metric and/or standard depending on your vehicle
  • An assortment of wrenches to tighten or loosen bolts
  • Pry bars and leverage devices to help you wiggle stuck components

Other tools may be required for your specific vehicle, but these will get you started.

Removing the Struts

  • First, disconnect the battery negative cable. Then, start by jacking the vehicle up and supporting it with jack stands. Remove either the front or rear wheels, depending on which struts you want to remove and replace.
  • With the wheels off, you can have a good look at the struts that support your car or truck chassis. They may not show any outward signs of wear, despite being worn out. Pay close attention to the strut’s attachment points. On the bottom side, the strut is attached to your car or truck’s lower control arm. On the top side, the strut is attached to hats or caps that are bolted to your car or truck’s chassis. Carefully inspect the strut to make sure there aren’t other components attached to it, like brake line brackets.
  • If your car or truck is equipped with sway bars, loosen or remove the brackets holding them to the car’s suspension. This will allow the control arms to move freely, making it much easier to snake the strut assembly away from the rest of the suspension components.
  • With the sway bars loosened up, you can remove the strut’s fasteners. The bottom fastener is often little more than a large nut and bolt that secures the bottom of the strut to the lower ball joint installed on the lower control arm. To remove the top of the strut, pop your hood and remove the nuts securing the top hat to the chassis.
  • Once you have all the fasteners removed, you should be able to wiggle the strut free from the other suspension components. If necessary, support the lower control arm using a jack. Try raising and lowering it to get the clearance required to remove the strut.

Disassembling the Strut Assembly

  • The strut you just removed most likely looks nothing like the strut you bought. That’s because there are components attached to it that must be removed and reassembled on the new strut.
  • These components include the top hat, coil spring, rubber boot, and bump stop. Care must be taken when removing the top hat and coil spring to avoid injury. This is where those spring compressors come into play. You must compress the coil spring before removing the large nut that holds the top cap onto the strut. Be careful - serious injury or death may result from attempting to disassemble the old strut without compressing the coil spring.
  • Use the spring compressors to compress the coil spring. Then zip the top nut off using your impact wrench. With the top nut removed, you can lift the cap off the top of the strut. With the cap removed, you can now lift the coil spring with the compressors attached free from the old strut. Be sure to transfer the bump stop and rubber boot to the new strut, if necessary.

Installing the New Strut

  • Installation is the reverse of removal. With the coil spring placed on the new strut, you can reinstall the top cap and wiggle the whole thing back into your car or truck’s suspension assembly.
  • Be sure to reattach all the brackets you removed, including the sway bar end links, and tighten all fasteners according to the manufacturer’s recommended torque specifications found in your workshop manual.

Tools, Parts, and Know How

Removing and replacing worn out struts is a relatively straightforward job that most amateur mechanics can accomplish in an afternoon, either as a one-man job or with the help of friends. It’s normal to not have every tool or part you need before you start, or to not be entirely sure what you’re doing. If you have questions or need more tools, visit your local Pep Boys for suspension services, or as a resource for the parts, tools, and know how you need to finish all your automotive projects.