Shock absorber replacement used to be a terrifying job on some cars. On older trucks or late model cars you could change the shock absorber without ever touching the spring or any other part of the suspension. There is simply a bolt at the top of the shock and one at the bottom. In and out and you’re done! Our guess is that you don’t have that kind of setup on your vehicle or you wouldn’t be reading this.
In the video above we’re changing the strut on a 2009 Camry. The difference between a shock and strut is that a strut makes up part of the suspension geometry meaning the car couldn’t be driven without the strut installed. A shock on the other hand simply dampens movement so the car could theoretically be driven without the shock installed. For more information on the difference between shocks and struts, check out what Shock Warehouse has to say about that.
Changing a strut is terrifying because you’ve got to pull the spring off the assembly to change the strut by itself.
To get a spring off a strut you’ve got the use a spring compressor. Many local auto parts stores sell or rent compressors or if you do a lot of these you can get some fancy wall mount units that make the job much faster. For us DIY guys, the small spring compressors that go on the outside of the spring will work but always make us nervous. The spring rate, or amount of force it takes to compress a spring for passenger cars can be anywhere from 200 lbs/in to 500 lbs/in. That means if your springs are in the middle of the range and you’ve got them compressed 6 inches to get them off the strut you’ve stored 2700 lbs of energy in that spring and if something goes wrong you’ve got a rocket in your garage.
Luckily, many auto parts stores are selling loaded struts! These come with a few goodies:
- A new strut
- A new spring
- A new shock mount
- A new upper bearing
If you’ve got an older car a loaded strut gets you a new spring to help with the old car sag! They also come with a new shock mount and bearing so if you’ve got noise when turning or clunks over bumpers you will fix that problem as well. Loaded struts also aren’t that much more expensive than regular strust so if you are doing this project yourself we highly recommend you look into them.
Now for a few quick tips!
Shock Absorber Replacement Quick Tips
- Spray everything with penetrating oil the day before you start the job
- Have a strong impact wrench or long breaker bar on hand for the bigger bolts
- be very careful of your brake lines and ABS sensor wires
- Don’t remove middle shock nut unless you didn’t get loaded struts, then only do so when the spring is compressed
- Tighten everything to the factory torque for safety
- Consider getting an alignment after installation to make sure everything is perfect
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