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How to Safely Change Shocks and Struts – Step by Step Guide

Shocks and struts may sound like the same thing. But, do they actually are? The answer is no, they are not. There is a vast similarity in their functionality. Both of them are designed to minimize and adjust the bump of the vehicles on your go. But there is a vast difference in their position, and also in their functions as well.

So, when you are in need to change the shocks, the truth is you cannot replace it with struts. And the statement is similarly true in the case of struts, you cannot use shocks in its position.

In the next few steps, I will go through the entire process of shocks or struts replacement in different sections. I will also try to let you know the difference between a shock and a strut, symptoms of worn out shocks /struts step by step in whole nine yards.

shocks vs struts
Shocks vs Struts

Expecting that, you guys can understand the nuts and bolts of strut/shock replacement easily without paying too much attention as there is nothing rocket science here. Okay, let’s make a start.

Difference between a shock absorber and a strut

A strut is basically a shock absorber rounded or coiled by a powerful spring to work together with the cars suspension system. And the shock absorber is the bare tool without having any spring rounded by it. It seems to be crystal clear now that the spring makes the main difference between the shock absorber and the strut.

So, first, you need to make sure what you are going to replace. Is it a shock or a strut? And after that, we can proceed to replace our worn out shocks or struts.

how to replace strut
Replacing strut

How to know it is high time to replace your strut

Basically, the strut gets worn after 50 thousand miles driving. This is a predicted measurement but not 100% accurate. There is a number of ways to determine the strength level of your strut. These are:

1. Bouncy ride

You will not have as much comfort as it was before while driving your car or truck. Your ride would be bouncy even in the smooth routes. To test the condition of the expansion system manually, you can bounce the front side, I mean the bumper of your car a few times.

What happens to a car with normal expansion system the bounce starts and stops at a certain height but doesn’t continue. But if your expansion system is not up to marks the bounce will continue, and this will take longer to stop comparatively. That is how you can know that it is the time to change your strut.

2. Leaking oil

Have you found your strut leaking oil? This is a clear indication that your strut has gone to dogs. Even a single ride may be risky any may call for lots of unwanted situation for which you have never been prepared.

3. Physically damaged

After longer use, even if your strut is not leaking oil, or you are not experiencing any bouncy ride, the strut may get physically damaged. How to check for this? Well, you will notice rust in many places surrounding your strut- which is considered no longer safe for driving.

How to change the strut

Whatever you are going to change a strut or a shock absorber, always change it is a pair. The process of changing strut is universal. You can apply this method in almost any car or truck.

Before we proceed, we need a number of tools. Here is a list of this.

  • Pry bar
  • Hammer
  • Crew-driver
  • Rotator ratchets with sockets
  • Torque wrench
  • Penetrating Fluid
  • lug wrench
  • Jack
  • breaker bar

It seems you are ready with these tools. Now, here we go to the final stage. Just follow the instructions step by step.

how to remove wheel
Removing wheel

1. Removing the wheel

You cannot discover the strut without removing the wheel. So, your first task will be removing the wheel. Use the lug wrench to loosen the bolts. If it seems tighter than the usual, you can use the penetrating fluid to make your task easier.

Lift the car up using a jack and position a jack stand exactly where it ought to be according to the vehicle owner manual. Then remove the bolts and separate the wheel/tire from the car.

2. Removing the old strut

To separate the old strut out of your car you need to do a couple of things. I have made a comprehensive list of this. Here is the step by step task list to reinforce your action.

    1. Apply penetrating fluid at the joint place of the knuckle and strut. And also into the bolts which are holding the strut. After that, we will continue our next task. It will even be better if you can apply the penetrating fluid a day before you replace the strut. This liquid helps to separate parts from the joints and the nuts as well.
    2. Now we will remove the break-line connected to the strut. You can have more access to complete your task, try rotating the steering which will help you in this aspect. And use Flat-Head screwdriver to disconnect the break-line safely.
    3. It is the time to remove the nuts which are holding the strut with the knuckle. First things first, let’s remove the base nut. Because of using penetrating fluid, the rust should be melted inside the bolts. If you find difficulties removing the nut, let your breaker bar to deal with this better. And after that, employ regular wrench to accomplish your task faster.
    4. Now let’s remove the sway bar link nut. This is the last nut around the knuckle. Just like the previous one, rotate the steering to have comfortable access to this.

      After a long period of time, this nut usually gets rusty. You can prevent the movement of the bolt by holding it with a wrench, insert a torque and remove the nut with the aid of torque wrench.

    1. We have removed all the nuts around the knuckle. Before we hit the knuckle with the hammer to separate the strut, there is one more important clip to disconnect. It is called ABS clip.

      Basically, you will not have enough space to apply your hammer until you disconnect the ABS clip. Once done, use the hammer to bring the knuckle down and free the strut from the knuckle.

    1. Now open the car hood, locate the nuts holding the strut with the bumper. You can either use the breaker bar or regular wrench to remove the nuts.
    2. We have done almost all. We have removed the nuts from the knuckle, sway bar link, separated the strut from the knuckle and finally removed the holder bolts from the bumper. Now bring the strut out of the car.

      3. A few things to consider before you install a new strut

      Before installing the new strut, don’t forget to compare the parts of your old and new one. Compare the strut mount holes, spring seat insulator, sway bar link line holes and its position.

      This is important because any dissimilarity will prevent you from installing your new strut perfectly. This will take your extra hours and effort without any visual outcome.

replace strut
Replace strut

4. Installing new strut

    1. It is recommended that you clean the knuckle hole before installing a new one here. A cleaner brush and liquid cleaner will make the cleaning process much easier. Then insert the new strut. Make sure you have aligned every single portion perfectly without applying any force. You have to deal with this very carefully.
    2. Then come to the bumper. The new strut comes with new bolts. If you have aligned the strut perfectly, it is expected that you will not fetch any difficulties to adjust the new blots. Usually, new bolts come with new threads. Use thread locker gel.

      This is too important because the thread locker gel prevents any vibration causing by loosened threads in the future and at the same time this keeps your bolt away from rust. Handy, isn’t it?

    1. Before you finally have the strut inside the hole of the knuckle, check for the back piece if it is aligned perfectly with the knuckle’s gap. I am talking about this because, after a while, you are going to set a nut which must be between the back piece and the knuckle’s inner gap.
    2. Now jack up the knuckle to have your strut positioned inside the knuckle. How much will you jack up? Well, until back piece positioned perfectly inside the knuckle, and you have a clear view (almost without any obstacle) where you are going to fit the knuckle nut. Just a reminder, while fitting the old nuts, don’t forget to clean these with a metal wire brush.
    3. Just like the previous one, now place every nut in its position. Adjust sway bar link nut. Pop in the break-line where it ought to be and finally conclude it with adjusting the ABS connection clip. Use retches and torque wrench which one fits according to the needs.
    1. High time of replacing the shocks

      Shock absorber contains a piston inside. And it is engineered with such a way that it can handle the entire bouncy ride on your go. But when your shocks will be worn-out, these will fail to deal with the unsmooth routes of your ride.

      A working shock never stretches instantly once after being compressed. Rather, this deals with the process very carefully and handles the expanding in such an efficient way, so that you experience little bump while riding on the car.

      A time-worn shock absorber will do the opposite of the working one. This will not take care of your bumpy ride; I mean you will not receive the exact same performance, which you have received before. The expanding of the shock absorber will be almost instantly leading you to an uncomfortable and risky ride.

replacing the shock absorber
Replacing the shock absorber

How to replace the shock absorber

Replacing the shock absorber is really a quick and hassle-free job and it is a hundred times easier than replacing the strut. Previously, we replaced the strut of the front side.

But, right now we are going to replace the rear shock absorber. To get our task done we need a few tools. Just a couple of tools, not as many as it were before.

Okay, here is a list:-

  • Retched with sockets
  • Blue Loctite
  • Breaker Bar
  • Torque wrench
  • penetrating fluid

1. Step by step guideline to replace rear shocks

The process I have illustrated here is quite standard, and you can apply this method to almost any model of cars having rare shock absorbers.

remove the wheel
Removing the wheel

Removing the wheels

This process is pretty the same, I mean very similar like what we did to replace the strut. And as it is not a big deal, right here I am skipping this specific aspect. But, if you need a quick reminder on how to remove the wheel, follow the above discussion, what I have mentioned in the “strut replacing” section.

Removing the worn-out shock

  • You will notice two nuts holding the shock with the car right after you remove the wheel. Apply penetrating fluid to melt the rusts preventing the nuts from being loosening. Wait for at least 30 minutes.
  • Remove the nuts from the top and the bottom of the shock. Take aid of breaker bar if it seems too hard to be loosened. And then apply rotator ratchets to complete your rest of the task.
  • Once done separate the nuts and take the shock out of the car. Use a metal wire brush to clean the nuts the spots holding the nuts before we settle a new shock in its place.
how to replace shock
Replace shock

Installing the new shock

  • Compress the new shock, before you place it in its position. This will help doing the rest of the task much easier.
  • Use blue Loctite to nuts to prevent any unwanted vibration afterward. And then place the nuts where it ought to be.
  • Tighten the nuts with Retched and take the aid of torque wrench according to your user manual. Leaning the accurate measurement of applying torque is very important for both, your torque wrench and where you are applying the force as well.

Conclusion:

You are all done. Now it is your turn to pay me a penny of your thoughts. Let me know if you have any confusion understanding anything. Do write us about your opinion and about what you want us to instruct you in our next article. May God’s peace be upon you! Take care.

2 Comments
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