Friday, September 10, 2010

How To Change the Struts and Strut Mounts on your 1998 Toyota Camry

PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS IF DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING. Your car's suspension is a critical safety component. If you mess up, your car will become dangerous and deadly to you and everyone around you. The following information is for informational purposes only.

This blog post describes how to replace the struts and strut mounts on a 1998 Toyota Camry yourself, but it should apply for Camrys from 1991 to 2001, and probably other models as well. This is not a difficult project, but it does take some time. It took me about half a day to do everything.

To complete this project, you will need an assortment of sockets, wrenches, a breaker bar, a torque wrench, spring compressors, and an allen key.

Struts generally go bad gradually, and at higher mileage. This car has 120k miles, and the struts were leaking oil. The strut mounts in this generation Camry are a known weak point. The symptoms of bad strut mounts are rattling over minor bumps, particular when the car is cold.

I picked up the parts from They have pretty good prices for the struts and the strut mounts; I got the KYB brand. The bellows didn't fit though, so I reused the old bellows.

Section 1: Changing the front struts

Step 1: This is the front strut assembly in the car.

Step 2: Remove brake line, unclip ABS sensor wire clip, spray PBlaster on sway-bar endlink nut.

Step 3: Undo the two strut-to-knuckle bolts.

Step 4: Undo the sway-bar endlink nut with an allen key and wrench.

Step 5: Undo the sway-bar endlink nut, done.

Step 6: Undo the three nuts holding the strutmount to the strut tower.

Step 7: Support the brake rotor/knuckle and remove the strut assembly from the car.

Step 8: Close-up of the strut mount and spring seat.

Step 9: Compress the spring with spring compressors.

Step 10: Compress the spring with spring compressors, done.

Step 11: Remove the top strut nut; be careful!

Step 12: Remove the top strut nut; be careful!

Step 13: Remove the strut mount.

Step 14: Separate the strut parts: strut, bump stop, spring seat, spring, bellows, sprint seat.

Step 15: Reassemble the strut assembly with the new strut and strut mount. Reinstall the top strut nut.

Step 16: Make sure to use the correct strut since all 4 are different. Also make sure to orient the strut mount such that the arrow is pointing to the outside of the car.

Step 17: Complete strut assembly with the new strut and strut mount.

Step 18: Insert the strut back into the strut tower, and loosely thread on one of the three nuts to support the strut.

Step 19: Complete strut assembly with the new strut and strut mount.

Step 20: Line up the two strut-to-knuckle holes with a prybar or extension bar and insert the bolts.

Step 21: Thread the nuts onto the strut-to-knuckle bolts, but do not tighten them yet.

Step 22: Tighten the three strut mount nuts to the proper torque specification.

Step 23: Reinstall the sway bar end link to the strut and tighten the nut.

Step 24: Tighten the two strut-to-knuckle bolts to the proper torque specification.

Step 25: Tighten the strut top nut to the proper torque specification.

Section 2: Changing the rear struts

Step 26: Rear strut overview, support the brake drum.

Step 27: I don't remember the details here, but I believe you need to: 1) Fold the seats down, 2) Remove the interior panels on the c-pillars, 3) Tug forward on the rear package shelf to remove it.

Step 28: Remove the seat belt tensioner.

Step 29: Remove the bracket for the brake line.

Step 30: Spray PBlaster on the sway bar end link, and remove the nut.

Step 31: Spray PBlaster on the sway bar end link, and remove the nut, done.

Step 32: Undo the two strut-to-knuckle nuts.

Step 33: Undo the three nuts holding the strut mount to the body.

Step 34: Remove the strut from the car.

Step 35: Compress the string, and undo the top strut nut.

Step 36: Disassemble the strut.

Step 37: Reassemble the strut with the new strut and strut mount. Install the strut top nut.

Step 38: Reassemble the strut with the new strut and strut mount. Install the strut top nut, done.

Step 39: Like the front, hang the strut by one of the three mount nuts.

Step 40: Reinstall the two strut-to-knuckle bolts, sway-bar end link, and brake line. Use the correct torque specifications.

Step 41: Get an alignment!

The alignment is critical to the car's handling and tire wear. After reinstalling the struts, you will lose the previous alignment because there is play in the two strut-to-knuckle bolts. Get an alignment right away or your car may handle funny and wear out its tires quickly.


Jovany said...

Strut Assembly is very hard to remove if you don't have the right tools. Last time I checked you badly need a strut compressor to take off the springs.

Esies said...

Good post, althought i do not understand well to this post, because i'am Indonesian.

Tim Weidner said...

Nicely done, Alex. I did all 4 struts on my daughter's 2001 Camry and I am getting a clunking sound from the rear struts when going over something that makes the strut extend. I suspect the mounts may need replacing too, although they didn't make a noise before with the old struts. I'm an old guy and I have replaced lots of struts and shocks over time and I will have to say this Toyota has been the most problematic car I have ever worked on.

gretro said...

Aside the bearing, did the mount have any wear parts?

Does one have to change the whole mount? instead just change the bearing?

oldguy said...

car i am going to work on sets 3 inches low. by seeing this i am thinking replacing struts are not my solution. looks like we would reuse springs. or would mounts take up those slack inches?

ESparg said...

Great breakdown Alex, thanks for the useful pictures and comments.... Without taking the entire assembly apart is there a way to see if the strut mount is busted? I have the same knocking, and the sway bar and bushings are fine.

Also, any suggestions on a good strut mount manufacturer, or ones to stay away from?

Clara Snyder said...
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Enoch Ross said...
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Erwin Ricafrente said...

When replacing struts, it's best to also replace the ancillary bits that are part of the assembly (rubber bellows, mounting plate, bump stops, etc.) I recommend buying the whole assembly completely pre-assembled. This will ensure all wear-out parts are replaced, it is assembled correctly and, since you don't have to disassemble and assemble, significantly cuts your install time.

Andy Carwile said...

I have had a 1998 and a 1997 Camry, both 4 cyl. I have always had the shop do the struts, but I have done a lot of body work and other things (three teenage daughters).

Now I have a 1999 Lexus ES-300 6-cyl. Are the struts the same?

If I buy the entire assembly, do I avoid the time/trouble/tool/risk of compressing the springs? Seems like it would be worth it to also have new bump stop and bellows.

Alex said...

Tim, I'm sorry to hear about your experience with the Camry. I actually had a great experience with it. We had the car from 100k to 180k miles and the things I recall replacing where tie rods, valve cover gasket, water pump, timing belt, struts/mounts, and the charcoal filter (which was under warranty).

Gretro, the rubber mounts themselves wear out, not the bearings in my case.

Esparg, I don't think I could see that the strut mounts were bad. I just replaced them because I couldn't find anything else that was wrong, and the strut mounts are a known problem with this car. I would stick with Toyota OEM for the mounts. I had the KYB mounts, they basically melted and I had to replace them again pretty soon. I think the KYB struts themselves were fine.

Andy, I believe the Lexus has different struts. I think my manual says the Lexus has electronic struts. I think the replacement procedure is practically the same though. If you buy the whole assembly, you don't need to compress the spring. It's a lot quicker, you're right!