Strut Assembly - Coil Compressor?

Joined
Feb 16, 2005
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874
Location
Scituate MA
The car is rattling and jiggling up front. My mechanic said I need a new strut...saw fluid around the shock (I watched him evaluate it). So I went to the NAPA store and there was a strut and strut assembly. Strut was 30 and strut assembly was 125 (or the other way around? Can't remember). The guy at the parts store said I need a coil compressor to compress the springs back in to the shock. Can someone explain this and any ideas on how to get the strut in there without a coil compressor?
 
Joined
Jun 3, 2002
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8,264
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MI
$30 dollars seems very cheap for a strut cartridge. For the amount of work it is, I think it is a good investment to buy the better grade of struts. KYB (Car Quest) and Monroe are o.k. brands. Others will op for even more expensive ones like Bilsteins. You cannot replace the strut cartridge without compressing and removing the spring. You remove the entire assembly from the car and then rebuild it at the workbench. It can be done diy and the spring compressor can be borrowed from Autozone for free. The pre assembled new strut assembly can be an easier alternative and warranted depending on the circumstances. Others will chime in. You do need some basic mechanic skills and good tools to do this. Rusted fasteners, etc.. can be a pain and safety is a great concern when compressing the springs. Front end alighnment is required after doing the front struts. Youtube has videos of the process.
 
Joined
Apr 17, 2004
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Texas Hill Country
Sure, monroe makes a product called a Quick-Strut. It is basically a strut with a spring already installed on it, and you get the mount plate and everything. These products are intended for backyard mechanics who do not have the proper tools to compress a spring on a new strut safely. The Quick Strut is pretty expensive, you are buying a spring also and the mount plate. If you are having work done at a shop, then just buy the strut itself, the mechanic will charge the labor to take it apart, and re-use your old spring. With a wall mounted compressor, it is a 2 minute job to compress a spring, and install a new strut on it. If you have one of those hand compressors, they are pretty unsafe, I wouldn't use one. The spring could recoil and hurt you badly.
 
Joined
Aug 5, 2002
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Silicon Valley
I wouldn't call the hand compressors unsafe. They all have safety lock in there that unless you have no idea what you are doing, the worst you can do is get into an awkward position that is difficult to unwind. But like doitmyself said, you need some basic mechanical skill to know what you are doing, or pause and look for help when something doesn't look right. What I think could be a problem for backyard mechanics to do strut works is to rent tools during weekend (strut compressors are always out when you try to rent or borrow), some bolts may snaps especially in the rust/snow belt or up north, and sometimes the compressor won't fit the clearance when you try to put things back together (interference between a metal dust shield and the strut compressor, etc). I would make sure a part car is around in an emergency, and do it on a Saturday instead of a Sunday. I personally had a quick run to a local Firestone to compress 1 of my 4 strut back together when my compressor won't clear the dust shield, and that's the 2nd car I did and have full confidence on what I was doing. For most people who won't keep a car for another 10 years, I think Quickstrut is a decent idea and save you a lot of of headache. What I'm not too comfortable about Quickstrut is that it is a Monroe and they aren't as good as some other brands like Bilstein, KYB, or Tokico.
 
Joined
Sep 25, 2004
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Marshfield , MA
My first struct-ectomy was an adventure, only luck and good reflexes kept me from injuring myself. The cheapo compressor I used was just a pair of hooks on a threaded rod. USE SOMETHING BETTER!! Also you really don't need to compress the spring so much as you have to prevent it from unloading. There is no need to flatten the coils until they touch each other.
 
Joined
Mar 31, 2009
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379
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Mi
Brannick makes the best one on the market and it is wall mounted.It is not cheap,about $600.00 for this one.Also inspect the strut plates and replace if needed.
 
Joined
Sep 5, 2006
Messages
19,479
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Chicago Area
Rent, borrow, or buy a compressor. Some springs do not need it - usually rear struts/springs. Unless you know FOR SURE, use a compressor. If you do not compress a spring, when you take off the nut it can BOING out and do damage to whatever is around. And the compressor is needed to get the nut back on.
 
Joined
Nov 11, 2008
Messages
1,496
Location
Las Vegas
 Originally Posted By: coopns
The car is rattling and jiggling up front. My mechanic said I need a new strut...saw fluid around the shock (I watched him evaluate it). So I went to the NAPA store and there was a strut and strut assembly. Strut was 30 and strut assembly was 125 (or the other way around? Can't remember). The guy at the parts store said I need a coil compressor to compress the springs back in to the shock. Can someone explain this and any ideas on how to get the strut in there without a coil compressor?
WARNING!!!!! Be very careful. I had an older Volvo that made the same type of noise. While I was under the car removing the whole strut assembly, I noticed the last lower bolt to the frame was difficult to turn (the top bolt keeps the pressure on the spring, and is only removed after the assembly is compressed by a spring compressor). As I made the last turn, the spring decompressed, causing the assembly to shoot downward with great force. Fortunately, I wasn't under it. It did strike my hand with a glancing blow, creating a golf ball sized knot on the muscle of my palm. If my head was under the assembly, I would have been killed. It turned out the rattling noice was caused by a failure in the strut assembly itself, and the only thing keeping tension were the frame mounting bolts. I later found it was a dangerous design defect that Volvo corrected on later struts. If the strut is leaking, it needs to be replaced. And yes, as the other posters have mentioned, you have to remove the whole assembly, and use a spring compressor or a press to compress the spring to replace the strut. There are no shortcuts. Make sure the noise isn't caused by a broken assembly though, or removing it from the frame in itself could be dangerous.
 
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Joined
Sep 23, 2007
Messages
8,598
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Florida
Strut insert versus strut assembly? Do you have a GM car such as a Pontiac Gran Prix, FWD Chevy Impala, or mid size Buick? Some of those cars had a replaceable insert rather than a strut assembly. Installation of one is much different from installation of ordinary Macpherson struts.
 
Joined
Aug 5, 2002
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Silicon Valley
 Originally Posted By: andyd
My first struct-ectomy was an adventure, only luck and good reflexes kept me from injuring myself. The cheapo compressor I used was just a pair of hooks on a threaded rod. USE SOMETHING BETTER!!
Doesn't it come with a safety lock? Most of those hook has a safety lock that will not release even if it pop the spring out of the hook.
 
Joined
Sep 25, 2004
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9,231
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Marshfield , MA
 Originally Posted By: PandaBear
 Originally Posted By: andyd
My first struct-ectomy was an adventure, only luck and good reflexes kept me from injuring myself. The cheapo compressor I used was just a pair of hooks on a threaded rod. USE SOMETHING BETTER!!
Doesn't it come with a safety lock? Most of those hook has a safety lock that will not release even if it pop the spring out of the hook.
Trust me, PB, this rig had no safety.
 
Joined
Oct 28, 2008
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1,695
Location
MD
I've done struts before, and I decided this time around that it is worth the $150 or so to have a shop do the job. I found a shop that will put in the Sach struts that I bought, so I don't mind paying for the labor.
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2009
Messages
355
Location
Ontario, Canada
It may not be the struts. A worn out Drive Axle CV Joint etc... can cause SERIOUS rattling up front..it did for mine. Check if the boots on your drive axles are torn and is the grease throwing out. Struts aren't impossible, you can do it yourself, but it will take time. I probably wouldn't attempt it without an air supply. I had to cut out parallel link bolts with a die grinder cut off wheel to get the rear struts out, as they were seized after 16 yrs. Panda Bear is so right on the clearance issues once the spring is expanded to full size. I had to buy a 2nd set of MacPherson manual set to crunch them back down enough. (Had to use 2 sets per strut so 4 total on the spring). The rear struts on the Maxima make the job a MASSIVE job. You need to get right down to the spindle, so that means removing ALOT of rusty bolts. This may not be the case on your car. Also I had to use the air drill to get out one of the front strut fixing bolts, as it was seized to the inside hole in the steering knuckle, cut off another hex nut with the cut off wheel for a seized lower ball joint to knuckle fastener, as well as a stripped strut fixing bolt on the front right. You'll probably want nearby access to an Acetelyene torch for heating rusted or seized parts. Without access to the proper cut off tools or a plasma cutter, you may get to a point where you have to tow it to a garage if you can't get it back together. So plan every step in your head. Shops will charge a ton to do all 4 struts. Keep in mind you'll also have to by the bumper boots and the rubber OEM spring seats if they have them like Nissan does. This however, was a very fun job.
 
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