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Front End Strut (Spring) Replacement

Posted by bucky (My Page) on
Fri, Dec 21, 07 at 15:19

The front struts on my 96 Riviera are due for replacement. The car has 125,000 kms on the odo. Should a guy also replace the springs when he does the struts? Any strut better than another ? I've used Monroe shocks and struts on most of my cars in the past but I'm told there are much better ones available these days. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Cheers: Bucky


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Front End Strut (Spring) Replacement

Typical advice bucky is yes, replace the springs, and the top mounts/bearing plates all at the same time that you do the struts. First if you would want to do this yourself, many places will assemble them for you. Remember there is also a dust/dirt shield boot on many strut assemblies that may have to be transferred from the originals, or else it too should be bought.

Lastly you will lose your alignment settings, this must be realigned right away or you could ruin your tires in an extremely short period of time.


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RE: Front End Strut (Spring) Replacement

Good to hear from you John G. Appreciate the information and recommendation. I will follow your advice to the letter. Have a happy Christmas

Cheers: Bucky


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RE: Front End Strut (Spring) Replacement

You can buy the strut and spring already assembled. This makes for easier installation and better because you get everything new. Might cost a little more but makes life easier. If you really want to save yourself a little money, buy the camber ajustment bolts and replace those since you will be there anyhow. The alignment tech usually should do this but it cost more.


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RE: Front End Strut (Spring) Replacement

You don't need alignment bolts and cams on this car. A good alignment technician will set the front end perfectly without them.


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RE: Front End Strut (Spring) Replacement

Just a thought. How do you know you need struts ? What gives you that idea ? did someone do the bounce test ? Are
they leaking ? sorry John. Why the hell would you replace springs unless you want an up grade or the original ones are broken ?


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RE: Front End Strut (Spring) Replacement

Have you done alignments before John_G? Take a look at this chart http://www.spcalignment.com/PROD_DIR/SPC_PROD_SEARCH.cfm
I do 50 alignments a month, if this cars camber is out then then it will need a camber kit. There is no OEMA on these cars.


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RE: Front End Strut (Spring) Replacement

If your doing fifty alignments a month, and your selling cam kits on everyone of them, it could be shown that your gouging the customers!

Not only have I done alignments since 1982, I have taught many technicians how to be more efficient, and precise at doing them. Frankly I like doing alignments but cannot justify the $50,000 expense to put a machine in my shop. So I resorted to getting an independent tire shop two blocks away from me to invest in the equipment, and then not only did I teach him how to use it, but made myself available so that he could call me anytime he got stuck.

Now, how do you adjust the camber, without using one of those cams? Easy. With the vehicle set up get a port-o-power kit and install the duckbill adapter. Lightly position it between the strut and the inner fender, use just enough pressure to provide friction so that it will hold the strut when you loosen the bolts. With both bolts loosened, the strut can be allowed to relax inward if camber is too high, or pressed outward if the camber is too low. If increasing camber, try to go about .1 degree's further than you want to set the front end at to allow for relaxation when the duckbill is removed. Tighten the TOP bolt and now remove the duck-bill and check your adjustment. If it's in spec, all you now have to do is tighten the bottom bolt and move on to the next adjustment.

I invented this routine in the early 80's and it came in extremely handy on the Cavaliers, and Sunbirds that did not have slotted struts. I was so efficient at setting these cars up, the service manager actually thought I was cheating by claiming I had made an adjustment, when he didn't think I had taken enough time to actually have done so. The trick was, once the camber angle was set and the knuckle held by the top bolt, I only reamed the strut enough to get the bottom bolt back in and then tightened it. I could do a full alignment on that car (without a rear adjustment) camber on both sides, caster if necessary (and yes I know people will say it was neither adjustable, nor required) and toe in less than 40 minutes.

BTW my "reward" for figuring this out was to see the labor operation addition (.5hr per side) for reaming the struts dropped. That means people who did not learn this trick got paid more than I did for the same job......

Tell you what. I can accurately determine if there is a problem with the Ackerman Angle while performing the first caster swing. If you have been shown this in a class, it came from me. If not see if you can figure out exactly what I see and do and try and write it here. If not, no problem, I'll write it out tomorrow.


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RE: Front End Strut (Spring) Replacement

So lets say the camber was out half a degree on this car, and you had the struts bolts changing struts you wouldnt install a $20 kit? Your way is more work and agrivation for this situation. When they got it to the shop for a alignment they would only have to pay the alignment fee and no extra labor charge, that you would be charging to ream?


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RE: Front End Strut (Spring) Replacement

My way is not only LESS work, it's faster, and less expensive to the customer. What the customer would pay for a 4 wheel alignment on the car bucky posed would be the base menu price of $69.95 or whatever. This would be for a camber and toe adjustment at all four wheels, and a cradle adjustment if required, which is essentially a caster adjustment.

Ironic isn't it, that the more creative, and experienced an automotive technician actually is, the LESS he/she may potentially actually earn.

This alignment as I outlined would take approximately 50 minutes, allowing for a road test before it was performed to check for any pulling, vibration, and the steering wheel centering position at straight ahead. Then the suspension and steering components would be checked, tire pressures set and the machine set up on the vehicle. All adjustments performed, and then a final road test to confirm the vehicle is aligned correctly with the steering wheel centered.

I asked about the "Ackerman Angle" which is commonly called "Toe Out On Turns". To check this angle during the initial caster swing you simply have to pay attention to how far you have to turn the wheels as the machine makes it measurement. Normally the machine will instruct the technician to center the steering wheels and it takes a starting measurement. It then commands the tech to turn the wheels to the right, somewhere in the area of ten degrees. Normally the RF wheel will achieve that turn first, and then the LF wheel will have to be turned just a little further. Now the machine commands the opposite turn. If everything is correct the routine will follow exactly the same, the LH wheel will achieve it's turn and measurement first, then the RF wheel will need turned just a little further. If "Toe Out On Turns" is incorrect, you will see something like the LF wheel achieve it's RH turn before the RF wheel does when turning to the right, and then again see it achieve it's turn to the left before the RF does.

Typically when this angle is incorrect the tire shop, alignment tech see's a car with the front tires worn out so they replace the tires and perform an alignment. Then in a very short time the tires are worn out again, in fact so fast that the tires likely get warrantied, and the car goes back onto the alignment rack. What the tech see's is a car that is right in specs. At this point they don't have any idea why this happened because it's a very infrequent issue. Typically if the tech looks close enough he/she will see that the inner tie rods have different angles from the steering rack to the knuckles. Then putting the machine on the main screen page setting and turning the steering wheel, you would see the front end toe-in when turned to the right, and then you would see toe-out when turned to the left. (As in my example, or the mirror image depending on the problem)

Here is another question. When adjusting camber by pivoting the knuckle at the base of the strut, what happens to the included angle?


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RE: Front End Strut (Spring) Replacement

I asked the question about the "Included Angle" for a very specific reason. Included angle will definately change if you adjust camber at the bottom of the strut where the knuckle is attached. The trick here is to actually measure the included angle and then decide if the reason that the camber is out of specs is because of a strut/knuckle issue, or if it's actually because the cradle is shifted. (I.E. part of a potential caster issue as well)

Many manufacturers make certain front end adjustments not available as an original build. The fix could be shims behind the hub bearing on some models. Reaming the struts on others. Movement of the top bearing plate, which may mean elongating bolt loes, cutting spot welds, and maybe even removal of the strut for a custom top bearing plate that will allow for adjustment when the O.E. didn't provide it. It's way more complicated than the average DIY person realizes. Unfortunately in this industry we see the "free alignment" with a set of four tires trying to turn it into a commidity instead of a precision science that it should be. Again, we see the mentality that if shop "A" charges $89.95 for an alignment, and shop "B" charges $69.95, then shop "B" is the better buy because they are going to be exactly the same, right?

As I said earlier, I like doing alignments and FWIW am really good at them. However the mass marketers tear the bottom line out from underneath us in trying to do them so I cannot justify having that equipment. If I sold all of the "cam kits" and installaion labors for them ect I'd do a little better with that investment. But in most cases I don't need those things because of the experience that I have in setting the cars up before they were ever invented. BTW, I still question the wisdom of pulling a bolt that is 15mm diameter, and installing one that ends up being 12mm in diameter in order to allow the strut and knuckle to move. I have seen techs break some of these cam kits simply because they were not as strong as the original equipment bolts. One thing you may not have realized, when I have to ream a strut bolthole, I dont have to remove the alignment head or wheel to do so. Again, I only ream enough to get the bolt back through the hole which means I'm done in only one or two minutes. That's less time than it takes to pull the wheel off and install the cam bolt.


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RE: Front End Strut (Spring) Replacement

I bet I could install a cam and adjust it faster then you could ream. If the cam is so wrong, you need to call up specialty products, northstar, hunter, TRW ect and tell them what they sell is wrong. I work off a hunter machine it knows part #'s, specs, cars, what ever I need without having to do anything but what it tells me to. But I guess hacking the strut is better than putting a aftermarket kit in like Major alignment companys sell.


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RE: Front End Strut (Spring) Replacement

For your bet, your on, anytime. First while they are NOT my preferred method of doing an alignment, I didn't in so many words say that they are wrong. Likewise many cam kits still require strut reaming for them to work. So trying to call the O.E. designed method of adjustment a hack simply exposes one of the biggest hurdles we face inside the auto repair industry. Lack of respect for each other as professionals. I did everything I could to demonstrate reasonable knowledge and skill, only to see it look like you have to resort to an insult to strengthen your position.

BTW, other examples of it's right or wrong only depending on ones perspective would include Torque Sticks, Transmission flush equipment, fuel system flushes, brake fluid flushes, power steering,,, you get the idea....

Hunter makes the best equipment on the market in my opinion. But I do have a problem with technicians knowledge being limited to only knowing to get the reading "in the green", and sell parts. I used my Ackerman angle, and the Included Angle references as an example. There is only one training company currently expanding technician awareness of the finer details of alignment work, and that is the Carquest Technical Institute. Both of those examples are directly from that class, and yes I am the person that wrote the Ackerman Angle portion of the class. Just watch the display when you do your caster swing, and study the pattern. You easily see a car that has the toe set close to correct when you start, you easily see one that is set toe-in or toe-out. But one with a "Toe Out On Turns" problem will mess up and not match any of those other three.

BTW, have you joined the iATN yet? Being a working technician you will find more information there than you can read in a decade, and it's growing daily.


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