Last Updated
15 September, 2004

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Replacing Struts & Springs

In December, 2000, I replaced my MKII's springs with Eibach's Pro Kit progressive springs, and the stock struts with Tokico Illumina 5-way adjustable strut cartridges. I relied heavily on the BGB and other owners' "help sheets" to accomplish this. The resulting procedure should help anyone else contemplating this installation for the first time. Keep in mind that it's aimed towards the first-timer. 

This is a major undertaking, at least in time required, but not an overly complex one. The BGB is of limited help, because several significant tips are missing, and because the BGB tends to be very narrowly focused. However, for torque settings it proved helpful, if occasionally erroneous. 

Hopefully, the photos will assist in areas where text fails miserably. Some are well-focused, but others are a bit fuzzy. I hope all are helpful. It was a brand new camera at the time, and I am a novice photographer. The images are 1024x768, but I thumbnailed them to help the pages load faster. Clicking on any of them will take you to the full size image. 

Finally, remember that this is only a guide -- not gospel. What you do to YOUR vehicle is YOUR responsibility. I do not endorse, approve, authorize, or otherwise encourage you to make alterations to your vehicle. Be careful, and recognize the dangers associated with modifications to your vehicle's critical systems, like electrical, engine, brakes, etc. Please contact me if you have comments or suggestions about the article or the project, or if you find errors on these pages.

Tools Needed

  • Floor jack (larger is better) or lift

  • Jack stands 

  • Wheel chocks 

  • 1/2" drive metric socket set with extensions and breaker bar

  • 3/8" drive metric socket set with extensions

  • Metric combination wrench set

  • 5mm Allen wrench

  • Torque wrench capable of 20-130 ft. lbs.

  • Various sizes of Philips and flat screwdrivers

  • McPherson strut spring compressors

  • Large (5" minimum) machinist's vise on sturdy workbench

  • Long needlenose pliers with bent tips

  • Lightweight general purpose oil

  • Hacksaw

  • Long cable ties

  • Thick bath towel

The following tools are recommended but not mandatory:

  • Grinder with wire wheel

  • Dremel Moto-tool with abrasive wheel

  • Cleaning solvent (carburetor cleaner or general degreaser)

  • Oil pan (to catch waste oil)

  • Chalk or marker

Before You Start

Make sure you know how to use a coil spring compressor, and follow safety guidelines, as these compressors can be deadly. 

Make sure you have some time to spend. I won't admit to how much time this project took, but there were some problems along the way and I interrupted work to take photos (which requires cleaning your hands each time). I ended up ordering some additional parts from Toyota before I could complete the entire job, but even so this is a full day's job (or more) if you are working alone. Don't rush it!

Also, I strongly recommend using 6-point sockets and box wrenches on all nuts and bolts heads. Many of these fasteners will likely not have been removed in a long time, and unless your car has lived its life in a dry climate, rust and corrosion are likely.

Doing It

I started with the rear. Click here to jump ahead to the front wheels. Place wheel chocks in front and back of the front wheels. Loosen the wheel nuts on both wheels, then release the parking brake. I jacked up the car in the center of the rear crossmember. I set jackstands at the jacking points of the door sills.

Remove the wheel from one side. On my rear brake rotors, there were ten (10) holes for the wheel studs. Mark one of the holes where the stud protrudes to indicate which ones to line up afterward. I had problems during reinstallation, and changing the orientation of the rotor on the lugs cured it.

It's helpful to screw one of the wheel nuts back on to keep the rotor in place. Since the rotor is only held in place by the wheel nuts and the brake caliper, it might tend to fall off later when you remove the caliper.

The BGB says you need to disconnect the brake line, but there's a way around that. You'll need to cut a slot about 3/8" wide in the hose bracket on the strut body. Here's the bracket before cutting: 
102-0265_IMG.JPG (135982 bytes)
First, remove the U-shaped clip from the underside of the bracket to free the hose joint.

I tried using a Dremel moto-tool to cut the slot, but it was not up to the task. After two broken bits and minimal progress, I found I could actually get a hacksaw in there, and that made quick work of the cutting. I used the Dremel with a grinding wheel attachment to smooth the edges of the cut afterward. Here's the view after:
102-0278_IMG.JPG (181266 bytes)

Next, you'll need to remove the brake caliper, something which the BGB neglects to mention. There are two 17mm caliper bolts on the back side of the hub. I needed a long breaker bar to loosen these bolts. As you remove the second bolt, the caliper might try to slip off the rotor, so be ready to catch it to avoid stressing the brake hose. I used a cable tie to attach the caliper to the tie rod:
102-0282_IMG.JPG (195859 bytes)
You might need a couple of ties to keep it secure and not suspended by the hose. Remove the rotor and set it aside.

You'll need to remove the upper mounting bolt on the stabilizing link. I recommend strongly that you soak the nut with penetrating oil prior to the removal. It's quite easy to damage the stud if you don't.

Fit a 14mm box wrench on the nut. I recommend a 6-point wrench, but I didn't have one, so I used a 6-point socket to break the nut free. After I'd loosened the nut a tiny bit with the socket, I replaced the socket with a box wrench.  

The stud has a 5mm hexagonal hole in its shaft to enable fitting an Allen wrench to prevent it from turning with the nut. Make sure it's cleaned out so you can get a good grip with the Allen wrench, as shown here:
102-0289_IMG.JPG (229512 bytes)
It's common for the nut to loosen a bit, then jam up as you try to remove it entirely. If you strip out the internal hole, you can get a grip on the stud from behind the bracket with a pair of thin-nose pliers or vise-grips. Be very careful, though, as I ruined one of the studs this way (more on that later).

If the bolt is reluctant to loosen, try removing the lower bolt instead. You can remove the top one later after the strut has been removed.

Once the nut is removed, test to see if there is any tension or compression on the link. If not, you might be able to push the stud back through the hole in the bracket, and twist it out. I was able to do this on one of the two rear links:
102-0292_IMG.JPG (646681 bytes)
If the stud won't clear the bracket, or if there's too much tension/compression on the link, leave it alone until you are ready to remove the strut later on.
Before you proceed to actual strut removal, find a nice, thick towel and fit it between the bottom of the strut and the axle below. This is to prevent (hopefully) any damage to the axle and boot when the strut is unbolted. My rear struts were still under some pressure after the bolts were loosened, although some users have reported otherwise. It's best to be safe.
Now it's time to loosen the 19mm bolts attaching the strut to the hub. Again, a long breaker bar will be necessary:
102-0294_IMG.JPG (178328 bytes)
Once you've removed the nuts, DO NOT remove the bolts:
102-0298_IMG.JPG (308184 bytes)
Remove the side panels near the engine lid to gain access to the top strut mounts (two Phillips screws and a 10mm bolt for the ground wire). If there's a rubber plug covering the top of the strut, remove it. Here's what you'll see:
102-0297_IMG.JPG (186512 bytes)
OK, here's a tip that I learned the hard way: take a 19mm deep socket and loosen the nut on the top of the strut rod. Just loosen it enough to make removal easier later on.

Now remove the three 14mm nuts that secure the top of the strut tower to the body.
OK, now comes the tricky part. You may need to find a way to compress the strut to relieve pressure on the mounting bolts. I used a floor jack, and placed my breaker bar under the stabilizing link bracket on the strut body (since that was the only protuberance I could reach), then jacked it up slightly. This was not a very satisfactory (nor SAFE!) solution, but it worked. Next time, I will find a better brace, like a strong piece of hardwood.

If you were unable to remove the upper link stud before, try to remove it as you slowly compress the strut. I strongly encourage you to never put your hand where it could be injured by a sudden slip of the brace.
Once the strut has been compressed, you should be able to remove the mounting bolts. I used a drift to tap the remaining one out. I was then able to slowly pull the hub carrier towards me, working the bracket free from the strut:
103-0304_IMG.JPG (265804 bytes)
Tip #2: The strut can be removed easiest if you push the bottom of it towards the caliper side of the hub. It's fairly heavy, so be prepared to prevent damage as it come loose from the top mount. Here's a photo after it's been removed:
103-0305_IMG.JPG (250800 bytes)
OK, here's the strut assembly prior to disassembly:
103-0309_IMG.JPG (259999 bytes)
Using a tip suggested by Keith Quistorff, I placed a couple of sockets and washers between the ears of the mounting brackets to prevent them from being bent when I tightened them in the vise:
103-0320_IMG.JPG (172348 bytes)
I placed the assembly upright in my vise, and installed the spring compressors. I really liked the way these worked (borrowed from Checker Auto Parts), as they never slipped and felt secure at all times.
103-0324_IMG.JPG (264122 bytes)
As you can see, there's only a small rip in the strut boot. This was, by far, the best boot of the bunch. One of them was in shreds.
Once the spring is compressed enough to be rotated by hand on its perch, you can remove the nut on the top of the strut rod, the 19mm one you loosened earlier:
103-0328_IMG.JPG (190272 bytes)
If you neglected to loosen the nut earlier, or if the upper coil spring retainer keeps loosening on the strut rod, you can try the following technique:
103-0330_IMG.JPG (176682 bytes)
The pipe wrench is gripping the round "collar" directly below the upper suspension mount. If that fails, you'll need to lay the strut on its side and secure the upper suspension mount in the vise. Then you should be able to loosen the strut rod nut. I had to do this with one of the rear struts, but I don't have a photo.
Once the nut's been removed, there's a steel spacer below it:
103-0332_IMG.JPG (179356 bytes)
Slip the spacer out and put it aside. The Tokicos include a new nut, but not the spacer.
OK, ready for disassembly, right? Well, maybe. If you are unlucky, the upper suspension mount might have "welded" itself to the strut rod, due to rust, corrosion, bad spirits, impure thoughts, etc. I was lucky with the rear struts, and they came apart once the rod nut was removed. 

If the upper mount does not pop off, then you'll need to use brute force, persuasion, harsh language, whatever it takes. Trust me, it's simply there by the force of friction. If you wish to know what lengths it takes to remove it, skip ahead to the description of the front strut disassembly I experienced.
Once the upper mount was removed, I cleaned it off and sprayed some black paint on it to make it presentable. After all, I was going to see all that rust every time I adjusted the Tokico, right? I set it aside to dry.
Here's a view of the strut after the upper mount and coil spring have been removed:
103-0333_IMG.JPG (138792 bytes)
The next challenge is the large (2") nut that retains the internal strut mechanism. It's often referred to as the gland nut, but I'm not sure where that terminology originates, not whether it's correct.
Assuming you do not have the correct tool to remove this (and trust me, it's on there TIGHT), here's a way to remove it. Lay the strut body in the vise horizontally to hold it more securely:
103-0335_IMG.JPG (134444 bytes)
Get a large pipe wrench on the nut and slowly crank it off. Be careful not to gouge the strut body too badly. I had to fit a long steel tube as a handle extender on my pipe wrench to apply enough leverage. 
UPDATE (07-16-2001)
Aron Seiler offered a tip for removing the gland nut that I never thought of. He mounted the strut upside down in a vise, with the jaws securely holding the gland nut. He then slipped a long drift through the mounting holes on the strut body, and twisted it loose. Here are a couple of photos Aron provided:

gland_nut_2.jpg (110746 bytes)
gland_nut_1.jpg (102476 bytes)
Once the nut is loosened, reposition the strut upright in the vise, as it's filled with oil that will leak out when the nut is removed:103-0336_IMG.JPG (267790 bytes)
Ready for reassembly! Well, maybe after some serious cleaning. We'll skip that part, since it's simply mindless, boring, "fill-your-lungs-with-terrible-solvent-odors" labor. I also took this time to wire-wheel all the nuts and bolts. I even cleaned off the rust that had accumulated on my brake rotor. I live in Las Vegas, so rust is not a big problem (with average humidity less than 10%), but the car came from the Midwest, so there's some history there.

In my case, this was an excellent time to take a much needed break. Thai food, anyone?
OK, here we are with the new Tokico cartridge dropped in the strut body:
103-0339_IMG.JPG (142039 bytes)
You'll need to add some lightweight oil between the strut cartridge and the strut housing to improve heat transfer. It doesn't take much, and Tokico recommends filling to within 1-1/2" to 2" of the top of the housing tube. I used some 15W motorcycle fork oil I had laying around, since it was available. Fork oil is a bit pricey for this duty, but I knew I'd never use it, since 15W results in really stiff fork action in a motorcycle.
I wrapped some protective packing material around the shaft to protect it in case my wrench slipped during the reinstallation of the gland nut. Here's a photo:
103-0340_IMG.JPG (145849 bytes)
Tokico provides a new gland nut (I guess they know how badly a pipe wrench can chew up the old one). They also recommend both a torque setting (~90 ft. lbs.) and a minimum "spacing" that describes the amount of threads showing. If this spacing is below the minimum, Tokico includes a spacer washer that should be inserted atop the cartridge before the gland nut is installed. It was not necessary in my case.
I did not have a way of accurately measuring the torque of the gland nut. However, knowing the torque required on the wheel nuts (76 ft. lbs.) and the strut mounts (127 ft. lbs.), I used my best estimation. Somewhere between "tight" and "God-awful tight".  The muscles in my now-aching back are testament to the application of the required force.
Once the gland nut is secured, the new strut boot is installed. I used KYB boots, but not for any particular reason other than availability. 

UPDATE (02-20-01): KYB ships wire ties with the boot to retain it to the strut body. I found that these ties are too weak to hold the boot at full extension, so I replaced them with a heavier tie. If that still comes loose, I think I'll use stainless steel screw clamps instead.
Next, I installed the new spring. The top of the spring has a flat top and tighter coils (thanks for that advice goes to the MR2 list!).
103-0344_IMG.JPG (140685 bytes)
This was really hard, and another break was called for (to ease my back muscles).
Once the spring was in place, the newly painted (and not-quite-dry) upper suspension mount was installed. Luckily, the nut on the strut rod (don't forget the collar!) required a much lower application of torque application.
103-0345_IMG.JPG (170779 bytes)
Ready to go!
Reinstallation was simple with the exception of compressing the strut to install it into the hub carrier. During the removal, the strut is in the proper position, and compressing it is merely to take it apart. During assembly, you need to compress it, then position it, and without the proper tools, it can be frustrating. 

There's really not enough room to fit spring compressors, so I ended up using the same "mickey-mouse" tools I used to remove it. Next time, I'll find a better brace to use for compressing the strut in place.
A special note on installing the three nuts on the studs at the top of the strut. The BGB calls for 59 ft. lbs. on these 14mm nuts, which seems way too high. I tightened them at a little over 40 ft. lbs. One of the MR2 list readers said that in Volume One of the BGB, a different torque is given: 47 ft. lbs. Given that the front struts call for only 36 ft. lbs., even the lower value seems more than adequate. 
With the rears reinstalled, it was time to do the fronts.

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