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post #1 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 02:39 AM Thread Starter
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Big Ed's suspension overhaul thread! (56k no way!)

Disclaimer: I am not a professional mechanic, nor do I work on cars for a living. I'm simply sharing my personal experience and know how with my own suspension rebuild. I take no responsibility for any injuries or property damage that may occur while attempting this on your own.

Hello! Ed here, with another fun filled and informative thread regarding my current suspension overhaul. My car is a '98 Intrepid, which just turned 100,000 miles.

First, a little history;

Back in 2006, when the car had about 60,000 miles on it, I decided to lower it. An "Eibach Pro kit" (lowering springs and 3/8" motor and tranny spacers) was purchased and installed by yours truly. At the time, my original struts seemed to be in good shape, so I used them with the new lowering springs. Again, at the time, I was a big dummy and didn't think that by lowering it, that camber wasn't going to be a big deal. But a couple years later, after I had completely ruined a good set of tires, i realized something(s) need to be done. So I ordered and installed camber kits for the front and rear. The front consisted of a 16mm "camber adjustment bolt" which replaces the top of the two lower strut pinch bolts. This allowed 1 1/2 degrees + and - more adjustment for camber. The rear consists of an adjustable arm to replace the fixed arm that comes from the factory. Having both arms adjustable allows for camber adjustment were otherwise camber is fixed in the rear from the factory. So with the camber parts installed, I was finally able to get a good 4 wheel alignment with camber adjustments that ran about $260. (alignments on lowered cars ain't cheap!!!)

Anyway, fast forward to today and here I am. The car now has a hair over 100,000 miles on it and the original struts have finally seen their day. I had been having a lot of noise and clunks in the front end and thought the struts, mounts, and isolators would be the best place to start!

The Eibach lowering springs i want to keep. I've grown accustomed to the lowered stance, the improved handling and the drop dead sexy good looks. Raising the car back up to stock ride height would just be..... wrong. In other words, "quick struts" were not an option. The first thing that I knew I was going to need, was spring compressors. Either Advance Auto or Autozone both rent these for anywhere between 20 - 40 bucks...

Or you can buy a set for $32!



Compressing the springs... we'll talk about that in a minute.

I also bought:

(part numbers in RED)

4 new Monroe Sensatrac struts
Front right - 71667
Front left - 71668
Rears - 71669

And after much homework and research, ended up at the dealer for OEM strut mounts. (see this thread for the reasons why!)

Front right - 04782019AB
Front left - 04782018AB

Unlike the aftermarket "mount kits" (which we don't want), the OEM mounts don't come with the spring seat/bearings

So;

Two Moog spring seat/bearing assemblies - K7337 (Rock Auto)

Here's one corners' stuff before it got installed



The OEM mounts



edit: lets talk about the strut removal and the spring swap here for a minute. Removing the struts from the front:

1. raise the car and support on jack stands. (see pic below on where to place the stand)
2. remove wheel
3. remove brake assembly (tip: I always stick a flathead screwdriver between the inner pad and the rotor to push back the caliper piston a little before I ever loosen any bolts. Just makes things easier when reassembling the brakes. And I always use a small cardboard box to rest the caliper on, instead of letting it dangle, supported by the brake line.)
4. If equipped, remove the ABS sensor and the "hook" mount where it's attached to the strut and let it hang out of the way.
5. Disconnect the tie rod from the strut by removing the nut, then, you might need a ball joint separator (pickle fork), or I've heard of people using a pry bar, but in FL we just give it a good whack from underneath with a big hammer (preferably a brass one if you're going to be re-using parts, but if you're replacing them, a regular hammer is just fine) and it'll pop right out.
6. Disconnect upper stabilizer link form strut by removing nut and ...see number 5^^^
7. remove the two big strut pinch bolts (where the strut attaches to the knuckle) Only turn the nuts!! The bolts are slotted and trying to force them to turn will cause damage!!! Turn and remove only the nuts, then tap the bolts straight out.
8. you should now be able to move the knuckle around by a few inches. I used another piece of cardboard to cover the CV boot in case I accidentally dropped the strut on it. Don't want to damage the boot! Protect that boot!
9. pop the hood and remove the four (4) nuts from the top of the strut tower. These are all that's left holding the strut, so make sure you're holding the strut with one hand while removing the last of the 4 nuts. (Or you could put your knee under it to hold it like I did)
10. Remove strut assembly from the car.
11. Very carefully attach the spring compressors to opposing sides of the spring. The tension of one of these springs while it is compressed is enough to take your head clean off, so be very careful with this. Make sure the compressors are not going to slip. Keep them evenly spaced apart on each side of the spring. and alternate while compressing. (Go back and forth, a little on each side, until the spring is compressed enough to safely remove the mount from the strut.
12. Remove the top strut nut. You're on your own here! lol No really, you can refer to the "special tool" I made below, or get the actual Chrysler "special tool", Use an impact wrench or whatever, but sometimes... that nut is just impossible. One of mine was impossible and mine is a Florida car! So I can imagine how much worse it could have been. See my pic below where I actually had to cut the strut rod. (I gave up on the nut!)
13. Once you have that top nut removed, it's just a matter of reassembly of the new strut. The bottom isolator goes on first, then the spring, the jounce bumper and bumper cup, top isolator, the spring seat and the mount. (((Make sure you're using the right mount for the right strut... and the left mount for the left strut!!! The right (passenger side) will have a little dab of white paint that should show through the little square hole in the top of the strut tower.))) Make sure the spring is seated in the lower isolator correctly as well as the upper isolator and spring seat. Once you're sure you have the isolators, spring and seats assembled correctly, then put the top nut on. Tighten it down with the special tool to 70 ft. lbs..... then you can slowly release the spring compressors. Again, alternating side to side until the spring is fully released and the compressors are free.

14. reverse steps 10 through 1 to install the strut assemblies back in the vehicle. The four bolts will only go in the strut tower one way, just make sure the strut is facing the correct direction


I started with the front struts. The installation went well for the most part, with only one of the top strut nuts giving me trouble to where I ended up cutting the old strut to get my spring off.



I made my own version of the "special tool" to get the top strut nuts off with... worked really well for one side... the other side.. see above pic!

The tool consists of a 22mm deep well socket that I cut in half to be able to fit the 10mm socket inside to hold the shaft. While holding the 10mm on the shaft, you turn the nut with whatever you can grab the cut socket with.. like I said, It worked really well on one side... When I get to the rears, I expect it to work well back there too!




With the new struts, mounts, spring seat/bearings all put back together, they were installed in the car. While doing the installation, I noticed I really needed to replace the;

stabilizer links (sway bar links) - K7342

(that^^^ is the Moog part number, but I actually bought the "TRW" brand because that's all they had in stock locally and I needed them right away.

And the outer tie rod ends;

Moog tie rod ends - ES3529

(I know, it sounds different than the other Moog part numbers, but here it is!)



So at this point, I've installed the new struts, mounts, springseats/bearings, stabilizer links and outer tie rod ends.





If you've never done this sort of thing before, refer to the recommended torque specs on all these bolts. I can pull them up if someone needs these specs... can't recall right off hand... but having a good hard copy FSM really helps for info like that.



Having all that done, I "eye balled" my front alignment and took it for a test drive. A lot better! New struts are fantastic! But I was still having some noise... no where near as much, but still had some noise. Apparently, I have opened the proverbial "can of worms". I decided that I need to go a little further with the front before I venture on the rears and replace my worn out lower control arms/ball joints and tension strut to frame bushings.

Moog Lower control arm w/ball joint (bushings at both ends included)
- right - K7213
- left - K7211

And the "new and improved design" tension strut to frame bushings (Strut rod bushings
Moog - K8516

Keep in mind that this is and has been a Florida car all it's life, so I didn't have any issues with rusted or seized nuts down here. Everything was broken loose with a standard 1/2 drive ratchet and a little elbow grease. (well, plus I did hit everything with PBblaster the night before!)

First, raise the vehicle and support on jack stands. I always put the stand here:



I started the process by removing the ball joint nut first. Here you'll have to use a 5/8" open end wrench to hold the tension strut from twisting while you turn the nut on the end. (I ended up breaking my 5/8 inch wrench, so guess what I used? Yep, you guessed it! The "hillbilly torque wrench" aka crescent wrench lol. This is about the only place where I can think of that a crescent wrench could be used effectively!)

There it is holding the tension strut, up against the frame, while I loosen the nut... The same goes for reassembly... you've got to hold that tension strut (strut rod) still with "something" to keep it from twisting while you loosen OR tighten the nuts on either end.



Next was the inner control arm mount, which was just a matter of a socket on each side...




Then, the control arm to knuckle pinch bolt.



And finally, the tension strut to frame nut. Again, holding the tension strut (strut rod) still with either a 5/8" open wrench, crescent wrench, pipe wrench or whatever.. otherwise, when you turn the nut, the whole thing will twist while you try to turn it.




Now you can remove the whole thing from the car...



And marvel at the carnage!




Comparing to the new



It's pretty obvious which pieces of the bushing kit go on first



The whole new assembly, ready to go in the car...






Oh and one important thing, before torquing everything down, I like to raise the whole thing into "normal riding position". Leave the stand where it is and put the jack under the ball joint and raise the wheel to about where it will be in a normal position. This will prevent accelerated wear on you new bushings. If you tighten them down in the "hanging" position, when you let the car down off the jack, the bushings will be "twisted" form their tightened position.



Again, refer to your FSM for torque specifications on all these nuts.




Ahhh that's better!




So... now that I've replaced all of that^^^^ a test drive confirms that I definitely need everything. I still have a little tiny noise while going over heavy bumps which I think may be my "inner" front sway bar bushings... those will be next!

About three short trips up and down my driveway into the garage to adjust/tweak my toe and I think I've got it just about as perfect as eye balling it is going to get. No scrubbing at all! (I even straightened out my steering wheel following Peve's (Bill Putney) how to!) And the car rides like new now! Now it's time to move on to the rear... and when that's done, I'll go get a fresh 4 wheel alignment w/camber adjustments and probably a couple more new tires!

Last edited by Intrep_ED; 03-15-2011 at 11:50 PM.
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post #2 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 06:43 AM
That rhythm is INFECTIOUS.

 
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Great writeup, Ed!!! Man the nuts on my tension struts are gonna be a biznatch to remove, with all the rust... ugh. Did the control arms come with new bolts/nuts for the pinch bolt & the frame mount?
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post #3 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 06:55 AM
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Simply Awesome Ed, thank you very much.



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post #4 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 08:18 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrBigE View Post
Great writeup, Ed!!! Man the nuts on my tension struts are gonna be a biznatch to remove, with all the rust... ugh. Did the control arms come with new bolts/nuts for the pinch bolt & the frame mount?
Thanks Eric. Yes, the arms came with a new bolt and nut for the knuckle pinch bolt only. The frame mount I had to use my original. Did you not get the same thing as I?

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Simply Awesome Ed, thank you very much.
Thanks Tom!
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post #5 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 09:06 AM
That rhythm is INFECTIOUS.

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Intrep_ED View Post
Thanks Eric. Yes, the arms came with a new bolt and nut for the knuckle pinch bolt only. The frame mount I had to use my original. Did you not get the same thing as I?
Oh I think I have the same thing - just haven't opened the baggie that came in the box yet. LOL
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post #6 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 09:27 AM Thread Starter
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Btw, I typed this up at around 3a.m. (way past my bed time) I'll go back today and fix any mistakes and/or add any missing info or pics when get home from work today.
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post #7 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 09:38 AM
yippee ki yay

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Intrep_ED View Post
I started the process by removing the ball joint nut first. Here you'll have to use a 5/8" open end wrench to hold the tension strut from twisting while you turn the nut on the end. (I ended up breaking my 5/8 inch wrench, so guess what I used? Yep, you guessed it! The "hillbilly torque wrench" aka crescent wrench lol. This is about the only place where I can think of that a crescent wrench could be used effectively!)
lmao @ hillbilly torque wrench......just remember not best used on a oil sender....lol

very nice write up Ed....i bet she feels like a new car.
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post #8 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 10:08 AM
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I might bring new LCA's to Dan's with me next month, and replace them along with the bushings.
I know the LF one was replaced after the accident last year, but alas it is used.
Need to start working on replacing this stuff.



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post #9 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 01:43 PM
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Excellent work!!- GET some SLEEP!!
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post #10 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 01:54 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Dennis... sleep? What's that? lol
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post #11 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 03:44 PM
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That is a awesome write up...EVEN for it being past your bed time.
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post #12 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 05:36 PM Thread Starter
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That is a awesome write up...EVEN for it being past your bed time.
Thanks Sean! (it IS Sean right?) I really appreciate it!
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post #13 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 07:54 PM
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wow, Great write up Ed, now I know what all those part's are called, and I will be updating some more of my front suspension when it warm's the F up..... MODERATORS leave this post rite where it is so that I can find it when I need to !! lol... Very Helpful
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post #14 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 09:07 PM
That rhythm is INFECTIOUS.

 
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Ed did you happen to make note of the PN for the tension struts themselves? I'm wondering if they're available anywhere other than OEM...
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post #15 of 59 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 10:04 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by luckkky13 View Post
wow, Great write up Ed, now I know what all those part's are called, and I will be updating some more of my front suspension when it warm's the F up..... MODERATORS leave this post rite where it is so that I can find it when I need to !! lol... Very Helpful
Thank you. It was my intention to create a thread on the subject that would be helpful to others. I hope to revise the first post a little by adding more detailed information (like torque specs for some of those nuts etc) and add more to the whole thread as I continue on to the rear suspension.


Quote:
Originally Posted by MrBigE View Post
Ed did you happen to make note of the PN for the tension struts themselves? I'm wondering if they're available anywhere other than OEM...
No, I didn't even look for them Eric. I knew RockAuto didn't carry them, but I was planning on using my originals anyway and just do the new bushings... so I didn't look any further.

Are yours in bad enough shape that they need to be replaced?
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