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Replaced strut bearings 02 GC, how-to

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Old 11-21-2011, 02:42 PM
BINOVC is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: North MS
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Default Replaced strut bearings 02 GC, how-to

I had a productive weekend replacing the strut bearings on our 2002 GC. Following is my step-by-step. Sorry no pics.
The symptoms were a rough grinding noise/feeling when cornering at slow speeds while turning the steering wheel. I had previously replaced the sway bar bushings, but that did not resolve this issue.
Our GC has about 170K miles, and the struts themselves seemed to be fine, so I elected to just replace the bearings (instead of replacing the entire assembly, such as with "Monroe Quick Struts). I purchased MOOG Strut Mounts (K7374) from Rock Auto for about 28 bucks each side, plus shipping. Each box contains 1 upper strut mount, 1 bearing, and 3 new upper strut mount mounting nuts.
It really is not a difficult job for someone with average shade-tree mechanical abilities. I started on the left side, which took several hours, but after figuring out what I was doing, and having all the tools out, etc, the right side took less than an hour. The procedure is the same for both sides.
A couple notes. I recommend an air or electric impact wrench for removing the top strut nut. I really wouldn't know how else to get this nut off otherwise, other than gripping the strut shaft with a strong vice grip (not recommended if you are re-using the strut), or else maybe theres a special tool available (not at Auto Zone though, and couldn't find in a google search). The top of the strut shaft is hex shaped for a socket, but the top nut is recessed down inside the strut mount so deep that it also requires a socket (no way to get a combination wrench on it). Another note, I needed TWO sets of those coil spring compressors. I rented them from Auto Zone. They come as a pair. When I tried just one pair, I could grab 3 coils on one side, but only 2 coils on the other side, and after tightening that one as far as possible the coil was not yet compressed enough. But the coil was now compressed enough to get another pair of compressors on that each could grab 3 coils. Also, you have probably heard dire warnings about being careful using spring compressors, and 4 makes it feel safer than 2. And they're free to rent if you have an Auto Zone or the like around, though you might want to check that they have 2 sets available. There's plenty of youtube vids about using coil spring compressors, and removing struts in general. Here's one that uses the same compressors I used:
Anyway here's the steps I took. Your mileage may vary. Do at your own risk, etc.
1) Loosen lug nuts, jack and jack-stand, remove wheel.
2) Remove bracket holding the wheel sensor wire to the strut (1 little 10mm nut).
3) Remove the upper mounting nut for the sway bar link (also called stabilizer bar link).
note 1: before you remove the nut, jack up the axle several inches to remove the
tension on the sway bar. I used a floor jack and a small piece of 1/2" plywood (as a
buffer between the jack and the steering knuckle). I also drilled a small hole in the
plywood to accomodate a small "nipple" protruding down from the knuckle that I was
afraid to put the jack against.
note 2: You will probably need a wrench or pliers on the back side of this stud, or the
ball joint will just spin when you try to remove the nut. Mine (aftermarket MOOG
swaybar links) has a place for a narrow wrench on the back-side, but I used a small pair
of craftsman "robo" pliers. A small pair of channel-locks would work.
4) Remove the 2 large nuts from the bolts that connect the strut to the steering knuckle.
They're on pretty tight. Do not try to turn the bolt heads, as the bolts are "splined"
from about 1/2" below the bolt head, preventing the bolt from turning. You will need to
hammer the bolt out in the following manner. First be sure to let the jack down from the
previous step in order to unload the tension from the strut. When you get the nut
unscrewed a ways, leave your socket on the nut and hammer against it until you drive
the bolt loose. It took me quite a few whacks the first time because I forgot to let the
jack down, and also I guess I'm just a weenie. But come out they will. (During re-
assembly, you can "wiggle" the bolt and find its "happy place", where the bolt splines
meet up with the previous grooves, which makes it easier to hammer the bolt back into
5) Double-up a rag to place between the bottom end of the strut and the axle boot, so
that when you are removing the strut assembly it does not cause damage to the rubber
6) Now you need to remove the 3 nuts (13mm) holding the top of the strut. I did not have
enough clearance to use a socket wrench (two of the three nuts are a little ways back
inside the cowl), but I do have a set of ratchet wrenches, and that worked pretty well.
Completely remove the 2 nuts in the back, but before you remove the last remaining nut,
grab hold of the strut assembly in case it drops. It may not drop because it may be
wedged on to the steering knuckle a little, but once you wiggle it a little it will come
free. Then just guide the whole assembly out the bottom.
7) Put the first 2 coil spring compressors on (180 degrees apart). If it's like mine, it will
grip 3 coils on one side but only 2 coils on the other side. Make sure they are on
correctly. The ones I got have small pins that extend out to help lock the brackets onto
the coil. Tighten down each one alternately a little at a time until the "2-coil" side is all
the way as far as it will go. As I said, in my case this did not compress the coil far
enough. Put the other 2 compressors on, each one should now be able to grip 3 coils.
Tighten these two down the same way as the first two. When the coil is compressed far
enough, you should be able to notice a little play between the coil and the upper and
lower plates that the coil presses against, indicating that there is no pressure from the
coil pushing against these plates. Now you can safely remove the upper strut nut, as I
said an impact driver works great here.
8) Watch how things come apart so you will know how to reassemble. Not too complicated
here. The nut, the upper mount, and the bearing itself. Note that the bearing is
different on the top versus the bottom, so put the new one in the same as you took the
old one out. Under the bearing is the flange that the coil rests against. When you put
this back together (it very probably will come loose since nothing is now holding it in
place), notice there is a molded rubber "gasket" that is shaped for the end of the coil to
nest in, so make sure the end of the coil goes back in there correctly.
8) Now, as they say, reassembly is a reversal of the disassembly procedure. I'm sure there
is a torque value for the top strut nut, but I have no idea how you would get it there. I
just gave it several moments with the impact wrench. Notice that the plastic accordion-
shaped dust cover (that covers the shiny strut shaft) probably fell out (mine did), and
you will need to push it back up into place. You'll figure this out when you look at it, if it
fell out.
9) When you re-install the assembly, you will realize that the upper mount only goes on
one way due to the spacing of the mounting studs. With the assembly oriented for the
upper mount to fit, the bottom end may no longer be aligned with the steering knuckle.
All you have to do, once the top 3 nuts have been installed, is to twist it around until it
lines up. So basically, just bolt everything back together. By this time, that should not
be difficult to complete.

Hope this helps someone out.

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