Bradley Handziuk's blog

New struts on my 2003 Civic

I went to get an oil change back in August or September.

Side tangent: I don't really remember and I don't have a record of the oil change because I had a coupon for a free oil change but I figure it was about then. You can see that I don't drive much recently. I used to log every single time I put gas in the car and the mileage at the time but now that I don't drive much I forget to do it when it does happen.

I guess I could trace this back using my insurance which tracks my car. And, actually as I write this I did exactly that. I searched the GPS logs and found I got the oil change on August 16, 2014.

Anyway, returning from the tangent. When I went to get the oil changed they told me that while they had the car off the ground they noticed the front left strut was leaking. They wanted to replace the pair in front, including the springs, for something like 470 $. I think that was the labour only charge. The parts are about 350 $. So that was going to be very expensive.

I did some research and figured I'd brave the risk of compressing a spring myself. Then I discovered these little gems. They are the complete strut assembly with no need to compress the spring myself. And they are only 5 dollars more than the strut alone with no spring.

I went to pick them up from O'Reilly and got 20 $ gift card for spending 335 $ on parts.

I picked a beautiful rainy Saturday afternoon to actually undertake the project. The tools needed were

  • Ratchet with extension bar (3/8" drive)
  • Breaker bar (1/2" drive)
  • 19 mm 1/2" drive deep socket for getting the wheels off
  • 10 mm, 12, mm, 14 mm, 15 mm, 17 mm, 19 mm sockets
  • 7/8" wrench (but I probably should have used a 22 mm wrench but I don't have one of those)
  • 1/2" to 3/8" drive converter
  • Pliers
  • Flashlight
  • Jack stands
  • and of course, a hammer

After I got the wheel off taking the old strut assembly off was simple enough. There is a bolt keeping the brake hose attached and a bolt keeping the ABS line attached (yellow arrows). Those both need to be taken off so they don't get in the way when you separate the steering knuckle from the strut.

There are two large bolts keeping the knuckle on the strut (4 horizontal arrows). One side of the bolt is a 19 mm and the other side I used the 7/8" wrench. These are pretty big bolts.

After those were out I loosened the 3 nuts under the hood but didn't remove them.

Only one nut left: the tie rod nut. The nut came off easily but holy smokes did that bolt not want to come loose. I gently hit it with hammer at first. then sprayed some penetrating solvent on it, then hit it with a hammer some more. I had to go look up some videos at this time to see how hard I can actually hit this thing. It turns out it is hard and a lot. I then unleashed a few really good whacks and pop! it came out. That was about an hour right there...

Once the tie rod was free I stood up, held the strut below, finished loosening the 3 bolts under the hood, and grabbed the strut as it fell free.

Putting the new strut assembly in place was just the same steps but in reverse. I tightened the top bolts evenly but planned on fully tightening them down again when the car is back on the ground.

The other side was much smoother. Everything came apart easily. The only complication this time was putting the tie rod nut back on! The nut got a little tight then just spun the bolt in the tie rod's universal joint. I put it on and took it off many times and eventually it just worked. There are better strategies to this other than just getting lucky but I own none of the tools needed to make the task smoother (i.e. tie rod clamp).

Once both sides were complete I noticed the top bolts were different metals which was odd. Oh well.

That was very fun.

This whole process definitely messed up the alignment which fixing is not a task I am up for. The car drives straight and generally stays straight (about as straight as before) but the wheel is cocked at about 10 degrees.