On Saturday Sander and I tackled the unlikely project of changing the struts on my ’91 Plymouth Acclaim. Here’s a little ‘how to’ that details our path to victory.
1. Go to shop and buy an $80 jack, a new set of open top offset wrenches, and a spring compressing tool.
2. Jack up car and remove tires in the morning. Before 10am.
3. Begin to remove the first strut from the bottom by squeezing the spring together with the spring compressor. not sure how much to compress them? don’t worry! it probably won’t be enough. Decide not to remove the brake cable, then argue for a bit as to which bolt to take off first. After cranking on the bolts with The Pipe of Justice, hammer out the bottom bolts and watch the strut jam itself violently into the steering link. Uh oh? can’t pry the strut out? don’t worry. Just use a four foot crow bar.
4. After realizing that you did the first strut completely wrong, compress the springs more on the second strut and then gracefully remove the top bolt first. the bottom bolts might be tight so once again slide a Pipe of Justice around the end of your ratchet and Crank away. You might break two ratchets like we did (PLEASE NOTE CORRECTION IN COMMENTS) , in which case, just go to Sears and buy 330 dollars worth of new tools and a brand new toolbox.
the new tools of mike d.
5. This is the likely point where you’ll realize that your strut mounts are completely destroyed. Go out to Autozone, Pepboys, and Advanced Auto and discover that none of them carry the part you need. Buy some garage door liner in hopes that that will work instead.
6. Yank off the second strut out of the place and throw up your hands for some high fives.
7. Try using that garage door liner as a strut mount. Doesn’t work? bummer. find some random tube that Sander miraculously has lying around the house and slip it over the spring instead. that will probably work.
8. Spend 2 hours trying to fit the first strut back into place before realizing that you have to compress the spring from 2 feet in length to 10 inches in length. This is an extremely frightening experience and its best if you wear gloves and safety glasses… even though if the spring let loose it would likely blow a hole in your side the size of a beach ball.
9. Finally get the strut oriented within your wheel well. Then try to get the spring compression tool out and realize it’s a lost cause. Brainstorm for an hour. Realize that you can put two nuts on the wrong end of the spring compression shaft to turn the screw and rejoice at your achievements. You’ve finished the first side!
10. Finish the second side in half the time because you finally know how to do it.
Here’s a picture of us that Kurt took just after 9pm as we struggled to finish our work. Notice Sander working on his car in the background under electric light. Yes, this was an epic day for all involved.