More Car Fun This Weekend

The drivers side strut in Der Wagen was leaking oil and the 05 Subie was feeling very bouncy so…

This weekend I decided to replace the front struts in Der Wagen and all the struts in the 05 Subie. I was also hoping to replace the spark plugs in the Subie, but I ran out of time.

Saturday morning I cleaned and re-arranged the garage so that a car would fit. I also installed the second set of shelves that I had built. It was almost 2:00 before I actually pulled the BMW in and started working on it.

Shelf One
Shelf One
Shelf Two
Shelf Two

According to the YooToob videos it should be easy to remove the struts from the BMW. Undo the steering rod, remove the brake caliper (hose isn’t long enough), remove the brake disk (just to get it out of the way), undo one of the links, unbolt the strut at the top, push it down and pull it out of the knuckle.

Everything came apart fine, until the “push it down” step. There was not enough give to push it far enough down to clear the fender. So I ended up undoing the other two links (only two bolts, but I had to remove a bunch more plastic skirting to get to one) and removing the hub and strut as an assembly. This turned out to be a good thing since the hole in the hub for the strut was full of corrosion and needed cleaning out anyway – which was a lot easier on the bench instead of sitting on the floor.

Something missing here. I think there should be a wheel and some other hardware.
Something missing here. I think there should be a wheel and some other hardware.
Strut in the hub, on the bench.
Strut in the hub, on the bench.

I was concerned that the strut would be stuck in the hub, since the strut was steel and rusting, but the hub was aluminum, and the strut pulled right out.

Old and Busted vs New Hotness.
Old and Busted vs New Hotness.

The next step was compressing the spring. The instructions that came with the new strut said it required a special BMW tool, which of course I didn’t have, but I did have a set of standard spring compressors.

I ended up grinding the end of the compressor to get a little more clearance so I could fit it on the springs higher up, but the standard compressors got the job done, albeit with some futzing around.

There sure is a lot of energy stored in that compressed spring so I treated it with respect while I was working on it.

Compressed Spring. Lots of energy there.
Compressed Spring. Lots of energy there.

I was interested to discover that all the weight of the car goes through one little ball bearing in the strut mount. I had never taken one of these apart before. I was annoyed to discover that the bearing was not sealed and the dust cap for the top was missing, so the bearings were full of grit and crap and barely moved. So I had to spend a bunch of time cleaning and re-packing them.

After fiddling around re-assembling the strut and spring assembly (a bit of a pain in the ass) I cleaned out the corrosion from the hub and stuck the strut back into it.

Re-assembled with new strut.
Re-assembled with new strut.

I bolted the hub and strut back to the car and reattached all the links. Put the brakes back together, reinstall the plastic skirting, and bolt the wheel back on. Total time: 4 hours.

It was dinner time, so I decided to eat. Then I went back out and did the other side.

Same drill as before, but since I knew what worked and what didn’t and what actually needed to be removed it took a lot less time. Total time for the second side: 2.5 hours.

— Break for sleepy time —

On Sunday around 11:00 I backed the 05 Subie into the garage, jacked it up, pulled off a wheel and took a look. The YooToob video I watched said to remove the brake caliper and rotor, undo the steering link, unbolt the strut at the bottom and top and pull it out. So I did, and it worked great. Much simpler than the BMW.

Then I tried to compress the spring to remove it. The Subie springs are much larger than the BMW ones and the mounts are a different design, so it appeared that the compressors I had would not fit. Sigh.

So I ran to O’Reilly and rented the other fork-style compressor they had. Turns out it wasn’t big enough. Sigh two.

So I ran to Hazard Fraught and bought the large, scissors style compressor. “Works on springs up to 7″ in diameter.” The Subie springs are just under 7″, so “yay”?

I assembled the HF compressor. Tried to fit it on the spring. Spent a bunch of time trying to jerry-rig a way to hold the strut upright on the table (no vise) so I could get the compressor on it. There is no way to get this thing on here, at all. No way, no how. Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot? Now what?

So I futzed around some more with the original spring compressor I had and figured out a way to make it work. I actually compressed the spring, removed the plate from the top and then had to un-compress the spring and re-compress it to reassemble the strut. Major pain in the ass. But I got it done.

There is a distinct lack of Subaru strut photos due to the fact that I got disgusted with the hassle factor of the compressors.

I reinstalled the strut in the car (easy) and resembled the brakes. Bolted on the wheel and done. Elapsed time: Who knows. Hours. Way too freaking long.

On to the other side. After doing the first side I realized that I did not need to remove the brakes or steering linkage or really anything other than the brake hose stay and ABS wire stays. Seriously. Removing the strut really only requires undoing the brake hose and ABS stays, unbolting the strut at the bottom and then the top and pulling it out. Super-simple.

Since I had already done it once, dealing with the spring, while a still a hassle, was easier the second time around. No need to compress, un-compress and re-compress now that I knew where to put the compressors.

Then it was time to put the strut back into the car…

I bolted the strut into the tower, and tried to line up the hub. The hub wouldn’t go back into position. WTF?

Apparently the CV joint on the transmission end had pulled apart. I had this issue before when installing the new CV shaft on this side, and the fix is to line up the shaft and push it back in. Which I could not manage to do.

So since I was frustrated I started taking stuff apart to try and line up the shaft. Off came the brakes. Off came the steering linkage. Undo the axle nut. I was getting ready to remove the lower ball joint (which looked rusted solid) when my brain finally said “Whoa. Hold up a second here.”

I had been trying to lift the lower arm with my jack to straighten the shaft with no success. My brain finally kicked in and determined the reason I couldn’t lift the arm was because the strut was in the way! D’oh! So I pulled the strut out again, lifted the arm with the jack and got the CV joint back together in about 2 minutes. Sheesh.

Sometimes I’m my own worse enemy.

I carefully re-installed the strut, making sure not to pull the CV joint apart again, and bolted all the crap back together. Elapsed time: More hours. Way too damned long.

By this time it was 5:00 or so and I was beat. So no rear struts or plugs this weekend.

But now I know how to do strut work, so another skill gained.


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