matt | May 31, 2009
Went out in the morning, hit Tractor supply, got the stuff we needed. Came home, compressed the springs in the struts, changed out the shock, kind of messed it up and bent the retaining ring, so I had to press it back into shape. Hit it again, got it right, did the second one, no issues. Got the passenger side partway back in, but was having trouble, so we had a go at the driver’s side which basically popped right in. It turns out that the alignment is really critical, and you need to have it just right, else it won’t go. Loosened and realigned the passenger’s side, and it went in quite easily. Tightened the crap out of everything, and we’re good.
If we were to do it again, it would take a lot less time.
- Remove driver’s side strut – 20 mins (which was about how long it took)
- Remove passenger’s side strut – 1 hour (actually took like 5, but now we know what we’re doing).
- Change shocks – 15 mins each
- Replace driver’s side strut – 20 mins
- Replace passenger’s side strut – 30 mins
So, the two of us can probably do it in about 3 hours. One person would take longer.
The back is basically cake. Jack up the car about 6 inches to uncompress the shock a bit. Undo the top mount with an impact wrench, get on your belly on a creeper and undo the bottom bolt. Fiddle with the height of the car with the jack until you can pop it out (you don’t want to jack the car all the way up lest the spring fall out now that nothing is holding it in). Change the mount onto the new shock, put it all back in.
The only wrinkle was the driver’s side (again) because there’s this molded plastic enclosure which gets in the way of putting one bolt in straight. It took us like an hour on that side and 15 minutes on the other side. If we had to do it again, I’d be more careful on the bolt and it would likely only take us about half an hour to 45 minutes. (Which I expect it to when we do Liz’s next weekend. See, we did the fronts like 6 months ago, but never got to doing the backs until now.)
The new suspension is basically in the ballpark of “factory sport” stiffness, like in a GTI, which is vastly improved over stock. It’s no R32 suspension, but it was like $300, not $1200.
Lizzy contends that the old suspension wasn’t really actually blown, and even hadn’t softened up that much – it was that soft to begin with, I was just coming from American cars which drove like waterbeds, so it seemed stiff, and as I got more used to it, I wanted it more stiff. I tend to agree – checking the book and doing the procedure on the shocks I pulled out, they’re still technically good – slightly softer than new, but not really needing to be replaced for another 40k miles or so.
Oh, and the brakes have another 40k miles on them, at least, so I left them. I have the new brakes, and it’s not like they go bad, so when it needs it, I’ve got them.