97 - 01 Toyota Camry Front End Noise: Strut Mount / Strut Replacement

97 - 01 Toyota Camry Strut Mount / Suspension Strut Replacement

A common wear item on the 97 - 01 Toyota Camry is the front suspension strut mount (referred to as a Suspension Support in the above diagram). A rubber vibration dampener within the strut mount has a tendency to separate from the interior metal casing of the strut mount assembly. This separation causes the strut mount bearing to shake when the Camry is driven over rough road surfaces resulting in a constant front end rattling noise. The noise may be less noticeable in Summer than in Winter due to rubber expansion and contraction when changes occur in ambient temperature. There are no visible indications of strut mount wear ... only noise; however, on some very worn out mounts, the rubber dampener can be wiggled within the mount's metal frame when tested off the strut assembly. Many automotive repair facilities promote replacing the strut / shock assembly to rectify the problem but fail to replace the strut mount resulting in an expensive repair job with the rattling noise still present. Perhaps the cost of one new mount being almost that of a new strut causes the service center to think twice before recommending a strut mount replacement. Approximately half the mounts I've replaced were on relatively good performing struts; on the other half, the struts did need replacement. Another source of front end noise may be attributed to worn or broken Lower Control Arm Bushings. Most Camry's with over 150k miles begin showing signs of wear or cracks in these bushings. However, a lot of the wear may be attributed to the harshness of the road surface that the car had been driven. A DIY link to replace the Lower Control Arm is provided at the end of this article.

The work involved in replacing the strut mount requires removal of the strut assembly from the car and compressing the strut springs to relieve tension on the strut mount which is held together by the strut stem nut. If you own a high mileage Camry, consider replacing your old struts with the defective strut mount. However, as previously mentioned, I have replaced many strut mounts on strut assemblies that continued to provide good dampening and rebound action.

Diagram Verbiage Similes:

Shock Absorber = Strut

Suspension Support = Strut Mount

Upper Insulator = Upper Spring Insulator combined with a Strut Bellows

Bearing = Strut Bearing

Stabilizer Bar Link = Sway Bar Link

If you decide to replace the old Strut when performing the Mount replacement, consider replacing the Lower Spring Insulator, Strut Bellows and Spring Bumper. The existing Upper Insulator can be retained and reused. Use a razor to cut away the bellows component from the insulator and replace it with a new bellows that 'floats' on the strut stem. Also inspect the Sway Bar Link. A worn out or lose link can also be a major source of front end noise when driving over rough road surfaces.

If Japanese replacement struts are desired, shop for either KYB or Tokico. For domestic manufacturers, Monroe or Gabriel. No name brands, Ebay. The cost of a mount with a new bearing can vary from $25 to $100. No customer complaints have been encountered with the $25 units bought from Ebay vendors... A new suspension strut from $40 to $75 each. Cross reference prices and shipping costs for the best deal.

Hex Socket for Sway Bar Link Removal

Wire Brush Sway Bar Link Nut and Bolt ... then Apply Penetrating Oil

Secure 14mm Box Wrench and relieve initial tension

Prevent Sway Bar Link Bolt from moving with 5mm Hex Socket while loosening nut.

If the nut freezes up or becomes too difficult to turn, apply penetrating oil, re-tighten the nut and then loosen. Continue doing this until the nut spins off. Apply Constant pressure on the Sway Bar Bolt. If the hex socket spins inside the bolt, the sway bar link must be cut off and replaced with a new one.

Position the Sway Bar Link away from the Strut Assembly

Loosen and remove the Strut to Steering Knuckle Boots, Brake Line Brake Bolt and the ABS clip.

After the Strut to Steering Knuckle bolts have been removed, rock the knuckle assembly back and forth until it separates from strut assembly.   Applying some penetrating oil can ease the process.

All items secured to the strut assembly removed

Remove the Strut Mount Nuts

If you don't have a helper, hold the strut assembly with one hand while removing the last nut with your other hand.

Strut Assembly removed

The best spring compressors on the market

Mount the Spring Compressors

WARNING - Do not use cheap spring compressors ... like those that go for $15 or less.  The typical 3 finger compressors tend to slip off when tension is applied and the bolt threads wear very quick.   Good quality compressors can be rented from Oreilly's for free;  AutoZone, around $10 a day.  

Ensure that the Spring Compressors are mounted opposite of each other and there is enough room to attach a socket on the compressor's bolt head.

Apply equal turns on the spring compressor bolt heads. If one side has more compression than the other, the compression bolt will tilt into the bottom strut spring mount. An electric or air powered impact driver connected to a socket extension will make the compression process go faster. Continue compressing the springs until the strut mount can be turned by your hand. There may be only an inch of thread left on the spring compressor bolt to relieve all tension on the strut mount. Use an impact driver to spin off the nut that secures the strut mount to the strut stem.  Otherwise, the upper mount must be held firmly in place while attempting to remove the nut with a socket wrench.  In anticipation of this problem, remove the initial tension on this nut with a 1/4 turn BEFORE removing the strut assembly from the car.

If replacing the strut, remove the spring with the attached spring compressors. The Upper Spring Mount and rubber mount/bellows should first be removed then followed by the spring and lower spring insulator. Alignment paint marks can be applied to all removed components to ease re-assembly.

When attaching the new Strut Mount, ensure that the alignment grove in the mount matches the grove on the strut stem. When they are in alignment, the mount will spin the stem. If this alignment cannot be achieve, the strut spring may have to be compressed some more to allow the strut stem to rise and stay above the upper spring mount. Finger tighten the strut stem nut and tighten with a quick blip from your impact driver. To remove the spring tensioners, apply equal relief tension on the tensioner bolts until the upper spring seat pushes up against the strut mount. Do not allow the spring to be displaced during this process.

Carefully position the strut assembly into the strut assembly body mount. Ensure that the ABS and Brake lines are in their proper position. Hand Tighten the three strut mount bolts. When the strut assembly is proper position, tighten the strut mount bolts.

When attaching the Strut Assembly to the Steering Knuckle, use a hydraulic jack to lift the steering knuckle into the Strut Assembly. With some nudging, the knuckle will slip into the assembly. Now, use the hydraulic jack to lift and lower the knuckle until the strut to steering knuckle bolt hole alignment is achieved and push, twist and nudge the bolts through the holes.

Apply anti-seize lubricant to all bolt threads if you ever have plans on disassembling the struts again. Tighten the strut nuts, connect and tighten the brake line and ABS brake bracket bolt, attach the ABS plastic bracket to the strut connecting holes and connect the sway bar link bolt to the strut and secure the locking nut.

Double check all your work. Ensure all nuts are securely fastened. No front end alignment is necessary after this work.

If front end noise exists after the mounts and struts have been replacement, check the condition of the Sway Bar Links, Sway Bar Bushings, Control Arm Bushings and the Lower Ball Joints. Torn rubber dust covers for either of these parts should merit replacement. It is recommended that they be replaced in pairs. Sway Bar Bushings may be considered worn out when the bar can be moved in and out within the bushing(s) when pushed and pulled by hand. Replacement of these items will result in a noticeable improvement in handling and ride quality.

An Aftermarket Replacement Strut Bellows

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Comments 22 comments

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

Brilliant! This is the type of help people need!

With your description and photos I could train my dog to replace a strut and suspension support!

Well written, great photos and a very worthwhile hub.

I gave it a thumbs up and useful.

hardlymoving profile image

hardlymoving 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

Thanks Earnest for the feedback!

hardlymoving profile image

hardlymoving 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

Hello Mush,

The stem should not be touching the hood at all. There should be ample clearance. The rubber inside the mount, when it's worn, is causing the rattling noise that may be giving the impression that it's rattling against the hood.

Aby 5 years ago

This is amazing!

My 1997 Camry started making a loud noise recently, and I now know what it is!

Thank you so much :)

Jerry C. 5 years ago

Have you tried monrae quick strut? The Monroe Strut fit was just the like ODM strut. So simple and easy to install. My 03 Impla has that "like new" ride again

hardlymoving profile image

hardlymoving 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

Jerry C -

Yes ... I've replaced Monroe struts. They're all made in China so I buy cheaper ones off of ebay.

JL 5 years ago

BEST how to on the net. Period. Well done.

hardlymoving profile image

hardlymoving 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author


Thanks. Problem with Technical Manuals are they tend be too general and don't anticipate small problems that can be be extremely timing consuming to resolve.

Camry Cheapskate 5 years ago

Thanks for the great write up and pictures. I needed the struts and mount replaced and all the soft parts were destroyed so I used a KYB Strut plus assembly that replaces everything as a unit. I needed to use a brass drift to remove one of the knuckle bolts but the rest slid out easy. I didn't understand at first that the sway bar link bolt is "screwed into" the nut and out the back.

Handling is improved and the "knocks" with every minor road imperfection are gone. 185,000 miles and I got two unsolicited offers to buy my car this week.

Thanks hardlymoving

Camry owner 4 years ago

Very good posting & information - Thanks a lot. Even Pepboys mechanics couldn't figure out the problem & had to go through an expensive fix of Strut assembly & again for Strut mount :-(

J. David / Hawaii 4 years ago

this is a very one of the best guides I have ever come

across in a long time, good visuals and walk thru step

by step. Thank you.............JD

Oskar 3 years ago

hi hardlymoving, I have this front suspension noise 5 years ago and the problem was solved after the replacement of both strut mounts.

Few months ago, similar sound came back on the right side, I changed the strut mount again, the sound became lesser. Then I changed the strut, and the sound came back especially in the early morning.

I also had the sway bar bushing replaced in the troubleshooting process.

The mechanic had checked the sway bar link and lower arm and nothing else seem to be loose.

One thing about the new strut mount is that top opening is different from the old one. The old one has oval shape opening like the picture you posted. The new old has round opening like the one on the advertisement link above. The different is that that the center the strut is offset about 1/2 inch compare to the old one. Could this be the problem?

I asked the spare part shop and they said the strut mount with oval opening is no longer available.

I have later found out that the part that I got is not the "A" grade part, it is "B" grade quality, but it is still brand new, should it caused problem from day one?

Please advise......and thank you very much for all the good info above.

hardlymoving profile image

hardlymoving 3 years ago from Memphis, TN Author


An offset of 1/2" is a lot. I believe that much of an offset could have stressed the strut to failure; hence the suspension noise. In addition, since the mounts were replaced 5 years ago, the struts may have worn out from regular usage. For the nominal price difference between replacement strut components and a new Complete Strut Assembly (i.e. new mount, spring seat, bearings, spring, bellows), you may be better off replacing you old strut with the new assembly. Labor time should be less than one hour compared to spring and component transfer to the new strut.

Oskar 3 years ago

hardlymoving, thank you very much for the prompt attention!!

I'm quite uncomfortable about the offset but the problem is I'm still not able to locate another new strut mount that is exactly same as the old one.

The spare part guy keep saying that new one I have suit all Camry 97~01.

Actually all my 4 struts are still new, I changed to Tokico about 3 months ago. All are fine except the front right.

The Complete Strut Assembly sounds like a good idea, but will it be good if replace just one side? It should be best to replace also the left side but it already have new strut and it is not giving any problem......

hardlymoving profile image

hardlymoving 3 years ago from Memphis, TN Author


I a little confused. You first stated that the noise was fixed 5 years ago by replacing the strut mounts. Then you recent post stated that new Tokico struts where replaced a few months ago. If the 5 year old mounts were transferred to the new struts, then I would assume that your mount(s) have worn out. Also, I don't know how the new struts were installed. If the struts had worn Spring Bumpers, that can ruin struts quickly. Tokico are expensive, high quality struts with an excellent warranty. I would go back to the tech who installed the struts and have him look into fixing the problem.

Oskar 3 years ago

Hi hardlymoving, sorry about the confusion.

5 years ago, I only changed the strut mounts, the struts were still ok then, and the sound was instantly fixed.

This time, for the sake of confirming my suspicion, I first changed the strut mount of the front right. Then found the sound is still there, though a little lesser. It is actually about time to change the struts, so I changed to the Tokico.

On front left, it is new strut with old mount, no problem.

On front right, it is new strut with new mount, the sound become louder and clearer, especially when the ambient temperature is cooler. It become less noticeable after driving around for a while.

I checked with the mechanic again last week, he said he will check on the drive rack next time I send in the car, is it possible the drive rack could cause such sound?

Almost all the material I read so far is pointing back to the strut mount, so maybe I was unlucky and got one that is bad......

Your expertise and patient is much appreciated.

hardlymoving profile image

hardlymoving 3 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

Its the strut mount ... especially when the noise gets louder when the weather gets cooler. And it appears that the mechanic may have installed the incorrect mount but won't admit it. I tell all my junior mechanics to honor their work ... if that means spending time for free to fix a problem they could have avoided if they had the correct part or didn't rushed to get the job done. This is a problem in the auto repair industry where many are paid by the job and not by the hour (that is hasty work is rewarded with more $$$). The 'Rack' problem (i.e. Rack and Pinion Steering) sounds like total B.S. He wants to point you to a non existent problem to pay for his time to fix the real problem.

Oskar 3 years ago

Hi hardlymoving, thank you very much again for your time and attention.

I'll have to go look for another strut mount to settle it.

I like my Camry very much, the only issue with an older car is the availability of good original parts. Otherwise, it is almost least for me.

Thank you again and have a pleasant evening.

Jeff 20 months ago

What's the torque specs on those bolts? Is that first 2 numbers showing on the pic? Thx

hardlymoving profile image

hardlymoving 20 months ago from Memphis, TN Author


The first number on the diagram, I assume, would be lbs. On nuts and bolts on these type of parts, I torque by feel.

mray0326 18 months ago

the torque is 50 ft lbs on the upper three bolts, 156 ft lbs on the two knuckle bolts, and 20 ft for the break line.

for hardlymoving;

I am an aviation technician and I am having trouble figuring out why my engine is smoking under the hood, I've replaced the timing belt, water pump, retimed and checked for oil and water leaks by visual inspection. I do not have any water or oil leaks that I can see any suggestions?

I also have been buying older cars and trucks in the 90's age range to fix up and resell for higher to pay for my schooling, I also do some work on the side for 20-30 an hour and was curious if that sounded like a good price for someone who is starting out but still has a good understanding on how to do the job right the first time.

hardlymoving profile image

hardlymoving 18 months ago from Memphis, TN Author


Smoke coming from under the hood? Coolant or engine oil smoke? For a coolant leak, perform a pressure test (you'll have to buy a kit). For an oil leak, check the valve cover and oil pan gaskets ... either way, for engine oil to smoke, it has to leak onto something in the exhaust system.

$20 to $30 an hour is pretty cheap when most shops are charging over $85. You should be charging around $50 if you are really doing quality work and backup your work (which means you'll have to work for free to fix something you may have screwed up or used substandard parts that failed). Mexican run shops (and these guys are pretty good) charge around $50+ and they're generally located in the "hood". I let these guys do big jobs where I don't have the equipment or time (like engine/transmission swaps & clutch replacements).

If you think $50 is too much, think of the cost of investing in tools, time in researching the repair, time spent going to the customer's home and possible free repair to stand behind your work. For example, I had to redo a timing belt/water pump repair to address 2 problems: 1. New camshaft seal leaked 2. New water pump seal leaked. In spite of the failure, cost of new replacement parts and the free subsequent repair, the customer still refers me to other new customers. Bottom line: I didn't run away from my work and chalked it up as a lesson learned ... don't use cheap parts. If worried about parts failing, then let the customer pick and provide the part. That way if it fails, it's the customer's fault and he pays for the labor. If you provide the parts, you have to put a price mark up to cover your time and effort in getting the part(s). Compare the part price obtained on-line with local retail parts shops. On-line is always cheaper. The difference in price is your profit margin on the part.

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