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.
For rear suspension strut and spring replacement:
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
- 97-03 Avalon, Solara, Camry, Lexus ES300 Front Strut Control Arm Sway Bar Link Replacement - YouTube
Complete suspension replacement of typical worn out components: Complete strut, lower control arm with new bushings, lower ball joints and stabilizer/sway ba...