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Toyota Camry Rear Strut: Coil Spring Replacement

Updated on March 21, 2016
Decomposed Toyota Camry Rear Strut assembly
Decomposed Toyota Camry Rear Strut assembly

Toyota Camry Rear Strut / Shock Absorber

New Toyota Camry rear strut
New Toyota Camry rear strut

97 - 01 Toyota Camry Rear Strut / Coil Spring Replacement

This article will describe how to remove and replace a worn rear strut and/or coil spring for a 97 to 01 Toyota Camry (Generation 4). Consider replacing the rear coil springs if the car tends to 'bottom out' when passengers are seated in the rear or the trunk is filled with moderately heavy cargo. Worn out struts will not affect the ride height of the car. Spring sag can be checked by measuring the distance from the ground to the lower lip of the wheel well or middle of the rear bumper (See before and after photos below). Before measuring the height, check that there is not hundred pounds of 'stuff' in your truck. There are two springs types to chose from: Constant Rate (to restore the car's ride to factory original) and Variable Rate (for carrying heavy loads). My personal preference is the Variable Rate. With little weight in the trunk, you get a normal ride. But the springs change resistance as they compress and become progressively stiffer as the load increases. The third type, which I failed to mention, are vehicle lowering springs. These are great if the focus is on making high speed turns with nominal body roll - but prepare yourself for a bone jarring ride, the suspension constantly bottoming-out whenever encountering unforeseen potholes and steep driveways, and pre-mature wear-out of the struts if not designed for lowering springs.

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.

In addition to replacing the Strut and Spring, in most instances the rubber strut bellows has probably disintegrated. The bellows is a rubber accordion type boot that protects the strut stem for moisture and dirt. Replacing the bellows will increase longevity to your new strut. The bellows can be inspected before performing the strut replacement. To prevent damage to your new strut when driving over large unforeseen potholes, ensure that the Spring Bumper is in reasonably good condition. Complete hard compression of the strut without protection from the Spring Bumper will damage your new strut. If a decision was made to replace the rear struts due to a rattling noise from the rear end when encountering small bumps on the road, it may not be worn struts but rather worn rear stabilizer / sway bar bushings. Replacement of these bushings is simple and is covered in another article by going to:

http://hardlymoving.hubpages.com/hub/90-01-Toyota-Camry-Sway-Stabalizer-Bar-Bushing-Replacement

If Japanese replacement struts are desired, shop for either KYB or Tokico; European ... Sachs or Bilstein. For domestic manufacturers, Monroe or Gabriel. No name brands, Ebay. Upper Spring mounts for the rear struts rarely need replacement; however, the factory struts integrate the strut mount with the bellows. An aftermarket bellows kit can be obtained with a new bumper while retaining the old strut mount but cutting away the bellows portion off of the strut mount. Cross reference prices and shipping costs for the best deal. I've had luck with the inexpensive made in China struts that have held up well with no complaints or problems.



Solara Special Notes:

To remove the rear struts on the Solara, access to the strut tower nuts can only be done by removing the rear window deck panel. To remove the deck panel, the plastic interior side panels must be remove since they hold the deck panel in place. The side panels are held in place with the coat hanger clip, rear passenger panel handle and the seat belt bracket. Once these have been removed, the upper and lower panels can be pulled out by popping off the panel press pins. Other press pins securing the plastic cover for the rear truck must be removed to remove the window deck panel. All of this is a time consuming task.

Strut Parts Cross Reference Chart

Make
Model
Year
Lexus
ES300
1997 - 2001
Toyota
Avalon
1998 - 2001
Toyota
Camry
1997 - 2001
Toyota
Solara
1998 - 2003

Before Spring Replacement Height - 25 3/4" - 22"

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Camry ground to wheel well lip height with bad strut springsGround to bumper crease height with bad strut springs
Camry ground to wheel well lip height with bad strut springs
Camry ground to wheel well lip height with bad strut springs
Ground to bumper crease height with bad strut springs
Ground to bumper crease height with bad strut springs

Normal Spring Height - 26 1/2" - 22 1/2"

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Camry normal strut spring height at the wheelCamry normal strut spring height at the rear bumper
Camry normal strut spring height at the wheel
Camry normal strut spring height at the wheel
Camry normal strut spring height at the rear bumper
Camry normal strut spring height at the rear bumper

New Rear Strut Springs

New Camry rear strut springs
New Camry rear strut springs

Partially Remove the Rear Seat Forward

1. Pull up on the seat the release the the plastic locking pins that secures the seat cushion to the car. Then move the seat cushion forward to expose the bolts that secures the corner rear side seatback cushion.

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Camry rear seat cushion removalRear side seatback bolt removal
Camry rear seat cushion removal
Camry rear seat cushion removal
Rear side seatback bolt removal
Rear side seatback bolt removal

Side Seatback Cushion Removal

2. Remove the Rear Side Seatback cushion bolt and remove the cushion by pushing the cushion up to release it from its back hook then pull out. This will then expose the upper Suspension Support nuts (i.e. Strut Mount) that will be later removed as the last step in the strut removal.

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Rear side seatback bolt locationRear side seatback removal
Rear side seatback bolt location
Rear side seatback bolt location
Rear side seatback removal
Rear side seatback removal

Strut Assembly Nut and Bolt Removal Overview

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Camry lower strut assembly removalCamry ABS line clip removalCamry ABS to strut clip and brake line bracket removal
Camry lower strut assembly removal
Camry lower strut assembly removal
Camry ABS line clip removal
Camry ABS line clip removal
Camry ABS to strut clip and brake line bracket removal
Camry ABS to strut clip and brake line bracket removal

Stabilizer Bar Link Removal

3. Detach the upper portion of the Stabilizer (Sway) Bar Link from the strut assembly. Cleaning the threads of the bar link with a wire brush in advance and lubricating with penetrating oil is advised before attempting to remove the nut. These nuts tend to hang on to the threads and can be difficult to remove. Let the oil seep its way through for around 1/2 hour. Another excellent cheap alternative to penetrating oil is brake fluid. Secure a 14mm box wrench on the nut and prevent the stem of the bar link from rotating with a 5 mm hex socket inserted within the link. If the nut hangs, apply more penetrating oil, partially re-tighten, then loosen. Over torquing the nut runs of risk of the 5mm hex socket slipping out of the link stem and stripping it. If then happens, the bar link must be hack-sawed off and replaced with a new one.

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Camry upper stabilizer sway bar link removallubricate upper stabilizer sway bar link nut and bolt.5mm hex bolt for sway bar link removalsocket wrench attached to 5mm socket and a 14mm racheted box wrench
Camry upper stabilizer sway bar link removal
Camry upper stabilizer sway bar link removal | Source
lubricate upper stabilizer sway bar link nut and bolt.
lubricate upper stabilizer sway bar link nut and bolt.
5mm hex bolt for sway bar link removal
5mm hex bolt for sway bar link removal
socket wrench attached to 5mm socket and a 14mm racheted box wrench
socket wrench attached to 5mm socket and a 14mm racheted box wrench | Source
Source

Lower Strut Assembly Mounting Nuts & Bolts Removal

4. Use either a breaker bar or impact driver to remove these nuts and bolts. They are only extremely tight.

Removal of the lower strut assembly mounting nuts and bolts
Removal of the lower strut assembly mounting nuts and bolts

Brake Line Hose Fitting Removal

5. After removing all the brake wire and hose mounting bolts, remove the Brake Line Hose Fitting by pulling the fitting towards you... just enough to allow strut separation.

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carefully remove the brake line hose from the strut assembly
carefully remove the brake line hose from the strut assembly
carefully remove the brake line hose from the strut assembly

Remove the wheel knuckle off the strut

6. Remove the wheel knuckle off the strut.

Suspension Support Removal

7. From back inside the rear passenger compartment, remove the nuts that secures the strut assembly to the frame of the car. A extra pair of helping hands can prevent the strut from abruptly dropping away after the last nut has been removed.

Removed Strut Assembly

Toyota Camry rear strut assembly removed
Toyota Camry rear strut assembly removed

Strut Spring Compression Tool

Spring compression tool
Spring compression tool

Apply Paint Alignment Marks

8. Applying paint alignment marks on the Upper Strut Mount, Spring and Lower Mount will help during the re-assembly of new strut parts.

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Camry rear upper strut mount Camry lower spring to spring insulator and lower strut mount
Camry rear upper strut mount
Camry rear upper strut mount
Camry lower spring to spring insulator and lower strut mount
Camry lower spring to spring insulator and lower strut mount

Mount the Spring Compressors on the Strut and Compress Springs.

10. Mount high quality Spring Compressors on the Springs. Position the first compressor bottom hook approximately 1 1/2 coil turns above the spring. Position the upper hook where the compressor stem is as much vertical with the ground. If it is tilted towards the upper mount, attaching a 19 mm socket for applying tension will be difficult. The compressors must be 180 degrees apart from each other. Do not forget to push in the compressor's safety pins. Using either a 19mm socket with an extension attached to an impact driver or a 19 mm ratcheted box wrench, begin compressing the springs until a gap appears below the upper strut mount.

Compressed Camry rear strut springs
Compressed Camry rear strut springs

Dis-assemble the Strut Assembly

10. With a 19mm socket, preferably attached to an impact wrench, remove the nut securing the Upper Strut Mount to the Strut's Shock Absorber Stem. Then remove the nut, the long nut washer, upper mount assembly with the rubber mount/bellows, strut spring, spring bumper and lower spring insulator. Inspect all parts for wear and damage. In most instances, the stut bellows may have cracks or disintegrated warranting replacement. In lieu of replacing the mount/bellows as one unit, cut the bellows away from the mount and replace with an aftermarket bellows/spring bumper kit available by either Monroe or KYB.

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remove the upper strut mount nut and bushingCamry upper strut mount nut and bushing removedCamry upper strut mount with mounting nut removedCamry strut bellowsremove the Camry rear strut spring  removed the Camry rear strut bumperremove the Camry rear strut spring insulator
remove the upper strut mount nut and bushing
remove the upper strut mount nut and bushing
Camry upper strut mount nut and bushing removed
Camry upper strut mount nut and bushing removed
Camry upper strut mount with mounting nut removed
Camry upper strut mount with mounting nut removed
Camry strut bellows
Camry strut bellows
remove the Camry rear strut spring
remove the Camry rear strut spring
removed the Camry rear strut bumper
removed the Camry rear strut bumper
remove the Camry rear strut spring insulator
remove the Camry rear strut spring insulator

Transfer the Spring Compressors

11. If replacing the springs, transfer the spring compressors to the new springs. Carefully remove equal tension on the compressors until there is no tension remaining on the springs. Then mount the compressors on the new springs and apply tension to compress the new springs. Mount the compressed springs on the strut and determine if the Stut stem clears the top portion of the spring to allow the Upper Strut to be mounted.

Re-assemble the Strut

12. Re-install remove parts in the order they were removed. That is: a. Lower Insulator b. Spring Bumper c. Strut Spring d. Upper Strut Mount with the Rubber Mount.

Rotate the Upper Mount left to right until the Strut Stem rotates with the mount. This will indicate that the mount has locked with the indent on the strut stem. Turn the Mount to align with the paint marks. Put on the Strut Stem Washer and Nut and torque down; preferably with an impact driver. Release the spring tension equally on both sides of the strut's spring compressor until the upper portion of the spring meets the Upper Strut Mount. Remove the compressors.

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New Camry rear strut spring, spring insulator and bumper installedCamry strut mount installed on new strut springs
New Camry rear strut spring, spring insulator and bumper installed
New Camry rear strut spring, spring insulator and bumper installed
Camry strut mount installed on new strut springs
Camry strut mount installed on new strut springs

Mounting the Strut Assembly

13. Start by mounting the the bolts in the Upper Strut Mount into the Upper Wheel Well Strut Mounting Points. A helper can spin on the nuts after the alignment through the mounting holes has been made. Afterwards, using a combination of a hydraulic jack and pulling and wiggle force, position the wheel knuckle into the Strut Assembly until the holes of the knuckle and Strut Assembly are in alignment. Punch/jam the Strut Bolts through the holes, screw on the nut and tighten. Before assembly of the sway bar link and brake line bolts, apply some anti-seize to the threads. Upon completion, if it has been already done, torque down the Upper Strut Mount nuts, re-install the Rear Side Seatback cushion. Push back the seat cushion and apply downward pressure on the seat to secure the seat's clip into the car frame.

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    • hardlymoving profile image
      Author

      hardlymoving 3 months ago from Memphis, TN

      Daniel,

      If the old springs were replaced, they were probably worn down making the new springs appear as through they're making the car seem higher. If using the existing springs, the pressure from the new struts assists the springs to keep the car a little higher. Regardless, a combination of worn springs and struts will make the rear end sag.

    • profile image

      Daniel 3 months ago

      Thank you "Hardlymoving". I wasn't sure on that as so many different opinions out there on it. One more question, will the springs settle down a little after some time or will they be little higher from now on?

    • hardlymoving profile image
      Author

      hardlymoving 3 months ago from Memphis, TN

      Daniel,

      No. The rear end does not need a re-alignment after a strut replacement.

    • profile image

      Daniel 3 months ago

      I always read your blog before working on my 99 Camry, thank you. I just did replaced rear struts on my 4 cyl Camry following your article and everything went pretty well except the old sway bar links needed to be cut off ( I live in Chicago the rust belt) as well as taking the whole back seat area apart to get to the upper nuts and that took little time. Overall everything took 5 hours. I got a set of complete struts assembly with new Sway Bar Links from Detroit Axle for $117 shipped. The car's back now sits little higher maybe 2 inches?. Should I have it aligned or not? Just had the 4 wheel alignment last week as I changed front control arms, ball joint and tie rods. Does rear wheel alignment is necessary when replacing new strut and spring assembly? Looking forward to your suggestion. Thanks

    • hardlymoving profile image
      Author

      hardlymoving 11 months ago from Memphis, TN

      Mikey,

      I had the same problem with my Camry.

      I've found aftermarket rear complete struts with their new springs to be stronger than the factor originals. The replacements fixed my sagging rear end problem where all the weight is in the truck.

    • profile image

      Mikey 12 months ago

      Does anybody make heavier springs for a 2001 Camry?

      I do field service and I carry three tool boxes that probably total about 100 pounds. Depending on what each job requires I carry one or two into the job site...

      My first car was a 57 Chevy and I swapped the rear springs (leaf springs) for the ones out of a station wagon - heavier leaves, and one extra leaf. Ten years later the 71 Falcon station wagon that I inherited when gramma died got a set of "overload springs".

      I now need something similar, and nobody I've talked to has any ideas...

    • hardlymoving profile image
      Author

      hardlymoving 2 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Dude,

      You must mean the spacer washer? If so, the washer can go on either side. If the strut is already mounted in the car, the wheel back on the car and the pressure now on the strut, you can take the nut off, then put back on the spacer and nut.

    • profile image

      dude 2 years ago

      What if i put the spacer nut on the wrong side of the upper mount? So i didn't slide it in the shock directly before putting the nut on the shock.