Toyota Camry Rear Strut: Coil Spring Replacement
Toyota Camry Rear Strut / Shock Absorber
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:
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
1997 - 2001
1998 - 2001
1997 - 2001
1998 - 2003
Before Spring Replacement Height - 25 3/4" - 22"Click thumbnail to view full-size
Normal Spring Height - 26 1/2" - 22 1/2"Click thumbnail to view full-size
MOOG Coil Springs
New 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.
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.
Strut Assembly Nut and Bolt Removal OverviewClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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.
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.
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
Strut 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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