Replacing the Rear Strut and/or Coil Spring on a Toyota Camry (With Video)
'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).
The strut, spring, bellows, and mount may be sold together as an assembly, or the coil spring can be bought separately. A video at the end of the article shows the replacement of the strut assembly as a whole: instructions in this article show how to take the assembly apart and replace the spring alone.
Replacing the strut mount or the spring requires removal of the strut assembly from the car and using a strut compression tool to compress the strut springs and relieve tension on the strut mount, which is held together by the strut stem nut.
This article discusses:
- When to replace the springs and other components of the strut assembly
- How to replace the springs and/or struts
At the end there is a video showing how to replace the strut assembly on an Avalon.
Models and Years Included in this DIY
1997 - 2001
1998 - 2001
1997 - 2001
1998 - 2003
When to Replace the Coil Springs and Other Parts of the Strut Assembly
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 the before and after photos below). Before measuring the height, check that there is not a hundred pounds of stuff in your truck.
Types of Rear Coil Springs
There are three spring types to chose from:
- constant rate (to restore the car's ride to factory original)
- variable rate (for carrying heavy loads)
- vehicle-lowering springs (not recommended for most drivers)
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.
Now vehicle-lowering springs are great if the focus is on making high-speed turns with nominal body roll, but prepare yourself for a bone-jarring ride, with the suspension constantly bottoming out on unforeseen potholes and steep driveways, and premature wear-out of the struts if they weren't designed for lowering springs.
Parts Related to the Strut and Spring
In addition to the strut and spring, you'll want to inspect and consider replacing the rubber strut bellows as well, because in most cases you'll find it has disintegrated, and replacing it will make your new strut last longer. The bellows is a rubber accordion-type boot that protects the strut stem from moisture and dirt.
To prevent damage to your new strut when driving over unexpected 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 rattling noise from the rear end when going over small bumps was what made you decide to replace the rear struts, consider that the noise may not come from worn struts but from worn rear stabilizer (sway bar) bushings. Replacement of these bushings is simple and is covered in another article.
If you want Japanese replacement struts, shop for either KYB or Tokico; European, Sachs or Bilstein; domestic manufacturers, Monroe or Gabriel; and for no-name brands, shop on eBay. Compare both prices and shipping costs for the best deal. I've had luck with inexpensive made-in-China struts that have held up well with no complaints or problems.
Although the upper spring mounts for the rear struts rarely need replacement, the factory struts integrate the strut mount with the bellows. You can get an aftermarket bellows kit along with a new bumper and retain the old strut mount. You can cut away the bellows portion from the old strut mount.
Checking to See if Springs Need Replacement
When Coil Springs Are Bad, Car Sits Too Low: 25 3/4" - 22"Click thumbnail to view full-size
With Normal Strut Springs: 26 1/2" - 22 1/2"Click thumbnail to view full-size
Video of Camry, Avalon or ES300 Rear Strut Replacement
This 8-minute video will provide you with visual step-by-step help for completing the replacement of rear suspension components used on a 2002 Toyota Avalon. These components are virtually identical to parts used on the Camry and Lexus ES300. The replaced struts are "complete struts" where no parts are transfer and used from the old struts. The repair steps are also described lower down in the article.
Removing and Replacing the Strut and/or Spring: Step by Step
1. Partially Remove the Rear Seat
Pull up on the seat to release the the plastic locking pins that secure the seat cushion to the car. Then move the seat cushion forward to expose the bolts that secure the corner rear side seatback cushion.
2. Remove Side Seatback Cushion
Remove the rear side seatback cushion bolt, and remove the cushion by pushing the cushion up, to release it from its back hook, then pulling it out. This will then expose the upper suspension support nuts (i.e. the strut mount) that will be later removed as the last step in the strut removal.
Solara: Extra Steps
On a Solara, to access the strut tower nuts you have to remove the rear window deck panel, plus the plastic interior side panels that hold the deck panel in place. The side panels are held in place with the coat-hanger clip, the 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. pins. Other press pins securing the plastic cover for the rear trunk must also be removed.
Solara Special Notes
On a Solara, removing the rear struts is a little different and more time-consuming. To access the strut tower nuts you have to remove the rear window deck panel. And to remove the deck panel, you have to remove the plastic interior side panels, since they hold the deck panel in place. The side panels are held in place with the coat-hanger clip, the 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.
Strut Assembly Nut and Bolt Removal OverviewClick thumbnail to view full-size
3. Remove the Stabilizer Link from the Strut Assembly
Detach the upper portion of the stabilizer (sway bar) link from the strut assembly.
The nuts tend to hang on to the threads and can be difficult to remove. Before trying to remove the nut, it's a good idea to clean the threads of the bar link with a wire brush and lubricate them with penetrating oil. 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 that happens, the bar link must be hacksawed off and replaced with a new one.
4. Remove the Lower Strut Assembly Mounting Nuts and Bolts
Use either a breaker bar or impact driver to remove these nuts and bolts. They are extremely tight.
5. Remove the Brake Line Hose Fitting
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.
6. Remove the Wheel Knuckle From the Strut
Remove the wheel knuckle from the strut.
7. Remove the Suspension Support
From back inside the rear passenger compartment, remove the nuts that secure the strut assembly to the frame of the car. An extra pair of helping hands can prevent the strut from abruptly dropping away after the last nut has been removed.
If you are replacing the entire strut assembly, skip to Step 13: otherwise go ahead with the disassembly of the strut.
8. Apply Paint Alignment Marks
Applying paint alignment marks on the upper strut mount, spring, and lower mount will help during the re-assembly of new strut parts.
9. Mount the Spring Compressors on the Strut and Compress the Springs
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 as possible 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.
Strut Spring Compression Tool
10. Take Apart the Strut Assembly
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. If the strut bellows has cracks or has deteriorated, it should be replaced. Instead of replacing the mount and bellows as one unit, you can cut the bellows away from the mount and replace with an aftermarket bellows/spring bumper kit available from either Monroe or KYB.
11. Transfer the Spring Compressors
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 strut stem clears the top portion of the spring to allow the upper strut to be mounted.
12. Re-assemble the Strut
Re-install the removed 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.
13. Mounting the Strut Assembly
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 once 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 or jam the strut bolts through the holes, screw on the nut, and tighten. Before assembling the sway bar link and brake line bolts, apply some anti-seize to the threads.
Upon completion, torque down the upper strut mount nuts and 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.