Category Archives: Chassis DIY

Replace Front Struts (Subaru Forester)

When driving your Subaru Forester, whether for commuting or recreating, there will come a time when the front starts will need to be replaced. When this time comes, don’t immediately feel like you need to shell out all your hard earned money for a mechanic to install new ones. When you need to replace your front struts, simply follow this do-it-yourself guide, and you’ll be replacing them like a pro in no time (And for less money too!).

  • Make sure you have all the necessary parts and tools prior to removing anything. The only part you will need is the replacement front struts. The tools you will need are a jack, jack stands, a socket set, a lug nut remover, a breaker bar, wrenches, WD-40 or other rust repellent, a mallet or hammer, a flathead screwdriver, and a metal pipe.
  • To begin this project, you will need to remove the lug nuts from the wheel that is on the side you are removing the first strut from. You will need the car’s lug nut remover and the metal pipe for leverage. After loosening the lug nuts, jack the car up and make sure to lay out your jack stands as well. You should then be able to remove the lug nuts and the wheel itself.
  • Now, you should see two bolts that are just above the wheel assembly and attached to the strut itself. These two bolts must be removed by using your socket set, the breaker bar and a wrench. Your Subaru Forester’s bolts should be 18 mm sockets and the other side of those bolts should have the respective wrench holding it in place. Loosen the two bolts with the breaker bar, then use your ratchet to remove the nuts. Leave the top bolt in for the time being. You may need to use you your mallet or hammer to tap the bolts out, and possibly a screwdriver with the mallet if the bolt only comes out halfway. If the bolt is really stuck, spray both bolts with WD-40 to help loosen them up.
  • Before you can remove the old front strut, you need to make sure any of the additional wheel assembly parts that find their way into the engine are not attached to it. This may include the brake line or ABS sensor. Remove the bolts or clips holding them to the strut before continuing.
  • Next, find your way to the top of the strut, which is under the hood. You will see three bolts coming from the strut, that must be removed. Be sure to use the leverage of an extender bar or other part so as to break the bolts free with relative ease. Once you have removed those bolts, remove the one bolt that was left in the strut earlier.
  • You should now be able to wiggle the strut out and into the open air. To install the new one, simply reverse the order in which you removed the strut. If you need to assemble the new front struts that you are installing in your car, make sure to use the compressor carefully.
    • Preloaded quick-struts may be more expensive, but they’re also a safer and quicker to install. It may possibly be a better solution, as they come with all new springs, bushings, insulators, bump stops, bearings, and fasteners.

After you complete this project and safely lower your vehicle onto your new front struts, you will feel a sense of pride as you no longer bounce freely along the roadway. You may want to consider having a four-wheel alignment performed, as the new struts may skew alignment angles and lead to abnormal tire wear. Replacing your Subaru Forester’s front struts yourself is the perfect way to both save money and give your car the necessary maintenance it needs, all with your own bare hands.

Photo by NRMA via Foter.com / CC BY

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How to Test Shocks

Does your car feel like it’s traveling through an earthquake, when you are simply driving down a gravel driveway? Does it feel like you have a fantastic surround sound system, as the imaginary sub-woofer bounces you down the highway? These symptoms may lead you to a puzzling question: is it time to change my vehicle’s shocks? That question is an excellent one, and can be easily answered by testing them. Take a look at the following steps to checking the efficiency of your currently installed shocks.

  • Although driving your car regularly allows you to see a general need for shocks, doing a physical test yourself can confirm your suspicions. The first way to test your shocks, is by driving your vehicles in an empty parking lot or other paved area. After making sure that there is nothing in front of you, hit the gas. After a brief moment hit the brakes, hard. Try to feel what the car is doing. If the back seems to continue bounce after slamming the brakes, it may mean you need to change the rear shocks. If the front actually tilts in when you slam the brakes, it could mean your front shocks need to be replaced. Either side-effect is an excellent way of seeing which shocks are needing to be cared for.
  • Another way of seeing if your shocks are needing to be replaced is by making the car bounce. To do that, you will actually need to push a corner of the car down, with your own hands, and then release the corner. If the car bounces more than a couple times, than its definitely time to change the shocks.
  • The third way you can test your shocks for efficiency and wear, is by doing it the old-fashioned way, a visual inspection. When you look at the shocks, check for any dents, any bending, or oil leakage. These signs confirm that it is time to change them. Also, if you look at your tires and see some bald spots, then it probably means your shocks are giving too much bounce.

Once you have figured out whether or not you need to replace your shocks, it’s now time to put the work in. If your shocks are ok but you still have those crazy symptoms while driving, then make sure to figure out what the other issue could be. If your shocks are needing to be replaced, then follow the next steps in seeing what type of shocks your car has, and what you will need to replace them.

  • If your car has McPherson struts or coil-over shocks, then replacing them involves extreme care and special tools. The reason for this is that the struts and coil-overs are under pressure must be compressed with specific tools, in order to remove and replace them. Additionally, after you have replaced the struts or coil-overs, you will also need to get an alignment on your vehicle as well. The special care that goes into replacing struts and coil-overs inspires most to take their vehicle to a professional.
  • If your vehicle has simple shock absorbers, then replacing them is a far easier and safer DIY task. If you have the proper safety equipment, such as a jack and jack stands, and your basic DIY car repair tools, then replacing shock absorbers can be a quick maintenance project. If you have a truck, most likely everything underneath is easy to get to and see, so shock absorbers could take just 20 minutes to replace. If, however, you have a smaller passenger car that has shock absorbers, you may need to go in the cabin and remove seats to get to the shocks.

Your shocks are what keep you tied to the road and ensure you have full control of your vehicle at all times. This means you must keep an eye on when they need to be replaced, and go through the necessary testing to figuring that out. Once you know it’s time to replace them, don’t procrastinate in getting the work done. Keeping your shocks efficient is an important step in making sure you, your passengers, and everyone around you are safe from the hazardous bounce of an untamed shock.

Photo credit: Yogendra174 via Foter.com / CC BY

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How to Replace a Front Brake Caliper (93-97 Toyota Corolla)

Replacing your 1993-1997 Toyota Corolla’s front brake caliper may seem like a daunting project, but honestly, aside from the time necessary for replacing the brake caliper, it is quite doable for all you DIY-ers out there. Follow the steps in this guide and you will soon become your Toyota Corolla’s master brake caliper replacer.

Toyota Corolla Front Caliper

Toyota Corolla Front Caliper

• Step 1- To start with, make sure you have all your necessary tools for the project at hand. You do not want to be halfway through the project and realize that you are missing something, and have no way of driving away to gather what you forgot. After getting the correct tools and supplies, go ahead and lift your vehicle. Remember to use proper jacking techniques and jack stands, to ensure your working environment is a safe one.
• Step 2- Make sure to turn your wheel your direction, for whichever side you are working on. Then remove the tire. You should now be seeing your brake caliper, and when you do, go ahead and remove the upper and lower bolts that are holding it.
• Step 3- You can now remove the brake line that is connected to your Toyota Corolla’s brake caliper. You should try to buy brake lines plugs, in order to keep the fluid from leaking out completely and in order to keep the brake fluid from being contaminated by the air.
• Step 4- Now is the time to pull out the new brake caliper. Bolt it on before reattaching the brake line. Once it is installed, you can now reattach the brake line. Understand, it is very important to add the two new copper rings, in order to prevent any leaks. It is also good to keep in mind that you should not over-tighten the line, but rather, just enough to keep it sealed.
• Step 5- Make sure to fill up your brake fluid container, so that you can bleed the air out. If you have a self-bleeder, then that is good. If you don’t however, you should enlist the help of a friend. While you are tightening and opening the bleeder, you should have your friend pushing the pedal to the ground. This will push all the air out of the end of the brake line and the caliper.
• Step 6- Keep in mind while you are doing this part of the project, that you shouldn’t reuse old brake fluid, and don’t bleed you brakes while the car is running.
• Step 7- Check to make sure everything fits and where is it should be, and that there are no leaks to work on. Wipe the area down with a rag, have your friend push down on the brake pedal, while you check one last time. Once you see that everything is good, you are good to go!
Changing the front Brake caliper on your Toyota Corolla can seem like it is going to be a difficult challenge to complete, but it is possible. Just keep looking at these specific steps, to help guide you during your DIY project with your brake calipers. With the right guide and solid willpower, you can replace your front brake caliper in no time.

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How to Bleed Brakes Quickly and Easily

When you hear the word bleed it oftentimes means something dangerous and gory, but when it comes to brakes, it means something quite the opposite. You should bleed your brakes every two or three years, flushing them oxidized brake fluid, for the safety of you and your passengers. You may need to bleed brakes if you replace a caliper or if there is a brake fluid leak. Air in the system robs your brakes of stopping power, and can be a dangerous situation. Bleeding brakes isn’t particularly difficult, but with the right tools and the following steps, we will have you bleeding your brakes like a pro. (Keep in mind that some newer cars may not respond to this method, particularly those with electro-hydraulic brake boosters instead of vacuum brake boosters, as they require scan-tool activation to properly flush the master cylinder.)

Brake fluid is literally the blood of your brakes and can mean the difference between stopping on a dime and not stopping, maybe never. This means, just like your own blood, your brake fluid must be working and in perfect health, for the safety of everyone in and around your car. The fluid, unfortunately, can become contaminated by dirt and other abrasive particles, and also absorb moisture, which can accelerate corrosion or even boil. These can lead to future issues and poor braking quality, so replacing your old brake fluid during the bleeding process may be a necessity.

  • Using a couple brand new cans of brake fluid, you will want to properly bleed brakes with the car in the air and the wheels off. This can be done with the wheels on but you have to be sure you can attach a wrench to the bleeder valves.
  • Once you are with the bleeder valves, you need to find out if you can loosen them. Using a box wrench, and avoiding the use of a crescent wrench or Vise-Grips, try to loosen the bolts. You may need some penetrating oil and a hammer to motivate the valve into loosening, but keep the bleeder valve closed for now. If you can’t remove the bleeder valves, without breaking them, then you will need to replace you brake calipers or wheel cylinders, adding an additional headache to the process. This may be the time to call the professionals.
  • If you were successful in loosening all four bleeder valves, move on to the master cylinder reservoir. You will need suction gun or similar tool, such as a turkey baster (but don’t put it back in the kitchen drawer when you’re done), to suck out the old fluid from the master cylinder reservoir. Use a rag to clean out any leftover sediment from the reservoir, making sure not to drip the brake fluid anywhere.
  • Using a clear piece of plastic tubing, put one end of it over the recently loosened bleeder valve on the right rear brake caliper or wheel cylinder (that is, the passenger side rear brake), and put the other end into a bottle with an inch of new brake fluid in it. Make sure the tube stays below the level of the fluid, to keep air from drawing back into the system. Put a small block of wood under the brake pedal to prevent it from going all the way to the floor, which could damage the seals in the master cylinder. Add brake fluid into the master cylinder, as you want to ensure no air gets into the system again.
  • You will need a friend for the next step, someone you can trust implicitly to follow instructions. Have them sit in the driver’s seat, listening to your commands. You will tell them to press in on the brake, with enough force to bring your car to a stop, if you were out driving it on a roadway. Let them know that the pedal will sink, and they need to continuously put pressure on it.
  • You should see the old fluid start bleeding into to the bottle. When it stops, close the bleeder valve and let your friend know to lift the pedal. Keep following this process, watching for new fluid to start coming out. Do this on each wheel and it is extremely important for you to keep the reservoir full during this, to keep air out. Do not let it get below halfway.
  • Repeat bleeding brakes, continuing on the left rear (driver side rear brake), then right front (passenger side front brake), and finishing with the left front (driver side front brake). Finally, top off the brake master cylinder reservoir with fresh brake fluid to the “FULL” marking.

If you stick to these steps to bleed brakes on your vehicle, you will be well on your way to achieving, yet another, impressive DIY victory.

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Wheel Alignment – Do You Need One?

When you are driving down the road, most likely on the highway, do you notice your car pulling either to the left or to the right? Maybe it is not necessarily pulling but rather, drifting, if you let the steering wheel go for a second? This phenomenon is a sign that you may be due for a wheel alignment.

Other symptoms that help confirm your vehicle needs a wheel alignment are: after visual inspection and comparison of your tires, you notice uneven tire wear pattern between them; you may possibly even feel or hear a vibration while driving down the road; or your steering wheel may be crooked while you are driving straight on a straightaway. If you have these symptoms, does it really mean you need a wheel alignment?

These vehicle symptoms, like any cold or flu symptom a person may have, are not just inconveniences that can simply be shrugged off and endured without consequences. Like a cold or a flu, if you ignore the symptoms of a wheel alignment problem, oftentimes they can escalate and cause worse issues for you and your vehicle. Let’s discuss a few of the reasons why getting a wheel alignment is a necessity and not just a suggestion.

  • You may consistently and on a regular basis bring your car in for a tire rotation, thinking that will help your vehicle’s tires last longer. While getting a rotation is an excellent idea, if you have a wheel alignment problem, then your tires can still wear incorrectly and shred earlier than designed or expected. Getting a wheel alignment helps make sure tire rotations are worth your time and effort.
  • Many times, when you buy tires, they come with a warranty or lifetime certificate. This warranty may stipulate getting occasional wheel alignments, to help the tires wear the way they were supposed to. If you avoid getting a wheel alignment, especially after noticing different alignment issues and symptoms, you could void the warranty. Having periodic wheel alignments can save you in the long run, by helping you keep your warranty up-to-date.
  • As some of the symptoms we talked about earlier included a pull to the side while driving, a wheel alignment can help alleviate that problem. Being able to concentrate on your surroundings and where you are going, is far more important than trying to make sure you stay within the driving lines.
  • A benefit from getting a wheel alignment, that everyone would appreciate, is the improvement in gas mileage. If your car has wheel alignment problems, then it has to output more energy towards where it is trying to go, as opposed to using that energy more efficiently towards where it is actually This benefit alone may not necessarily make a wheel alignment imperative, but in the long run, it will help you save a lot of money on gas.
  • The worst case scenario having a bad wheel alignment could cause, is messing up other parts of the car. A bad wheel alignment can make your car shake and move in ways it shouldn’t, which can cause different things in your vehicle to wear out quicker. Although this is in the most extreme situations, getting a wheel alignment can save you from your worst nightmare becoming your worst reality.

Wheel alignments have many benefits that make them more than just a suggestion. Both in short-term and the long-term, having a wheel alignment can save you money and headaches. Although alignment prices vary in different areas, the varying prices do not change the fact that getting an alignment will improve both you and your tires’ lives.

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How to Replace a Shock Absorber

Did you know that while you’re driving there are a lot more bumps than you feel, all because of a few parts on your vehicle specifically designed to keep the vibrations at bay? These parts are called shock absorbers. They essentially do what the name implies, absorbing the shock from the road, but they also keep the springs from continuously bouncing up and down, which helps to keep your tires on the road. They do wear out after the constant dampening and should be replaced when this happens. You will most likely notice when they wear down, as your vehicle’s handling and overall feel will change. You can also get a general idea of when it’s time to change them based on the amount of miles you have put on your vehicle. Once you have hit around 75,000 miles, it’s time to start thinking about replacing your shock absorbers. How do you replace your shock absorbers, though?

Shock absorber lower bolt (circled in red). Notice good placement of the jack stand.

Shock absorber lower bolt (circled in red). Notice good placement of the jack stand.

 

  • Most cars nowadays have one of two different shock absorbers, the first being stand-alone shocks that attach to vehicle suspension and frame. The other shock absorber is a cartridge that is in the suspension strut. Some cars have both, struts in the front and stand-alone shocks in the back. The struts can be very difficult to replace yourself, as they include the removal of your suspension springs and the strut unit itself. If you are looking to replace your shock absorbers, check to see what kind you have first.
  • Unless you have a truck or SUV that has a lot of room to move under, you must remove your wheels. Doing this will help you determine whether you can replace the shock absorbers yourself or need a professional mechanic to do it, as you can see what kind of shock absorber is installed in your car. If it is a strut, it a few inches wide and 20 to 30 inches long, and is mounted long-ways behind the wheel hub and brake. The stand-alone shock is short, about 12 to 18 inches long, and has a welded ring positioned for a bolt to go through or a threaded rod attached to it.
  • Now that you have the right shock absorbers, make sure you have all the right tools to remove the nuts and bolts. The tools consist of: your basic wrenches, combination wrenches, a large flat-headed screwdriver, rust penetrant, your car jack and jack stands, and possibly vice grips. You will also need your replacement shock absorbers and possibly additional fasteners.
  • Follow all safety precautions as you jack up your car, and support it with the jack stand. Jack it up until the one wheel is off the ground and then remove the tire and wheel. Find the lower bolts and nuts that are attached to the shock absorber and detach them. There may be some rusting, so be sure to use your rust repellent if needed. You may use the jack to take the load of the lower suspension arm, if it has dropped or if there is still too much pressure on the bolt for it to come out. After this, remove the upper attachment, which might have the threaded end on the piston rod. To do this, hold the rod while loosening the nut. This will free the shock at both sides and can then be removed from its position.
  • The new one is now ready to be installed. Start by putting on any washers and rubber cushions that are needed for the threaded rod, and then attach the top section first. Do not tighten the hardware until the bottom part is ready too, which you will then begin doing as well. You will probably need to compress the shock to set in the mounting holes. Then, after securing the shock, tighten the fasteners. As you tighten the nut onto the rubber cushions, try to squeeze rubber about a quarter of an inch down and stop.

Do this for each shock, and you’re good to go! Getting your vehicle’s shock absorbers replaced is a great step towards making your car ride like it did when you bought it. So, when you feel it’s time to change them, follow these steps and you will be replacing your shock absorbers like a pro.

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