Struts can last as little as 50,000 miles or as much as 150,000 and sometimes even more. If you push down on your car above one of your wheels and the car bounces right back up freely, that means that your shock absorber is shot and you’ll have to replace it, or possibly the entire strut. Other tells that your strut needs to be replace include oil leaking from the shock absorber, physical damage such as if they’re bent or too rusty, your car is sitting too low and is bottoming out, or if your car feels very bumpy or bouncy when you drive. Always replace struts in pairs to ensure equal support is being put on each side, and also to ensure a safer and more even ride.
How to Remove Your Old Struts
Without a spring compressor tool, you have to replace the entire strut unit. If any of the other components of your strut are damaged other than your shock absorber, it’s a smart idea to go ahead and replace the whole thing. Replacing the entire strut is a bit easier, but will obviously cost more. If there’s nothing wrong with the strut spring or any of the other parts of the strut, you can simply keep using it but replace just the shock absorber.
In order to replace a strut, first you have to jack up your car. You can always turn the wheel once you have it jacked up to offer easier access to certain nuts or parts of the strut. Disconnect the ABS line with your fingers, and then disconnect the brake line that is connected to the strut. You can use a flathead screwdriver to pry the clip off, and then you can pull the brake line away. Use a breaker bar to remove the pinch bolt that attaches the base of the strut to the knuckle.
Next remove the bolt for the sway bar end link by putting a wrench around it to hold it in place and inserting a torque in the middle. If the bolt won’t pull right out, jack up your vehicle more or less until the bolt gets straightened out. If you can’t even get the nut off the stud, use vice grips, but be careful not to damage the rubber part behind the stud. Use a hammer to tap on the knuckle until it separates from the strut. Then, remove the three bolts from the strut tower, and your old strut should be completely separated from your vehicle.
How to Install New Struts
You should be very careful when using your strut compressor tool. The spring has enough force to potentially be fatal if something goes wrong, so make sure you’re always paying close attention and doing everything correctly and safely. Put one clamp on each side of the spring as evenly as possible. Push the safety pins in, and then tighten the nuts on both sides a little bit at a time each. Remove the nut at the top of the strut and then slide out the shock absorber. Slide a new one in, screw it on, carefully disconnect your coil spring compressor tool, and then put everything back together.
It’s a fairly straight forward process to learn how to use spring compressor tools. You can easily figure it out if you’ve never done before. It’s possible to get your hands on a spring compressor rental, but that’s probably more trouble than it’s worth since so many models are relatively cheap to buy new and will probably last an indefinite amount of time.
Which is the Best Spring Compression Tool?
You can find a wide range of brands for sale online. Depending on your needs, you can get a coil compressor for as little as $20, or as much as $1,000. Here are the best of the best in terms of value for their price range.
This is pretty much the ultimate spring removal tool. If you have a body shop or just frequently work on vehicles, this is an extremely durable, fast and easy to use option that will more than pay for itself in efficiency over the years. If you have the budget and want a single action compressor, this is definitely the top choice. Heavy duty and American made, the Branick strut spring compressor 7600 goes for about $780 online.
Jacktech SK-3000 Strut Compressor
As a great alternative to getting the Branick shock spring compressor, this model goes for around $540 and is just as dependable, solid, and easy to use. Spring compression takes less than 10 seconds and can be done on virtually any strut for a four wheel vehicle. For lots of heavy duty jobs, this Jacktech strut compressor will perform extremely well.
OTC 6494 Clamshell
OTC is an American tool company that makes excellent quality tools. This one piece strut compressor offers the advantage of being able to perfectly line up the coil spring compressor on each side of the strut. It’s built to be used with an impact wrench, so if you have one of those as well, this compressor will make removing and transferring springs safe and simple for many years to come. It costs approximately $190 online.
XtremepowerUS Auto MacPherson Interchangeable Fork Strut Coil Spring Compressor Extractor Set
XtremepowerUS’s strut coil spring compressor set includes three sets of jaws that are three different sizes. This allows it to be used on virtually any car, truck, jeep, or SUV. It’s designed for hand ratchets only. Setting it up is quick and simple, and for a tad over $100, you can buy it online now. It also comes with a plastic carrying case.
ATD Tools 7550 Master Spring Compressor Set
This car spring compressor also works on pick-up trucks except for AMC and Ford with upper coil spring. It’s comparable in quality to the XtremepowerUS strut tool, but doesn’t include extra sets of jaws. Simply put, it has very solid construction and is easy to use. It comes with a carrying case and costs less than $70.
Advanced Tool Design Model ATD-3054 MacPherson Strut Spring Hook Compressor
Advanced Tool Design (ATD) is an American tool company that makes affordable tools right. Their ATD-3054 model is simple but extremely sturdy and relatively light at only 7 pounds. Each side has a built in detent for safety. You can pick up this easily portable strut removal tool for roughly $45 online.
OEMTOOLS 25550 MacPherson Strut Spring Compressor
OEMTools is a New England based company that also makes affordable quality tools. These are quite similar to the Advanced Tool Design model above, but cost only about $30. They’re one of the best-selling internal coil spring compressor tools online and are highly rated.
ABN MacPherson Strut Spring Compressor
This is by far the most popular option under $50 on the internet. If you check around, you’ll find that this is not only the best-selling strut spring compressor tool, it also has a high volume of reviews for a well-supported high rating. Aside from heavy duty construction, ABN spring compressors also include detent pins that go over the coils to reduce the risk of slippage and ensure safety. It’s currently priced at less than $30.
XtremepowerUS 10″ MacPherson Strut Spring Compressor – Pair
As a good low budget option, these 10″ XtremepowerUS compressors are a great bargain. For only around $20, these are good enough for any sedan, or even smaller sized pick-up trucks. Compared to the price of renting a set, this is a much better option if you’re on a tight budget and you need to use them for a car.