Replacing your 02's suspension - Shocks, Springs
& Sway Bars - February
The work is definitely challenging, but not too tough for anyone
handy. I recommend having a friend or relative help out. It's easier
with 4 hands! I must acknowledge that I
could have never completed this job without the supervision and
help of my Dad - a professional mechanic for over 50 years...and
counting. Thanks, Dad!
Suspension Techniques Springs & Bilstein HD Shocks
Suspension Techniques 22/19mm Sway Bar Kit
The rear shocks
are easy to change. You just need a floor jack, jack stands, wrenches,
crow bar and some muscle. The front is a bit more intricate. You
will need a special tool to change the front shock. It's a mac strut
spring compressor. I bought one at the local car parts shop for
less than $30.
You will also need to disconnect the brake lines and remove the
complete strut with the control arm from the vehicle. I've heard
of guys removing the brakes completely and then changing the shock/strut
insert, but that seems harder to do than removing the complete unit
(3 cotter pin bolts) and replacing the strut insert on a work bench.
Strut Removal: Make sure your 02's front end is jacked up and
propped on jack stands (don't forget the block behind the rear tire).
The first thing you need to do is disconnect the brake lines and
wrap them up with a shop rag or throw a catch under them. Next,
remove the 3 bolts holding the strut
from the top. Remove the link connecting
the sway bar to the control arm.
remove the 3 cotter pins and disconnect the
bolts connected to the control arm, caster bar and lower ball
joint/control arm assembly. Once you've got those loose, you will
need to give the thrust arm a couple of whacks with a hammer to
get it out. At this point, the strut should start feeling loose
- it might be time to get those 3rd and 4th hands in on the project
to help out. Have someone hold the strut as you gently nudge it
out from underneath the wheel well - you may want to use a jack
for stability and support. Time to have a beer.
the Front Struts:
If you have the luxury to wait a day or two, this is a great opportunity
to thoroughly clean, sand and paint the removed
strut, control arm and thrust arm. If you have little patience
and can't wait to drive the car (like me) make a bee line for your
work bench and start rebuilding that sucker!
is when you will need the spring compressors
to release the spring and completely dismantle the strut. They are
fairly easy to use but can prove to be extremely dangerous if they
are not used properly. BE CAREFUL - and make sure you secure the
J-Hooks to the spring as an added safety measure.
Never remove the strut's top lock nut until
the springs ahve been compressed - this can also prove to be catastrophic.
Begin tightening the compressors using a standard wrench. Once you've
applied enough tension to the springs the strut will begin to come
an allen wrench and a wrench, remove the top lock nut holding the
shock inside the strut. Now unscrew the strut screw cap. At this
point, you should be able to completely remove the shock
insert from within the strut. Once it's out, thoroughly clean
out the inside of the strut. There will probably be some oil residue
that you should dump out.
you are upgrading shocks or springs or both, putting the strut
back together is a snap. The only things you need to be aware
of are the top and bottom spring pads.
They are hard rubber pads with a recessed knotch that holds
the springs in place. The blunt end of the coil spring needs
to be positioned against this knotch. Make sure you set the
springs within the desginated notches or your springs will "play"
when you turn or hit bumps.
the Strut: Putting the strut back in is much like taking it
out...only in reverse. Again, another set of hands will prove to
be invaluable here. The key here is (and this seems to be a common
problem that many do-it-yourselfers are posed with) is getting the
strut top bearing and all its washers/spacers in the correct order.
If these washers/spacers are not in their appropriate order, the
strut top bearings will not be free to move and your 02 will experience
steering binding. See strut
top diagram for proper install order.
your floor jack beneath the wheel well and gently place the thrust
arm, control arm & brake onto the jack. Line up the 3 bolts
that secure the strut from the top (beneath the hood) and slowly
proceed to jack up the complete unit into place. Once the bolts
are in place use the existing nuts to tightly secure all 3 strut
bolts. Make sure the center lock nut for the shock is tight, too.
you can put the control arm, thrust arm and lower ball joint/control
arm all back together. If you have the time and a few extra bucks,
this is a great opportunity to upgrade your existing bushings to
poly-eurothanes or installing new rubber bushings to replace your
worn out 25+ year old ones. Once the strut is securely in place,
re-connect the brake lines (don't forget to bleed them later - nothing
worse than testing out your new suspension at high speeds...with
the Rear Shocks: Remove bolt on chassis hodling rear shock.
Remove bolt in trunk shock mounts holding
upper shock bolt. Remove shock. If not replacing springs, install
new shock in same manner as removal...only backwards. Attach the
shock to the chassis first, then attach it at the top shock mount
the Rear Springs: This was not that tough...even with stock
springs. We used a crow bar to loosen them and they came right out.
If you don't have new spring pads, be careful not to damage the
existing ones you plan to re-use. New springs slip right in. Nothing
to it. But don't ask me about lowered applications because I just
don't know. These springs are 3/4" lower than stock, so they
really don't make a big difference in ride height.
Rear Shock & Spring
& Spring Closeup
with the front springs, you want to make sure that the spring pads
(top & bottom) and spring ends are positioned correctly. The
bottom spring pad also has a raised knotch
where it positions & holds itself on the lower spring mount.
Make sure that the spring pads are securely positioned and that
the springs ends are seated against the inner spring pad knotch.
This will help avoid any movement of the springs.
sure that everything is tight and that the springs are securely
placed within the spring pads. Once that's set, lower your car and
test the suspension before you drive it, just a safety measure to
ensure that everything's in place. Take 'er for a spin and see how
the new setup feels.
ST 22/19mm Sway Bars: I decided to go
with the Suspension Techniques 22mm front & 19mm rear hollow
sway bar setup. It is possible to go with a larger setup sway bar
kit. I know there are autocrossers out there who use the 25mm front
& rear sways, but I only drive street, so I thought that would
The sway bar
installation is pretty straightforward. The tricky part is inserting
& maneuvering the front sway to seat it properly on hte cross
member. You might have to bend your front valance a little bit
with pliers to give yourself ample clearance to install the front
sway bar. If you have a front spoiler, you will probably have
to remove it completely to get the sway bar in. I assume this
could be done fairly easy with the struts out of the car, but
I added the sways after upgrading the shocks & springs, so
I really don't know for sure.
Bar Installation: Jack the car up and place it on jack stands
as recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure your tires are completely
straight and remove your wheels. You will need a 6mm allen socket,
a 14mm deep socket, 13mm & 14mm wrenches to do this job. I
also needed a 22mm wrench to loosen and maneuver the radius rod/drag
strut/caster arm so I could remove the bushing bracket bolts.
There are 2 allen bolts on either side
of the sway bar that hold the bushing bracket to the cross member.
Use a socket wrench with a 6mm allen while holding the lock nut
with a 13mm wrench. Now you can remove the sway bar control arm
connectors - use a 14mm deep socket with a 14mm wrench to remove
the old sway bar and control arm connectors are completely removed.
Do not put the sway bar poly bushings on yet - that will make
the install a lot harder to do. Position the sway bar beneath
the car with the riser pointing down towards the street. Gently
lift and seat the sway bar connection points to the crosss member.
You'll have to do some shimmying and shaking to get it seated
properly, but you will know when it's in there right.
Once the front
sway bar is in place, you can secure the bushings onto the sway
bar and clip the bracket over the bushing with the bolt holes
towards the rear end and insert the clip into the slot facing
the front end. You might need to use a long flat head screwdriver
to push the bushing bracket down flat onto the cross member. Once
it's in place, insert the allen bolts from beneath the cross member
and secure them with the 13mm lock nuts provided with the kit.
Control Arm Connector
Rear Sway Bar Connector Bolt
When the sway
bar bushings and bushing brackets are tightly in place, you can
re-install the control arm connectors.
My kit came with new connectors, grommet bushings, cup washers,
spacers and bolts, but you can use the existing/old ones over
again. See the picture above for the
grommet, washer, spacer order. Just remember, the bushings need
to be touching top and bottom of the sway and control arms, not
the washers. They give the bushings support. Remember to tighten
the bushings so they compress a bit but make sure they are not
crushing the bushings.
Front Sway Connector
Front Bushing Allen Bolts
Front Sway Bushing
Front Sway Bushing
Bar Installation: The rear sway is a lot easier to install
than the front. First, remove the rear sway connectors using a
14mm wrench and socket wrench. Now remove the old sway bar using
a 13mm wrench and socket wrench. For the rear sway, you CAN clip
the bar bushings and brackets before getting beneath the car,
but DO NOT install the sway bar connectors until the bushing bracket
is secured. Just like the front, clip the bracket over the bushing
with the bolt holes pointing up and insert the clip into the bottom
slot. Getting the bushing bracket bolts in is a bit tricky because
there is little room for your fingers to work. But after a little
knuckle banging and cussing, you should be able to get them in
okay. Go ahead and tighten the bracket bolts - it would be a damn
shame to have to line up the bolts again.
Now you can
install the rear sway bar connectors. Again, the grommet bushings
need to be touching the top and bottom of the chassis, not the
washers. The only difference with the rear is that there are no
poly grommets or washers to connect to the sway bar, becasue it
is an adjustable (understeer/oversteer)
sway bar. Instead, the rear sway is connected to a floating joint
eyelet that "plays". Make sure to tighten all the
bolts securely and you should be set to go!
Rear Sway Bushings
Rear Sway Bushings
Rear Sway Connector
Rear Sway Connector