Replacing your 02's suspension - Shocks, Springs & Sway Bars
- February 2002
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.

Front 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.

Now 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.


Top Strut Bolts

Sway Bar Link

Control Arm Removal

Strut Out

Rebuilding 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!

This 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 apart.

Using 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.

Whether 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.

Spring Pads


Spring Compressors

J-Hooks

Strut Lock Nut

Shock Insert

Re-Installing 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.

Position 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.

Now 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 no brakes).

Removing 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 locations.


Rear Shock Tower Mount

Rear Shock Install

Rear Spring

Removing 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 Spring Install

New Rear Shock & Spring

Spring Pad (rear)

Shock & Spring Closeup

As 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.

Make 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.


Installing 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 be overkill.

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.

Front Sway 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 connectors.

Make sure 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

Rear Sway 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
       

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