Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Rusted strut tower Dodge Caravan

Rusted strut tower Dodge Caravan

Rusted strut tower is dangerous and must be fixed

The engineer that came up with this design, well, let’s just hope he’s not designing cars anymore. Chrysler took two stamped strut towers and put one inside the other—apparently for strength. What happens, however, is that water and road salt get in-between the two layers and rust both of them. That wouldn’t normally be such a big deal, but in this case, it’s the metal that supporting the whole weight of the vehicle.

This is a repair you cannot ignore. If you do, someday strut tower, rusting strut towerthe strut will come blowing through the hood of your minivan.

I’ve attached photos of the finished job. You buy the new strut tower caps from Chrysler. They’re not too bad—around $20 each. If you want to buy the hardware kit, it’s a little pricey considering that it only contains 9 rivets and a few sheet metal screws. The only reason you might have to buy the kit is because the instructions for the repair are only packaged with the hardware kit!!!

The recommended Chrysler structural adhesive is actually made for lord fusorChrysler by Lord Adhesives. It is part number #112B. Chrysler wants $55/tube. You can pick it up here for about $33/tube. It is a two-part structural epoxy and has special glass beads in it to keep the two metal surfaces the right distance apart for maximum strength. Do NOT substitute any other adhesive for this project. Your life depends on it. You will also need a 2-part adhesive gun like the one I have shown. They cost about $55.

The TSB says that it takes 3-4 tubes of adhesive. At $33/tube, that’s a chunk of change. But it’s far less than paying a body shop to do it. My experience is that if you want to squeak by with 3 tubes, you might be able to do it. The fourth tube really did help.

You will also need a wheel grinder, drill and bits, air chisel, paint remover, sandpaper, eye protection, respirator, and ear plugs. I’m not kidding about that safety gear. This is one dirty awful job.

The instructions call for grinding and chiseling away all the r2usted metal. Follow the template in the TSB to see where they want you to cut. You do not have to remove the strut, but you may find that it’s easier to maneuver without it.

Once you have all the rusted metal removed and the paint removed, you then have to remove the primer coat from the underside of the new strut cap. The paint is easy to remove from the strut tower—it’s the e-primer that’s difficult. The primer on the new cap is difficult to remove too. Both metal surfaces have to be totally cleaned of primer because this has to be a metal to metal bond.

It’s the adhesive that holds the whole thing together. The sheet metal screws hold the cap in place while you drill the rivet holes. Then you remove the sheet metal screws and install all the rivets. By the way, these are 1/4” rivets,gun so you will need the correct pop rivet gun to install them. Harbor freight sells an inexpensive knock-off of the real one. I suppose you could use a stainless steel nut and bolt arrangement for the holes in the tower. But that wouldn’t work for the part that mates to the inside fender. Anyway, I suggest you follow the TSB, simply because I don’t want to get sued.

Set aside a whole day for this project.

Dorman now makes aftermarket strut tower caps. The complete kit costs less than Chrysler’s

For more information on this repair or any others for your vehicle, buy an online subscription to either Alldatadiy.com or eautorepair.net. Click on this link to compare the two services: Compare Alldata and Eautorepair.

You need a professional shop manual to work on a late model vehicle. And you need access to the latest technical service bulletins so you don’t waste time and money replacing parts that may misbehave due to a manufacturer’s software glitch. Forget about those cheap manuals you find at the auto parts store. They will just lead you astray. Here are the two best online shop manuals around.

Eautorepair.net is really Mitchell On Demand with a consumer style interface.
Get a 1-Month subscription (31 Days) for $16.99, 1-Year (Best Value!) for $25.99, or a    4-Year (Best Value!) for $39.99. I like the wiring diagrams in Eautorepair.net better than the hard-to-read factory diagrams on Alldatadiy. However, Eautorepair.net doesn’t show how to remove trim or door panels. Alldata does.

AlldataDIY.com is simply Alldata with a consumer style interface. They have a different pricing model. But a 1-year subscription for $26.95. Add additional vehicles for $16.95 for a year. Or, buy their 5-year subscription for $44.95. Add additional vehicles for $29.95 for five years.

© 2012 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat


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