Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Replace struts with loaded strut assembly or just strut alone?

Which strut replacement option is best–fully loaded strut assembly or just the strut?

Struts wear out and when it’s time for strut replacement you’ll have the choice of replacing just the strut or installing a fully loaded strut assembly. Here’s some information to help you make the decision.

What to check BEFORE you replace struts

Most shops don’t perform this step but it’s really critical to maintain proper ride height and alignment. All springs sag over time and sagging springs change your vehicle’s ride height, and that always affects your alignment. A sagging spring can also cause “bottoming out” when you go over large bumps.

Checking ride height is fairly simple. The technician simply places

measure vehicle ride height before replacing strut assembly

Measuring vehicle ride height

the vehicle on a level surface and removes heavy cargo. Then they measure the height from the ground to a manufacturer specified point on the body of the vehicle. Next, the technician measures the distance from the center of the wheel straight up to the fender. Finally, the technician checks the condition of the rubber stop bumpers

Check stop bumper condition before repalcing the strut assembly

Check condition of the vehicles stop bumper

to see if they have signs of bottoming out. If the measurements are out of spec or the stop bumpers are damaged, it’s time to consider installing new springs along with your new struts.

Struts don’t determine ride height and struts don’t prevent your car from bottoming out. Only the springs keep your car at the proper ride height and prevent it from bottoming out. See this video for more information on measuring vehicle ride height.

What’s involved in replacing just the strut?

To replace just the strut, most vehicles require the removal of the

Strut in spring compressor tool to desengage strut

Strut assembly in strut spring compressor tool

complete strut assembly. The technician removes the tire, disconnects the stabilizer end link connection at the strut (if equipped), disconnects the brake line attachment and the ABS wheel speed sensor anchor from the strut. Then he removes the two strut-to-steering knuckle bolts and three strut tower nuts. At that point the entire strut assembly comes out.

Next, the technician places the strut assembly in a coil spring compressor tool and compresses the coil spring. Then he removes the top retaining bolt and removes the strut. The technician then removes the jounce bumper and strut bellows from your old strut and transfer those components to the new unit. If the job goes well and the strut mount and coil spring are in good shape, the entire swap takes about 20-mins. This is the labor you’ll save if your buy a fully loaded strut assembly (see the strut replacement cost comparisons below).

Why buy a fully loaded strut?

A fully loaded strut assembly comes completely assembled using a

Image of fully loaded strut assembly showing new strut, new coil spring, new strut mount and new strut bellows

Fully loaded strut assembly

new strut, spring isolator (if equipped), jounce bumper, strut bellows, coil spring and strut mount. The cost of a loaded strut assembly is higher than the cost of just the strut. However, most shops recommend replacing the strut mount when replacing just the strut. When you add in the cost of the strut mount to a regular strut only job, the price difference starts to disappear.

With a complete strut assembly, you restore factory ride height and feel and get a quieter ride due to the new strut mount and spring isolator.

What’s the strut replacement cost difference between just a strut and a complete loaded strut assembly?

Let’s look at the costs for a 2007 Toyota Camry.

The labor guide shows 2.2 hours to replace the left and right struts at the same time. But that time doesn’t include strut disassembly and parts swap or an alignment. Disassembly and parts swap adds an additional 0.6-hrs to the job. Using a shop rate of $100, the disassembly and parts swap adds $60 in labor.

Cost to replace just the struts and strut mounts

(2) Monroe OE Spectrum strut retail price $125.00 ea = $250.00

(2) Monroe strut mount retail price $62.00 ea. = $124

Labor 2.8-hours at $100/hr = $280\

Total cost #$654

Cost to replace worn struts with fully loaded strut assemblies

(2) Monroe Quick-Strut assemblies retail price $250-ea. = $500.00

Labor 2.2-hours at $100/hr = $220

Total cost $720

Price difference is $66.

For the extra $66 you’re also getting two new jounce bumpers and two new coil springs. What’s that worth?

The retail price of two new coil springs for the same vehicle is $98/pair. The price of new bellows and jounce bumpers is $60/pair. Even if you assume that you normally wouldn’t need new bellows or jounce bumpers, but would like to restore factory ride height with new springs, it’s cheaper to install fully loaded strut assemblies than to buy the springs and pay the shop to replace them along with the struts.

Summary

You pay $66 more to install loaded strut assemblies, but you get new springs to restore ride height. The springs cost $98/pair, so you save $32 in parts and $60 in labor, making fully loaded strut assemblies $93.00 cheaper

©, 2017 Rick Muscoplat

 

 

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat



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