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Caravan 2001 Changing Front Suspension Strut Assembly


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15 replies to this topic

#1 alainb

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Posted April 11, 2011 at 03:55 pm

Hi,

Well the title says it all!

I got those 2 strut assemblies from a scrap yard and they look in very good condition.

Now the guy told me that there was only one position to install them and that I would not need a wheel alignment . He also told me that there was no left or right on these struts.

Just checking to see if he knew what he was talking about.

I never changed a strut assembly so any advice will be more than welcome.

Thanks!

Alain

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Edited by alainb, April 11, 2011 at 04:16 pm.


#2 ImperialCrown

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Posted April 11, 2011 at 04:58 pm

If the lower strut to knuckle bolt holes are round and aren't slotted, then the bolts can only go in one position and the alignment should be OK. The struts can go on either left or right side as the sway link and brake hose brackets are symmetrical.
I would still want a front end alignment check for peace of mind.

#3 Bob Lincoln

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Posted April 11, 2011 at 06:20 pm

The guy is wrong on both counts. The driver's side spring is different on these (heavier spring tension). And the lower bolt on the struts has a cam profile, and is used to set the camber. It will need an alignment after.

#4 valiant67

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Posted April 11, 2011 at 06:52 pm

The guy is wrong on only one count, in my opinion.

There is no cam on the lower bolts on these from the factory, just plain straight bolts upper and lower. The 1996 plus minivans and all the Neons (except the ACRs) were built this way, no caster adjustment from the factory. However, there are two ways to adjust camber later: One was a factory crash kit which used a much smaller diameter eccentric bolt after removing the normal bolts the factory put in. The second method is that most aftermarket struts have oblong slots instead of holes to provide camber with aftermarket eccentric bolts.

See if there's a tag on either of the front springs, especially with a part number. The odd or even number can tell you which side it goes on.

Edited by valiant67, April 11, 2011 at 06:53 pm.


#5 alainb

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Posted April 12, 2011 at 06:58 am

The guy was wrong on both counts.

I call the dealer this morning and they told me that there is a left and a right side spring. With the part number I found out witch one is witch. 05006705AA is the right side one and 05006728AA is the left side one.

Also, there is an obvious adjustment gap on the lower hole of the strut.

Edited by alainb, April 12, 2011 at 06:59 am.


#6 valiant67

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Posted April 12, 2011 at 07:15 am

If the struts are slotted, they probably are not the original factory installed ones.
Be sure to pick up a set of adjustment bolts when you install them. It will be much cheaper if you do this instead of installing with the original bolts and paying the alignment shop to install them.

#7 alainb

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Posted April 12, 2011 at 11:03 am

Yes, you are right. They are not original. These are life time garanteed aftermarket ones. I just come back from the autopart and they show me a new one. It look exactely like the ones I bought at the scrap yard. The ones on my van were the original ones and the lower hole is round.

I marked the position of the old ones before removing them and installed the "new" ones on these marks. The car is running very well now and do not feel out of alignment.

I don't understand if you mean that I need the new bolts for this kind of struts even if I go have it aligned.

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#8 valiant67

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Posted April 12, 2011 at 11:47 am

When you take the van to have it aligned (which I would do no matter how close it feels), they will replace the standard lower bolt with one that has an eccentric so they can make the camber adjustment.
Something similar to Moog K90474.
If you install these yourself before the alignment, it will be cheaper than paying the alignment shop's labor and parts markup when they have to install them to align it.

Edited by valiant67, April 12, 2011 at 11:48 am.


#9 alainb

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Posted April 12, 2011 at 01:49 pm

My garage tell me that the eccentrics bolts are not essential to perform an alignment. Better but not essential. They can do it using some kind of baloon (?). Once the bolts are tight, it will not move more without the special bolt than with it.

I can see that the alignment is off a bit, the stering wheel is about 5 degrees to the left when I drive straight. But the car is not pulling at all.

Edited by alainb, April 12, 2011 at 01:50 pm.


#10 valiant67

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Posted April 12, 2011 at 02:01 pm

I am impressed with that garage. Yes, the alignment can be done without the bolts but it usually means more work for the tech. No one around me would touch one without the bolts in it. heck, they kept trying to sell me the camber bolts and install them when I plainly told them I'd already installed them when I put the struts on.

#11 John Wood

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Posted April 12, 2011 at 05:34 pm

My garage tell me that the eccentrics bolts are not essential to perform an alignment. Better but not essential. They can do it using some kind of baloon (?). Once the bolts are tight, it will not move more without the special bolt than with it.

I can see that the alignment is off a bit, the stering wheel is about 5 degrees to the left when I drive straight. But the car is not pulling at all.


.. and that 5 degrees off could be that your toe is off. That might or might not be related to the camber adjustment . The camber must be set first, and then the toe checked and adjusted if necessary. Make sure there is no looseness at the inner tie rod joints (or even the outer joints) because if they have to be replaced, you will need another alignment. Alignments are not cheap these days.

For my 96, first I had to replace one inner tie rod joint at about 160,000. That was not difficult and I could set the toe on that one side myself by getting the steering wheel centered while driving (a little trial & error). Then at 185,000 miles I decided to replace the strut assemblies and noticed the other inner tie rod had about 1/8" of play, so I took care of everything at once. It drives very nice now and hopefully it will be the last alignment needed. Since the new struts were slotted for camber adjustment purposes, I purchased the camber adjustment bolts with the cam washer style head. I wanted to be sure the alignment guy could do an easy and accurate job (which he did).

#12 alainb

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Posted April 12, 2011 at 06:53 pm

Thank you all!

Now, the front suspension seem to be very tight. Both of the old chucks were leaking a lot of oil and the ride was more like in a boat a than in a car. I will put my summer tires soon, in a week or two and I should have an anlignment done before that. They quote me 69,95$ (CAD) for a 4 wheels alignment.

Changing a strut assembly is not such a big job and it can be done alone without any helper. I would say that it is better to disconnect the ground of the battery. On the left side it would be very easy to produce a short-circuit with the tools used. It took me about 3 hours to do the job taking my time and with a half an hour break after I had finished the first side.

Here is a procedure to do the job. It include the procedure to remove the spring from the strut but this part was not needed in my case.

On the 2001, at least, the original bolts at the bottom of the strut are splined. They need to be hammered out.

Alain

Edited by alainb, April 13, 2011 at 08:27 am.


#13 alainb

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Posted April 20, 2011 at 04:17 pm

I worked again on the front suspension. It was obvious that the left wheel camber was off a bit. I loosen the lower bolts and adjusted the wheel the best that I could.

Now, the camber look very good and the steering wheel is straight. The car is running fine.

Of course the alignment cannot be perfect but I am encline to think that it is close enough. I am very tented to leave it as it is and save the money.

Edited by alainb, April 20, 2011 at 04:20 pm.


#14 bguy

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Posted April 20, 2011 at 04:49 pm

$69 is conservative estimate for a replacement tire. If you forgo the alignment you could very well need 2. By the time you notice signs of wear it's already too late.

#15 chuzz

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Posted April 21, 2011 at 09:23 am

Bguy is absolutely right. I changed an axle and front struts on a 94 Acclaim I owned years ago and didn't bother with the alignment. 3,000 miles later I had to purchase two new tires and get the alignment. I didn't notice it, but both front tires had worn out on the inside and were down to the steel belts.

#16 valiant67

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Posted April 21, 2011 at 10:15 am

And if it's really bad (like the alignment I paid NTB to do after I swapped struts on the 99 van I used to have) it can even wear the rear tires because it tracks so bad.


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