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Old 01-08-2010, 09:11 PM   #1
hwy61
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Default STI Rear Strut Inspection & Grease Fitting Installation for Eliminating Strut Clunk

As many of you are aware inverted struts can develop an annoying "clunk". The problem is apparently caused by a lack of grease being distributed from the strut chamber onto the damper body. This causes two coated (Teflon?) bushings to not receive proper lubrication resulting in wear and rear strut movement becoming noisy, clunky and rough. One symptom is that when the car is stopped and the rear end raises up a bit, it remains up until the car begins forward motion then the rear suspension allows the body to drop abruptly with an audible clunk.....most of us find this really annoying.

The cure is to somehow cause the inner sealed bushings to become greased. There are only two ways I know to do this.....1. Remove the entire strut assembly, disassemble, clean and repack with grease and reinstall, or, 2. Remove the rear struts, disassemble, drill and tap to install a grease fitting, clean, repack and reinstall. #2 is intended to keep you from having to repeat #1 and save your struts in the process by allowing you to either routinely add a dab of grease or add grease when and if the clunking returns.

I will explain how the inside of the strut behaves, where seals are and why these are the only way to properly lube the rear strut assembly. To begin you must remove the strut assembly.

1. Remove the two bolts that hold in the bottom rear seat cushion. Carefully remove and set aside.

2. Remove the three bolts that hold the rear seat back. When these are loose, simply lift up the rear seat back appx 3" and pull out the bottom. You must work the seat back out from under the seat belts. Do not scratch the door jamb paint with the steel retainers on the bottom of either section as you remove or reinstall these parts.

3. Next you will see the top caps for the struts as pictured below. I recommend loosening the seat belt winder so that you can get a socket on that third nut. They are the self locking type and there are a lot of threads to loosen the nut over so a ratchet comes in handy. Note that the cover is marked for proper rotation upon reinstallation. Also not that there is a small arm on the rear of the seat belt winder that is inserted into a small slot upon reassembly and tightening. This keeps the winder in it's proper location. Loosen the three nuts, remove two.



4. Some folks recommend loosening of the 17mm nut at the top of the damper rod at this point. I suggest removing the assembly and then loosening and removing it. this is the one you have to insert a #6 metric allen wrench in the end of the rod to keep it from turning while you remove the 17mm nut with something like a socket with a couple of wrench lands ground into the sides. There are fancy tools for this but you don't need them. Why out of the car removal.... because it is easy to do and out of the car you have more room. Insert a large screwdriver through the lower mounting holes to hold the strut if necessary. The nut isn't really torqued so tight you can't get it loose. Also note that as you remove this the upper spring retaining cap comes off and as you loosen there is no spring pressure against the cap....at least there was none on my car. When this part is removed the cap and spring can be lifted off the strut. Set them aside, reinstall the nut somewhat to protect the threaded end of the rod.

5. Now I've gotten a little ahead of all the steps necessary for removal of the strut assembly. So back to where you need to be.....jack up the rear of the car. You can do both sides if you like and if you have enough jack stands....In any event jack up the car and install a jack stand under the side you are working on, emergency brake on. Keep it safe as you will be doing some heavy pushing and pulling on wrench handles.

6. Remove the tire, set aside.

7. Remove the clip that holds the brake line to the strut. You do this by inserting a flat screw driver blade under the lip and tap it up to remove the retainer. Assembly is just the opposite.

8. Next, remove the two 19mm nuts from the bolts at the bottom of the strut. The proper way to loosen items like this is to loosen the nut...not try to turn the bolt by the head even if the head is easier to get a wrench on. I was able to remove mine by using a 10" Craftsman boxend wrench and a strong arm......and I'm old so I don't know how strong I am. But they came loose. After loosening the nuts you can then continue to remove the bolt from the head end, end toward the front of the car. You will likely have to keep a wrench on the nut to keep it from turning with the bolt. There is more room for wrench movement on the front and you can use a socket and ratchet. You cannot get a socket on the bottom rear nut due to the CV joint. A box end wrench will fit. Barely. If you are wimpy get a buddy to pull on the wrench with you. This is why the car should be solidly supported. I didn't pre-soak or use a cheater. Wear gloves.... sharp car parts are rough on hands when a nut suddenly breaks loose.....I learned this in the '60s. Uh....after a whole lot of skin loss from about 400 such occasions. Note there is no camber adjustment on the rear with stock parts and both bolts are the same. So you don't have to mark them for exact repositioning. I did place upward pressure on the outer emergency brake area in order to take out any play and create as much negative camber as possible upon reassembly. I don't know if I gained any by this effort or not. But, that is all you can do with stock parts.



9. With the lower strut bolts removed press the bottom free from the hub. Have a buddy hold it while you remove the final nut up top. Then position the strut where it can be removed. At this point I perform step #4, removal of the 17mm nut.

10. With the top nut installed on the end of the damper rod for protection turn the strut upside down and remove the 14mm nut on the bottom. The damper can now be removed from the lower strut assembly. Simply pull it out, it isn't tight. Don't bang it around and don't damage the top seal.

11. Wipe the damper and bumper stop clean of what little grease is on them. Inspect for damage, scratches, etc., otherwise set it aside in a clean and safe location for the time being. You can loosely install the 14mm nut, if you loose things and tend to damage thread ends. Now both ends are protected until time for reassembly.

12. Time to inspect the inner strut assembly, drill and tap for the grease fitting, then thoroughly clean the old grease out along with any metal shaving from the grease fitting installation. Be sure to deburr the drilled hole on the inside. You may have to remove a little metal with a flat file on the outside also for a smooth fit. From looking at this picture you can see how little of the factory grease ever actually engaged the damper body. It is simply stuck to the sides of the housing and not being distributed onto the damper body. Movement of the lower strut and bushings up and down a greased damper body would cause the bushings to remain lubricated. The whole point of this procedure is to be able to keep pressure on the grease in the 4" grease chamber so that the damper body will stay in contact with it and distribute it onto the bushings as the lower strut/bushings move up and down. This is the only method for the assembly to grease it's internal bushings.







13. Install the new grease fitting in a location where you will have easy access to it when the tires are back on the car. I chose the rear and a position that is appx 1/2 way between the upper and lower bushings. I did want to see if I could install it for grease gun access between the spokes of the rim but the tire is in the way. The rear of the strut has plenty of room for good access.







14. After installing the fitting, thoroughly clean the inside of the strut body. Make sure that the grease fitting does not protrude where it can hit the damper body. You can visually check this with a straight item such as a hacksaw blade that has been protected from scratching the bushings with a line of tape...or insert the damper to feel and look for scratches. I feel safer with the visual inspection folled by inserting the strut. There is a little more than 1/8" clearance inside the strut housing before you hit the damper. Buy grease fittings with a short threaded bottom. Caution, you cannot grind off the bottom of straight grease fittings. You will damage what holds the spring that holds the ball that seals the fitting. A 45* or 90* fitting can have the base ground down. Be sure to thoroughly clean if you do so. Clean anyway. Mine fit with no grinding. BTW, the strut housing is of very strong steel and when threaded offers plenty of strength for allowing the grease fitting to be very tight.

15. Next rub a little grease on the lower bushing and then with something narrow but with a straight edge that won't damage the bushings install a glob of grease between the bushing and spread around the inside of the walls between the upper and lower bushing. Note that the top of the first bushing is 3/4" down from the top of the grease seal. The bottom is 2" down from the seal, so the bushing is 1-1/4" wide. The top of the second bushing is 6-1/4" down from the seal and the bottom is 7-5/8" down. The face of the bushings and the 4" space between them is the area where grease is needed. Fill this space as much as possible and level off the grease against the side walls in this 4" space with something smooth and straight.. Don't install grease below the bottom seal.

16. There is no point in greasing the damper or the damper rod. The grease seal will remove grease from the damper body as it is inserted. What I suggest is that you insert the clean damper carefully into the packed with grease strut and then pull it back out. On the end of the bumper and the end of the strut will be any extra grease. Clean it off leaving only a little on the sides of the bumper. This way you won't get a lot of grease into the lower chamber where the damper moves as the lower strut housing moves up and where no grease is required. Now install the clean damper into the the lower strut, piston arm and bumpers first. Twist slightly until the end of the rod, which has a rectangular fitting, drops through the bottom of the strut. Install the 14mm nut and tighten.
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Last edited by hwy61; 01-18-2010 at 06:26 PM.
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Old 01-09-2010, 12:39 AM   #2
hwy61
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Part 2.




This picture was lifted from another thread and shows grease placed on areas that would be of little benefit to strut lubrication. The bumper at A sits inside the lower strut and makes very little movement. The damper rod moves in and out of the damper body depending on movement of the lower strut which is bolted to the hub. Grease placed at location B would immediately be removed from this rod. The damper body, C, does not move at all. What moves over it is the lower strut. The 4" inner chamber of the strut housing between the outer grease seal and the O ring on the lower bushing is the only place requiring grease and without a grease fitting there is no way to insure that this chamber can be filled with enough grease to insure that the damper body stays in contact with it.

Only a small amount of grease should be applied to the outer edge of the bumper, the damper rod does not benefit from any grease as it will be wiped off as soon as the rod slides into the damper. It is also of little benefit to grease the outer damper body because the double lipped upper seal will remove it as the damper is insterted into the strut body as illustrated below.



Here I smeared some sticky, good to 500 degree F moly synthetic grease on the damper body.



Here I slid the damper into the strut grease seal one time. Pulled it back out. The grease is gone so lubing the outer, exposed damper body should be of little benefit for a long term solution to damper stick.



In fact, if grease is not wiped off and remains on top of the seal it will collect and hold sand, dirt and debris.

17. Stand the strut upright, wipe all excess grease from the top of the grease seal or it will collect sand, dirt and debris. It will have wiped any grease off of the outer damper cylinder as it was inserted through the seal. You can now install the spring noting to place the bottom end in the recess provided for proper fitment. Install the top cap, the 17mm bolt and retighten...again holding the damper from turning by inserting a 6mm allen wrench into the end of assembly.

18. Place the strut on your work bench or floor in a position where you can attach a grease gun with the grease of your choice and fully fill the 4" chamber between the upper and lower bushings. You will feel several pumps easily place grease into this space even though you have previously tried to fill it while disassembled. Then you will feel resistance to adding more grease when the space is fully filled. At this point stop greasing, clean the grease nipple, install a rubber cap to keep it clean. What is interesting and something that I had not read anywhere else is that there are two seals at the lower strut body. One is at the top and has two lips for wiping the damper body free of grease. The other is an "0" ring inserted into the center of the lower bushing. This keeps grease in the center chamber from being pushed into the lower chamber which is largely free of any grease while also keeping grease in the center chamber should the strut become hot from a healthy workout at 160 mph.






19. Reinstall the strut by pushing the topcap studs through the top of the rear wheel well, position the top properly...it is marked. Place the top cap, again properly marked, on top of the studs and loosely install the three nuts.

20. Back under the car install the two bolts, use a screwdriver to position one hole while the bolt is pushed through the other. When both are installed fully tighten them, install the brake line and clip then tighten the top cap nuts and reinstall the seatbelt winder and tighten the bolt. Reinstall the tire and properly torque the lug nuts. Remove the jack stands and jack.

21. You are now ready to install the rear seat back and then the seat bottom, clean up, put up tools.... Job finished. If the clunk returns....give the grease fitting a pump or two...that should replenish the pressure of the grease against the damper body which will then rub it up and down the bushings as the car is driven. On the drive home there was no clunking and I had forgotten that an STI actually has a supple, but firm suspension because mine had been clunking so long. This makes me wonder about the front struts now. Hwy61

Last edited by hwy61; 02-06-2010 at 01:38 AM.
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Old 01-09-2010, 01:39 AM   #3
Chandy69
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Curious if this will help my Koni's ... I do get a clunk once in a while. Is any type of high quality grease alright?
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Old 01-09-2010, 02:01 AM   #4
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I haven't taken any Konis apart so I don't know the inner construction, manner of any binding you might be encountering or how lubrication is distributed inside them. There should be some studies on grease lubrication regarding durability but I don't know any links. I have Mobile 1 synthetic, a synthetic wheel bearing grease that I thought too stiff, might stick to stuff but also might overpower the seals. I used some Valvoline 500F synthetic grease with moly in it after not being able to find Castrol LMM....some type with moly in it also.

I have read all the recommendations in the various threads. There doesn't seem to be one recommended over the others. Uncle Scotty recommended a racing one that was about $20/tube and is probably really good stuff. I wasn't familiar with it. Hwy61
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Old 01-12-2010, 04:08 AM   #5
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Awesome write up.

It should be a sticky.
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Old 01-12-2010, 04:25 AM   #6
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Excellent post. This is what makes NASIOC a great website.
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Old 01-12-2010, 04:43 AM   #7
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Konis are not inverted so you cannot take them apart yourself. your clunk is most likley in the upper mount or just a blown strut all together.
HWY61,
Good right up bud glad it worked out for ya
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Old 01-12-2010, 10:44 AM   #8
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Any pics of where/how the grease fitting fit into the housing? How deep was it threaded into the body? How much clearance to the actual damper insert/body? Glad you decided to put it below the bushing .
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Old 01-12-2010, 11:06 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scooby921 View Post
Any pics of where/how the grease fitting fit into the housing? How deep was it threaded into the body? How much clearance to the actual damper insert/body? Glad you decided to put it below the bushing .
I'll look back through the pictures I took. It is hard to make the Cannon cooperate when taking pictures inside the strut. There really isn't much to see as I remember. The thickness of the strut wall is just a little over 1/8". When tightening the grease fittings they tightened up very nicely before becoming fully seated. The threaded portion on the ones I used were about 3/16" long to begin with and probably 5/16" in diameter. The distance from the inside of the inner strut wall to the damper body is governed by the width of the bushings and diameter of the damper. This distance is just over 1/8" also. So, a fitting with a 1/4" length threaded end would not hit the damper if not screwed all the way down. Mine were about 3/16" long and barely stuck through the strut wall.

I placed a straight hacksaw blade where it would rest on the top bushing and the O ring on the bottom bushing and gave the clearance a visible inspection. There was plenty of clearance. Then I carefully fitted the damper into the space, feeling for any drag, moved it up and down several times and inspected for any scratches. This is about how simple it is. The damper can't get any closer to the strut walls than the bushings will allow.

When greasing that first time, even after attempting to fully fill the area between the two bushings you will be able to easily pump some grease in. Then you will feel resistance as the chamber fills and you shove a little grease between the bushings. There is no way to pack the strut before assembly this tight. And, this is the only area needing internal grease. Between the top grease seal and the bottom O ring located in the center of the lower bushing. The bottom of the strut where the bumper sits only needs a little grease on the outer edges of the bumper. There is nothing else below the bottom bushing that requires any grease. Hwy61
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Old 01-25-2010, 02:45 PM   #10
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Awesome write-up.
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Old 01-28-2010, 01:04 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chandy69 View Post
Curious if this will help my Koni's ... I do get a clunk once in a while. Is any type of high quality grease alright?

Doing this to Konis would destroy them. They are not an inverted-piston design and drilling a hole in the outer strut body might puncture the Koni inserts, releasing the gas charge and result in a oily mess. Konis clunk when they are blown, but if that is the case, you should also see oil leaks and they should have little to no gas charge left.
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Old 01-29-2010, 10:27 AM   #12
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Nice!

I wondered about doing this very thing a few years ago and just never followed through. It's a great solution, well done!

This needs to be a link in the STi suspension super-sticky.
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Old 01-29-2010, 01:10 PM   #13
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This is a great addition to the standard teardown/repack method. However what happens when you continuously add grease? In the distant distant future, would this all be expelled through the upper seal?
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Old 01-29-2010, 05:04 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psyber_0ptix View Post
This is a great addition to the standard teardown/repack method. However what happens when you continuously add grease? In the distant distant future, would this all be expelled through the upper seal?
The top seal is double action meaning it has an upper and lower lip and acts to seal the strut chamber in both directions. There is an O ring at the bottom that seals the lower chamber of the strut housing. This is the area that should remain largely free of grease. The reason is because as the lower strut moves up when you hit a bump, the bottom end of the damper slides into this empty space. There is only the damper piston rod and a rubber bumper in the lower housing. So, you would not want it full of grease.

Although I could pack the chamber area below the upper grease seal and the lower O ring pretty good....I was still able to add three or four pumps of grease to the chamber before it was completely full of grease. I cannot figure out a method for completely filling this area without installing a grease fitting. Unless the grease in this area stays in contact with the damper body....the grease will not be distributed onto the bushings.

No clunk has returned on mine but if it ever does I expect I will need no more than one or two strokes of a grease gun to re-pressurize the grease in this chamber. I really doubt the grease that is now in there will get out. Remember what is going on in there as you drive. The chrome and extremely smooth sides of the damper is the only thing that the chamber is moving over. No damper ends, no slots, no bolts, no washers......simply a smooth cylinder that the strut, grease and bushings and seals are sliding up and down on.

I suppose you could apply enough grease pressure to bypass the upper or lower seal but from what I felt it should be pretty clear when to stop. There is a noticeable increase in resistance to adding more grease when the chamber if full. It is unfortunate that you can't simply install a fitting to the chamber without taking everything apart.....but you must in order to not damage the damper and to get all the metal shavings out from drilling and tapping the strut. There is also no internal pressure on the grease chamber caused by movement of the strut. Simply one part sliding up and down on the other with a coating of grease being applied with each pass. If you look back at the picture of the factory grease you can see exactly how little of the grease was ever disturbed or distributed by the Subaru fill method. Only the yellow grease that has a little black on it. The rest was of no benefit whatever. A heavy oil would have done a better job, at least it would have made constant contact with the damper body. Might have leaked out though. Hwy61

Last edited by hwy61; 01-31-2010 at 04:46 AM.
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Old 01-29-2010, 06:14 PM   #15
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A+ on innovation and thorough steps/explanations.

Nasioc needs more of these
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Old 03-16-2010, 02:38 PM   #16
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I did standard teardown/repack method on a set of 04 sti struts this weekend, overall it wasn't as bad as I feared. The oem yellow grease indeed was more like wax than grease.

Didn't know if the 05+ struts were re-buildable too, but this is a very handy mod for when I do other people's STi struts. If anyone wants help, let me know.
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Old 04-24-2010, 11:00 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hwy61 View Post
Part 2.




This picture was lifted from another thread and shows grease placed on areas that would be of little benefit to strut lubrication. The bumper at A sits inside the lower strut and makes very little movement. The damper rod moves in and out of the damper body depending on movement of the lower strut which is bolted to the hub. Grease placed at location B would immediately be removed from this rod. The damper body, C, does not move at all. What moves over it is the lower strut. The 4" inner chamber of the strut housing between the outer grease seal and the O ring on the lower bushing is the only place requiring grease and without a grease fitting there is no way to insure that this chamber can be filled with enough grease to insure that the damper body stays in contact with it.

Only a small amount of grease should be applied to the outer edge of the bumper, the damper rod does not benefit from any grease as it will be wiped off as soon as the rod slides into the damper. It is also of little benefit to grease the outer damper body because the double lipped upper seal will remove it as the damper is insterted into the strut body as illustrated below.



Here I smeared some sticky, good to 500 degree F moly synthetic grease on the damper body.



Here I slid the damper into the strut grease seal one time. Pulled it back out. The grease is gone so lubing the outer, exposed damper body should be of little benefit for a long term solution to damper stick.



In fact, if grease is not wiped off and remains on top of the seal it will collect and hold sand, dirt and debris.

17. Stand the strut upright, wipe all excess grease from the top of the grease seal or it will collect sand, dirt and debris. It will have wiped any grease off of the outer damper cylinder as it was inserted through the seal. You can now install the spring noting to place the bottom end in the recess provided for proper fitment. Install the top cap, the 17mm bolt and retighten...again holding the damper from turning by inserting a 6mm allen wrench into the end of assembly.

18. Place the strut on your work bench or floor in a position where you can attach a grease gun with the grease of your choice and fully fill the 4" chamber between the upper and lower bushings. You will feel several pumps easily place grease into this space even though you have previously tried to fill it while disassembled. Then you will feel resistance to adding more grease when the space is fully filled. At this point stop greasing, clean the grease nipple, install a rubber cap to keep it clean. What is interesting and something that I had not read anywhere else is that there are two seals at the lower strut body. One is at the top and has two lips for wiping the damper body free of grease. The other is an "0" ring inserted into the center of the lower bushing. This keeps grease in the center chamber from being pushed into the lower chamber which is largely free of any grease while also keeping grease in the center chamber should the strut become hot from a healthy workout at 160 mph.






19. Reinstall the strut by pushing the topcap studs through the top of the rear wheel well, position the top properly...it is marked. Place the top cap, again properly marked, on top of the studs and loosely install the three nuts.

20. Back under the car install the two bolts, use a screwdriver to position one hole while the bolt is pushed through the other. When both are installed fully tighten them, install the brake line and clip then tighten the top cap nuts and reinstall the seatbelt winder and tighten the bolt. Reinstall the tire and properly torque the lug nuts. Remove the jack stands and jack.

21. You are now ready to install the rear seat back and then the seat bottom, clean up, put up tools.... Job finished. If the clunk returns....give the grease fitting a pump or two...that should replenish the pressure of the grease against the damper body which will then rub it up and down the bushings as the car is driven. On the drive home there was no clunking and I had forgotten that an STI actually has a supple, but firm suspension because mine had been clunking so long. This makes me wonder about the front struts now. Hwy61


so did this work for people? i'm die a little more inside everytime i hear 'the clunk'.
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Old 04-30-2010, 12:59 PM   #18
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thanks for this! i'm going to have to try this
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Old 05-02-2010, 10:10 PM   #19
SuperSTI06
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So i must say this was an awesome breakdown...got to dismantle one of my struts and it worked great, the other strut 14mm wouldn't come off the bottom so i will have to purchase a new strut but worked very well over all
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Old 05-02-2010, 11:01 PM   #20
richy_21
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wow thats a good idea! Great job op!
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Old 05-05-2010, 02:34 PM   #21
CyborgX_CZ
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Just bought 04 STi struts for my FXT And have same plans:-) nice write up
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Old 05-07-2010, 12:49 AM   #22
RallyLegacy
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Wow that is a lot of work. Seems like upgrading the struts would be the better option for me...
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Old 05-18-2010, 09:42 PM   #23
trancemann
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I did this over last weekend. What a breeze! It really isnt that hard. Now my car sounds good again!
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Old 05-18-2010, 10:53 PM   #24
f4phantomii
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I actually did this to my rear struts last year and it's worked great.

Couple of minor things to mention.....

Make certain you get any metal shavings out.....inspect carefully! And be sure to deburr the hole....if you have the correct tool, deburr the *inside* of the hole too.

Definitely install the grease fitting facing aft. If you put it on the outboard side (facing the tire) for easy access, the clearance to the tire itself once the wheel is re-installed is minimal, and in my opinion not acceptable. If you have tires that are 10mm wider than spec, there you will definitely be very shy on clearance.
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Old 05-26-2010, 06:40 PM   #25
VR62STI
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AWESOME WRITE-UP!!!!

Thank you so much. It is this kind of dedication that makes this board and community so great!
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