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Old 09-09-2005, 11:52 AM   #1
Subiverted
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Question How hard is it to ...

Hi all!

Serious NooB here- first post so go easy on me. I checked the archives, searched the forums and came up with zip so here goes:

How difficult is it to do each of the following on a '97 Legacy Brighton Wagon, 2.2 SOHC MT5:

1. Replace the timing belt (and fix a slightly leaky pump seal).

2. Replace the clutch

3. Replace the struts (I have new GR-2's in the box and a shop that will install them for $75 labor each. Pay or do it myself?).

Yes, I realize this is somewhat subjective and it depends on lots of stuff such as how mechanically inclined one is, what tools one has and how concerned one is about voiding warranties. I am really just looking for advice along the lines of: "pay someone else to swap the clutch- it ain't worth the aggravation and it will take you 2 weeks if you do it yourself" or save the bucks and do the struts yourself just make sure you have 4 trained gorillas, a 14 foot breaker bar and a good set of spring compressors first. Maybe even: here's a thread that shows step by step how to change your timing belt including how long it takes and what tools are needed...

Possibly pertinent info: I am a home machinist, I have mostly rebuilt several cars over the years and I have no aversion to getting dirty however I would rather pay $10 for an oil change than do it myself (lazy bastard). I have most tools but (for some inexplicable reason) lack an impact wrench/compressed air setup (nasty nuts on those struts???). I do almost all of the work by myself (don't have helpers). And, unfortunatley, I don't have tons of money laying around. Also this is my daily driver so I can't afford to have it sitting in pieces for many days on end.

So at what point, in your own experience, does the cost of paying someone else to do it become more attractive than spending the time/aggravation of doing it oneself?

Thanks!
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Old 09-09-2005, 12:46 PM   #2
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Based on your post, I'm going to say that you could do all of the above, although it could take a few days.

I'll comment that struts/springs @ 75/each is a rip-off, most definately do that yourself. I bet you could do it in 2-4 hours.

fibuz
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Old 09-09-2005, 12:59 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fibuz
Based on your post, I'm going to say that you could do all of the above, although it could take a few days.

I'll comment that struts/springs @ 75/each is a rip-off, most definately do that yourself. I bet you could do it in 2-4 hours.

fibuz
+1 - especially on the rip-off part. Some folk are getting all four struts replaced for $150 or less.

Without air tools getting the strut bolts out will be a beotch. But that's why God made big, honkin extension pipes .

The other items are really quite easy. Can you pull the motor? Since you're working on both the front and the back of the engine (TB, OP and clutch) that might be the easier route and you could do that in a couple of hours. Plus, it would give you an opportunity to really look everything over and clean it up well too. Just a thought.

There's a couple of threads on timing belt replacement, just do a search on my screenname.

Dale
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Old 09-09-2005, 01:36 PM   #4
bhall
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Struts:
Do your self. You will need some spring compressors that you can rent from the local auto parts store and a 4 foot breaker bar. I have a decent impact and it did not touch the lower strut bolts so dont waste your time. The entire job can be done within 3 hours. Depending on what you want to do in the future this is the time to replace the springs since you will have them completely off.

Timeing belt:
From what I have been told its not that bad but I dont have first hand experince on this.

Clutch:
I would have a shop do this unless you have a lift or are going to pull the motor. I know you can do it on your back but that kinda seems like a job you will be wishing you paid for when your half way done. I know all of you have had this wonderful experience.

BTW are we really almost at 100k on member numbers
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Old 09-09-2005, 07:45 PM   #5
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get a friend to help you with the struts.. trust me on this one, the difference between solo strut replacement and with a buddy replacement is like night and day.

$40 deposit at autozone for spring compressors. and you get the whole $40 back. its sweet. i swapped my stuff like 4 times in a month, the guy at the counter started pulling the compressors out when i walked though the door. haha.
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Old 09-10-2005, 12:02 AM   #6
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Good info guys. I've been wondering a few similar things.
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Old 09-10-2005, 01:05 AM   #7
Subiverted
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Thanks for the great info everyone! Excellent advice all the way around!

Right now the biggest problem is the struts. The other jobs can wait a while longer.

Luckily I already have a set of spring compressors that I just happened to have found brand new at a flea market for $17. They are the same ones that the local auto parts place sells for $50 and they even fit my springs.

Spdracr00: Thanks. I am going to heed your advice about solo strut swapping as it sounds suspiciously as if it was accrued through acute real life testing. Therefore I will shanghai my wife into helping me rather than go it alone. This is not without peril, however, as she has been noticing lately how much better my suby handles than her saturn. I fear that inciting additional interest in suspension related activities could jeopardize the subies current monopoly on handling related fundature...

Subietonic: couldn't find the timing belt threads yet- I will keep looking as this must come up constantly...

So the verdict is 3 hours +/- 1 hr for the struts? We shall see... we shall see...
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Old 09-10-2005, 05:51 PM   #8
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This should do it for you. Timing Belt replacement. Good reference and description of the process.

Dale
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Old 09-11-2005, 01:19 AM   #9
Subiverted
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Subietonic: You absolutely rock! That timing belt article is awesome and is exactly what I was looking for. I saved the PDF file to print out for when I get to that point.

Tonight, since I had a couple of hours free I sanded and buffed the headlights out (look brand new now) and then I swapped the first of the struts out (rear right) just to see what I was in for. Oddly, the bottom bolts came out with very little protest (all things considered) so everything went fairly smoothly. It took just a tad under 2 hours. I am fairly confident that the remaining 3 should take a LOT less time since quite a bit of that 2 hours was spent just digging up the right tools and thinking things through so as not to do something stupid.

Everyone who told me to go for it: you were absolutely right. Not a difficult job at all.

Unfortunately while I was in there I noticed how terribly ugly that stock rear sway bar looks so the money I am saving on strut installation may have to be redirected towards a new adjustable rear sway bar and shiny new drop links rather than back into my bank account... Sigh....

And I came up with a great idea for a rear strut tower brace that is easily removeable and doesn't remove one's knees when sleeping in the back. I will take pics of that when I make it and get it installed.
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Old 09-12-2005, 07:53 PM   #10
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Depending on what your time is worth, I would pay a shop to do the shocks. I got all 4 replaced with AGX + a 4 wheel alignment for $200 labor. Compare that to doing the shocks yourself: you will waste 1-2 afternoons getting brake fluid everywhere, then you'll STILL have to pay for the aligment - almost as much as getting them to do the whole job.

Don't get me wrong, you can do it. I did it myself, with no help, 3 times over the past few years. The 4th time, I paid a shop to do it... and I felt like an idiot for not doing that before.

Here are the things to watch out for:
1) Gotta disconnect the brake lines from the calipers, which obviously makes a mess and forces you do bleed them later. I recommend a trick: rather than disconnecting it and letting it drain for an hour while you futz with the shock, instead do this: Disconnect it, immediately pull it through the bracket on the shock, then reconnect it to the caliper. Then you can take your time removing the shock and replacing it. Do the opposite once the new shock is in place, and you've minimized the amount of air you get in there.

2) Be very careful to remember the order to attach all the little washers and bearings on the front shocks, otherwise you will have difficulty turning the steering wheel.

3) The hardest nuts to break are between the shock and the knuckle. You'll need PB blaster, a breaker bar with a 5 foot pipe over the handle, or a good impact wrench.

4) The nut you'll curse the most is the one on top of the damper rod. When you try to tighten them or loosen them, the damper rod will turn and you will make no progress. An impact wrench helps big time. It also might help to put a quick grip vise (with soft pads) around the damper rod to slow down its free wheeling. Somehow, I manged to get them torqued properly with a torque wrench using that quick grip. That was a miracle.

5) The rear spring needs to sit in the right position in both the top mount and the shock, otherwise you won't be able to get the shock to line up properly with the bolt holes on top.
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Old 09-13-2005, 12:47 AM   #11
Subiverted
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Thanks again everyone for the advice! My struts are now replaced! New GR-2's all the way around! Man what an improvement in ride comfort! And not such a difficult job.

What I learned for the benefit of others attempting it after me:

1. Make sure your wife is mechanically inclined. Luckily, mine is! I love my wife! Seriously though, it definitely makes things easier with a helper.

2. Total time for the removal/replacement of the first strut was 2 hours (the first time). The second time, (AFTER we found the rubber donut thingy from the bottom spring seat sitting happily in the garage) it only took ~45 minutes. By the time we got to strut number 5 we had things down to a science and we were cranking along at a clip of about 45 minutes/strut with roughly 10-15 minutes of that just dedicated to jacking the car up and removing/reinstalling the wheels. You guys were right on the money: this really is a 3 hour job if you know what you are doing.

3. BEFORE jacking up the car, go around to all of the strut tops and break the top nut loose first! Just a 1/4 turn so it isn't stuck when you have to take it off later.

4. Forget disconnecting the brake lines. Totally unnecessary. Pop the retaining clip off and use a dremel tool to carefully cut a slot in the metal tab that holds the brake lines and bend it out of the way to free the line. Do the same on the new struts. Reinsert brake lines, bend tab back into original position and reinsert the brake line clip and you are good to go.

5. When it is time to remove the top nut (after the springs are compressed), we found that a strap wrench on the strut shaft worked really well to keep the shaft from rotating while undoing the top nut (this seems a lot easier than the allen wrench through the special socket wrench approach).

6. We also found that the front springs are a b**tch to compress because you can only grab one coil which isn't enough to really get the tension off the top hat.

7. Whatever you do make sure to mark the position of the top bolts on the bottom of the front struts before loosening them! I pulled the left one out without doing this and then realized it is an eccentric bolt and sets the camber. Doh! This was the only spec that really was off when I got the car aligned today (I mentioned this to the alignment guy and he laughed at me...).

8. Maybe we just got lucky, but all of the lower nuts came off no problem with just a short, maximum effort grunt applied to a 14" cheater bar on a 3/8" socket wrench. No gorillas required... And these struts had 111000 miles on them.

9. Finally, listen to the guys here on this list. They really seem to know what they are talking about!

Thanks again all! The timing belt is next!
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Old 09-13-2005, 01:38 AM   #12
Subietonic
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Got to love wives who enjoy working on cars. Don't need them to be gear heads, just enjoy helping out, just for the pleasure of doing stuff together.

Congrats on the install. Looking forward to hearing how the remainder of your "fix-it" list goes.

Dale
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Old 09-13-2005, 02:06 AM   #13
cfwdfw
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Dale,

I would love to locate the article (Fall 2000) on changing timing belts in the 2.5 DOHC engine but a search on the End Wrench led me nowhere ...

Is this a Subaru publication or ?? I'd be very gratefull for any help ...

thanks

Charlie
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Old 09-13-2005, 04:36 AM   #14
Subietonic
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Charlie,

Here you go. 2.5L DOHC Timing Belt Replacement. Pay particular attention to the alignment marks, non-movement of the cams and the Timing Belt Tensioner rod retraction process.

Dale
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Old 09-13-2005, 09:54 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Subiverted
4. Forget disconnecting the brake lines. Totally unnecessary. Pop the retaining clip off and use a dremel tool to carefully cut a slot in the metal tab that holds the brake lines and bend it out of the way to free the line. Do the same on the new struts. Reinsert brake lines, bend tab back into original position and reinsert the brake line clip and you are good to go.
I like you're thinking! The only trick is, you better have steady hands to avoid nicking that brake line!
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Old 09-13-2005, 01:10 PM   #16
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I picked up a Haynes Legacy manual at Autozone. Best $16.99 I ever spent in there.
Excellent for routine maintenance and engine/suspension stuff.
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Old 09-13-2005, 01:51 PM   #17
Subiverted
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The trick to cutting the bracket that holds the brake line to the strut is to remove the retaining spring clip first so that you can slide the brake line one way or the other far enough to get that big fat coupling piece out of the way. Then you should have the skinny metal part of the brake line way over on the other side of the hole from where you intend to cut (almost an inch). Then it is a piece of cake!

Otherwise you will definitely need steady hands as it will feel very much like you are disarming a bomb... DON"T touch the red wire! No the BLUE wire!? AHHH! BOOOM!
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