Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Monroe Quick Struts on a 2010 Toyota Camry--Review

As readers of my blogs know, Toyota has a problem with prematurely leaking struts on 2007-2010 Camrys. I had one strut replaced under warranty, but the dealer refused to replace another because it "wasn't leaking enough." Toyota's position is that "some leaking is normal." At any rate, I had my car in to an independent dealer for a brake job, and the manager once again informed me that two of the struts were leaking, one front and one rear. He quoted a price of $1200 to replace all four.

I had never considered changing the struts as a do-it-yourself project because every text, every video, and every live person strongly warned about the dangers of compressing and removing the spring from the strut. If the spring compressor slips, the spring can fly off with enough energy to maim or kill someone. (Imagine the disappointment of your wife or girlfriend to come out into the garage  to find you stretched out on he floor with half a spring coming out of your head.)

But--enter the Monroe Quick Strut and its competitors, KYB Strut-Plus, AC  Delco ReadyStrut, and Gabriel ReadyMount struts, all of which now offer a complete strut assembly that includes the strut, spring, bearing plate, boot, and spring isolators. Install time is cut by a third, and the price is quite reasonable, especially considering that if you buy a bearing plate separately, you could be looking at $60 or so.

I've watched a number of car repair episodes where the mechanic puts a greasy boot and a worn and misshapen spring isolator onto a new strut. Ick. So, why not go for a new everything? It's so much safer and lots easier.

So I bought four struts from Rock Auto and installed them myself. Cost was about $480, plus shipping of $68. And there was a rebate of about $115, so that altogether I was in for about $430. By doing it myself, I saved $770. Of course, I used the opportunity to buy some more tools, totaling $150, but I still came out ahead.

Installation was fairly easy and straightforward on the front (which is why he YouTube videos all show the front installation and not the rear). Since I had never changed a strut before, the first one took an hour and 45 minutes, and the second one took an hour a fifteen minutes.

Finding out how to access the rear struts was a challenge. I couldn't find any videos on how to do it. However, on other cars, the rear struts were accessed through the cargo shelf. I finally found a couple of how-to instructions for changing speakers in the back of the car, and they showed half of what I needed to know. The other half I learned by doing.

Since instruction on his activity is scarce, here is a brief rundown for changing the rear struts on a 2007 to 2010 Toyota Camry.

Disclaimer: This is a description of what I did, If you decide to follow this description, be very careful. You can injure or kill yourself if you are careless.

Access to the top bolts on the rear struts.

1. Fold down the rear seats by using the in-trunk seat releases. (Note: Some descriptions tell you to remove the rear seat, but I left it in place.)

2. Locate the plastic panel covering the rear pillar between the roof and the cargo shelf. Using a thin tool (plastic is best so you won't mar the panel, but if you are careful, you can use a small pry bar).pry up the corner of the panel nearest the front of the car. Two or three fasteners will pop out. When about one third of the panel is out, pull it toward you and it should slide free. Do the same for the panel on the other side of the car.

3. Pry under the cargo shelf in the middle, and it should pop free along the end closest to you. When the entire edge is free, pull the shelf toward you and it will come free. Note that the sear belts need to be freed from the guides at the top of the seats. Then you can slide the shelf down and lay it on the seats. (You might want to disconnect the wire to the center taillight, as it is very thin and might be fragile.)

4. Remove the seat belt retractors from both sides (one bolt). These retractors are blocking access to the well where the struts are connected.

5. Loosen the three mounting bolts on each tower. WARNING> NEVER LOOSEN OR REMOVE THE CENTER BOLT. The center bolt holds the spring under tension.

6.. Block the front wheels and proceed to jack up the car. I used a jack to  raise the car, a jack stand as a secondary "fail safe" backup, and a second jack stand to support the wheel when I removed the strut connector bolts.

7. Replacement is now the same as for the front struts.

8. Remember to tighten the upper mounting bolts AFTER  you  let the car back down on the ground.

9. Reattach the seat belt retractors, (plug in the taillight if you unplugged it earlier) ,slide the cargo shelf back into place, and slide the pillar panels back into place, taking care to put the tabs into the slots in the shelf. A couple of fist taps will reseat the plastic fasteners.

The task is relatively easy and quick if you are mechanically experienced. One shop quoted five and a half hours of labor for the job. I think that with the Monroe Quick Struts or similar all-in-one packages, professionals could easily do all four struts in 3 hours or less. My total time was probably something like 9 or 10 hours, since I got hung up on one of the rear struts not fitting easily. (The strut didn't quite match the bolt hole, and I had to figure out how to align the two. An extra jack solved the problem.)

The bottom line is that with the Monroe Quick Strut, or KYB Strut Plus or AC Delco ReadyStrut, Gabriel ReadyMount and perhaps others, the danger of a spring accident has been eliminated, and time and difficulty have been reduced. I found the price and service of Rock Auto to be exceptional, so I would recommend them, at least based on one purchase.

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