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Front Suspension: Struts


If you haven't replaced your struts after 100,000 miles, then you are definitely due. At 117,000 miles I finally replaced mine and the old ones were completely shot. You will need a spring compresser and an alignment to complete this job.

There are only 7 bolts holding the strut onto the car. Two big 18mm bolts at the bottom, one sway bar bolt, three small 10mm bolts under the hood, and one big bolt holding the spring onto the strut. The entire job can be completed in less time than it takes for an alignment! You will probably find you can do the other side about twice as fast as the first side!
The first bolt to attack is the sway bar bolt. There is a trick to it though. You need to insert a wrench behind the the strut to keep the pin from spinning with the nut. On my car an 18mm wrench fit perfectly.

The thinner the wrench the better as you will have less chance of ripping the rubber boot. Once you attach the wrench on the back, the nut should come off easy enough.
Now you can remove the two big 18mm bolts. The manual says to hold the actual bolt in place and only turn the nut. This sounds good in theory, but I found that I needed to spin the bolt in order to remove it from the hole! The bolt is designed where you can hammer on it pretty good and not mess up the threads...

One mental note here is the actual facing of the bolt. The head of the bolt needs to face the front of the car when reinstalling it.
Almost done with the removal! Now unbolt the top three 10mm bolts under the hood. These were surprising tight and might even be pretty rusted in the northern climates. If these break off or cause major problems you might need to order a new strut mount and new bolts. They are not that expensive.

Also take notice on how the cover sits on the car. The bolts are not spaced evenly so the cover and mount only fit one way... Be sure to hold the strut while unscrewing the last bolt because it will fall out once these three bolts are removed.
Now that the strut is on the ground, you need to compress the spring and remove the top bolt. Once you see the spring loosen from the top mount you are good to remove the bolt.

There are many ways to remove this bolt, the easiest is to use a nice air impact gun. It is able to remove the nut faster than the shaft is able to spin.
Another way is to use a special wrench that can fit in the hole while you hold the shaft still with a hex wrench.
SAAB does sell special tool for this job, however I found that the nut sizes change depending on the strut vender. This makes the special tool only good for removal.
Now that the top mount is off, you basically pull everything off of the strut. Be careful and pay attention to the order and placement. The coil spring is shaped different on each end along with the strut bearing.

Spin the strut bearing in your hand and make sure it moves smooth with no grinding. This should be replaced if any resistance is felt.

From here you basically just reinstall everything back onto the new strut. The lower part of the coil spring needs to butt up against a tab on the lower mount. I usually get it close and then make the final adjustment while tightening the top bolt.

The bilstein struts will not require the bumpstops that were removed from the Sachs units. The bilstein's have bumpstops built into them.

Tightening the top bolt is more art than science. Unless you have the special tool, you will not be able to use a torque wrench. I basically just tighten the bolt as much as I can and that is good enough. The nyloc threads and spring pressure is enough to keep the nut secure.
Now you just need to reinstall the strut back in the car!

Having two people is nice as you need to line up the top mount bolt holes while trying to hold the strut in the fender! Remember the holes only line up one way!

Tighten the three 10mm bolts to the recommended spec. It is different depending on the year! (Haynes manual)

Before inserting the two main bolts I coat them in some anti-sieze to make them easier to remove the next time. Attach the two main 18mm bolts in the proper direction and torque those down.
Then install the sway bar link bolt. You will need to hold the back of pin the same as the removal.

That is it! Now do the other side!


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