Replacing the upper struts of shock absorber struts: diagnostics, repair and control of wheel alignment
The upper shock absorber support or its fastening is a suspension element that directly affects the safety of the driver and passengers. The support ensures the stability of the shock absorber, which means that the proper controllability of the car and comfort depend on its serviceability. What should be remembered when replacing the upper struts of the shock absorbers and whether after that adjustment of the wheel alignment is necessary?
Consider an example. In a middle-class car equipped with a MacPherson strut, a deterioration in handling and a knock from the right wheel, audible when cornering, were detected. After checking the basic elements of the steering and suspension, suspicion falls on the shock absorber. An external examination showed no signs of wear. But is it really so?
“In the absence of oil leaks from the shock absorber, which very often occur when it is damaged, the diagnosis of this unit does not end. An equally important element is the upper support attached to the body. It can be combined with a bearing or a separate unit. Replacing the support is a simple service operation, which nevertheless requires appropriate equipment and some experience, ”says Tomasz Ohman from SKF.
The support, or rather, the bearing adjacent to it, may have play resulting from operation or damage, for example, when hitting an obstacle or getting the wheel into a deep hole. As already mentioned, a characteristic sign of this malfunction will be a change in the controllability of the car and the deterioration of damping during unevenness. There is also a knock in the area of this shock absorber..
“Getting started, you should start from the bottom of the MacPherson strut and disconnect it from the steering knuckle to remove the entire assembly. Then you need to disconnect the upper support, which is attached to the body with three bolts. When the MacPherson strut is dismantled, remember to use a professional spring remover. After compressing the spring to a state that allows you to safely remove the support, we will be able to install a new unit using a torque wrench. It is important to use new bolts, which – as in the case of SKF kits – are included in the delivery, ”explains Tomasz Ohman.
Replacing the shock absorber support for an experienced mechanic is no big deal. If the bolts of the rack to the steering knuckle are not unscrewed, it is worth using penetrating lubricant for threaded connections. For this service operation, the standard is the simultaneous replacement of shock absorber supports on both sides of the vehicle. If the damage is not associated, for example, with a collision with an obstacle, it is very likely that a fastener on the other side will need to be replaced. The question remains: is it necessary to check the suspension geometry after such a repair?
“Replacing the shock absorber support is associated with interference with the vehicle’s suspension, therefore monitoring and possible adjustment of the wheel alignment angles is a mandatory service procedure. Detaching the strut from the steering knuckle can significantly change the suspension parameters, which can be detected only after some time, for example, in the form of uneven tire wear. That is why, after replacing the upper support, it is necessary to check the wheel alignment angles, ”summarizes Tomasz Ohman.
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