Strut Removal and Replacement
Hello everybody. This is my how-to on replacing the front and rear struts of a 1991 Toyota Celica GT. I hope anyone that comes across this finds the information useful. Most all of the steps here can be applied to other vehicles too. (Note: not all pictures were taken in order. I was halfway through the project when I discovered this site and decided to write this How-To)
-Breaker bar/Impact gun
-Universal joint socket
-12mm, 14mm, 19mm, 21mm, 22mm sockets
-5mm Allen socket
-10mm, 14mm wrenches
-Macpherson strut spring compressor
-Trim removal tool
1) Park the vehicle on level, solid ground and jack it up so all four tires are off of the ground. Be sure to place the car securely on jack-stands (if you're using a breaker bar make sure to break the lug nuts loose before lifting the vehicle).
2) Remove all four tires. In this case I'll be using an impact gun and 21mm socket. Set the tires out of the way.
3) Using a 14mm socket and ratchet, disconnect the front brake hoses from the calipers. Use a catch pan to collect the draining brake fluid. Using a punch and hammer, tap out the front retaining clips holding the brake hoses. These are located on the struts and require removal. After doing so, feed the brake hose through the mounting bracket so it's free from the strut.
(Note: This photo shows the strut removed and the hard brake line, which has been disconnected from the the other end of the brake line and the mounting tab on the strut.)
4) Remove the top mounting bolts on the front calipers, using a 14mm socket/wrench. Swing the calipers down. This gives access to the bottom strut bolt. Both the bottom nut and bolt heads on the front struts are 22mm. Using a wrench and impact gun/breaker bar, loosen both bolts and nuts. Next you'll want to locate the top mounting nuts. There are three nuts in a triangle pattern, with two of them also holding the strut brace. Remove all three nuts with a 14mm socket. Remove the bottom strut bolts from earlier and pull the strut down and out from the vehicle.
5) The removal of the rear strut is a similar process. Using a hammer and punch, tap out the rear retaining clips holding the brake hoses to the struts. Disconnect the rear brake lines from the drums using a 10mm wrench. Proceed to pull the brake lines through the mounting brackets. Let the brake fluid drain into the catch pan from earlier. The rear sway bar links will need disconnected from the brackets on the struts. This requires a 14mm wrench and a 5mm Allen socket.
6) To gain access to the top nuts on the strut you'll have to go into the trunk. On hatchback models the nuts are hidden under a plastic cover, one on either side of the car. These are located between the liftgate strut and the privacy shield. Remove the covers with a flat-head screwdriver or trim removal tool. Use a 12mm socket and extension to remove the top mounting nuts. A universal joint socket makes removal easier, but isn't necessary. Use a 19mm impact gun/breaker bar and wrench to remove the bottom mounting bolts and nuts, then pull the rear strut down and out from the vehicle.
7) The final step before reinstallation is to swap the coil springs over to the new struts, if you are not installing brand new springs or using quick struts. This is assuming you'll be using a portable spring compressor and not a wall or bench mounted one.
WARNING: Using spring compressors is dangerous and requires a lot of care and attention. If you are not confident in replacing the springs yourself I highly recommend that you have a trusted shop do so.
With the old struts out of the car, install both sides of the compressor onto the spring, making them just finger tight. If the tool has safety pins, lock them in now. You'll want to align both sides of the compressor directly across from each other. Using a socket or wrench, slowly tighten each arm little bits at a time, going back and forth between the two. Do this until it is clearly visible that the spring isn't holding any pressure on the top-hat of the strut. Next is to remove the top-hat, which in this case is held down with a 19mm nut. Remove the nut with an impact gun and carefully remove the top-hat, bump stop, and coil spring. Now is a good time to inspect the bearing and strut bushings. With the spring still compressed, install it onto the new strut, making sure the end coil is seated and not uneven. Install the bump stop and top hat, making sure that the nut is tight before decompressing the spring. This process applies to all four struts on this Celica
8) Reinstallation is the same process, just in reverse. Before putting the wheels back on, you will need to bleed the brakes since the brake lines were disconnected. You'll need an assistant or self-bleeding kit.