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Front Strut Replacement instructions

These instructions are for replacing the Buick Reatta front strut assembly on a 1989 Buick Reatta. Other models should be the same but there could be minor differences. These instructions assume the spring has already been installed on the new strut.   If the struts are ordered new the spring and top plate/bearing should be ordered separately. Assemble them per the manufacturers installation guideline before starting this procedure.

Always replace both front struts at the same time. Problems may arise in handling if only one strut is replaced.

Preparing to remove the struts:

  1. Slightly loosen the lug nuts on both front wheels. Do not remove completely.
     
  2. Raise front end of car and support with two jackstands placed under the frame of the car so there will be no weight on the suspension parts. This is required to allow for installation of both front struts.  
    Do not place jackstands under the lower control arm
    .  If only one front corner of the car is raised then the front sway bar torque will be transferred to the wheel being supported by the jackstand preventing the steering control arm assembly, and the strut mounting flanges, on that side from aligning properly when you attempt to install the new strut.
    Front Struts 001
  3. Remove both front wheels. This will allow the front sway bar to have minimum interference with the installation of the spring and strut assemblies on both sides
     
  4. Spray mounting bolts and nuts with penetrating oil to make removal easier. Let it soak overnight if possible if the threads are rusty.

Make certain the vehicle is supported safely before starting the following procedure. Be aware that the strut could have spring tension on it that could cause suspension parts to move without warning. Stay alert and don't get hurt!

Remove the strut assembly:

  1. Loosen and remove 3 nuts (requires 13mm wrench) and 3 washers from the top of the strut tower (upper frame assembly).
     Front Struts 003

  2. Remove two bolts from the brackets that attach the wheel sensor and brake line to the strut.
     Front Struts 004

  3. On the steering control arm assembly, remove the two bolts (requires 15/16" wrench) bolts, nuts and washers that clamp the bottom of the strut to the steering knuckle.
  4.  Front Struts 005

  5. Separate the steering knuckle from the strut mounting flanges and allow to hang down.
     Front Struts 011
  6.  
  7. Remove spring and strut assembly from wheel well.

You do NOT want to over extend the drive shaft when removing the strut.  Keeping the wheel assembly as close to it normal position as possible needs to be at the forefront of the effort as you actually get to removing the strut assembly.  If you do overextend it, you will pull apart the inner CV joint and potentially damage the drive shaft seal on the transmission. If you do overextend the drive shaft on either side, you CAN'T just slid it back in blindly.  The drive shaft DOES normally move in and out as the suspension travels up and down, but that trail is limited and if you over extend it, well you have to totally remove it, slip the boot back, reassemble the CV joint and then reinstall, being very careful not to damage the seal.

Install the strut assembly:

Install procedure is just the reverse of removing the strut. Refer to the photos above.

  1. Install the replacement spring and strut assembly into the strut tower and install the three nuts and washers and tighten down (requires 13mm wrench).
     
  2. Raise the steering control arm and slide into the strut mounting flanges.
      
  3. Install one clamping bolt (threaded end of bolt facing rear of car) into the lower mounting hole.  Tighten nut (requires 18mm wrench) but leave loose enough to allow movement . 
     
  4. Insert the upper clamping bolt, (threaded end of bolt facing rear of car), tighten nut and bolt to slightly snug.
      
  5. OPTIONAL: On the front of the steering control arm is a camber adjustment bolt.  Adjust this bolt to allow a rough adjustment of the camber if needed in order to be able to drive the car to the alignment shop..
    Front Struts 013 

  6. After adjusting the camber adjusting bolt (if needed) tighten down the 2 bolts and nuts that clamp the strut to the steering knuckle.
     
  7. Re-install wheel sensor and brake line brackets onto strut.
     
  8. Mount wheels and drop car to pavement.

Next stop - Alignment shop for a 4 wheel alignment.

Your Reatta will need an alignment after you replace the struts. If you have a Reatta Field Service Manual, take it with you and make sure  the mechanic reviews the FSM procedures for aligning the suspension before he begins the work.

A side-note about my experience with getting my alignment done.

I told the mechanic that I had the FSM for his review and he responded, "everything is in the computer".  He started with the rear wheels and he worked for a good 30 minutes and said that he was close to the specs but couldn't get it any closer.  Then he started on the front and he couldn't pull the caster into specs.  He told the manager that he would have to replace the pivot bolt with a thinner shank bolt to get more rotation.  I told the manager that the mechanic should read Section: 3-A (Wheel Alignment) of the '89 FSM and using those instructions should try to do the alignment one more time.  Low-and-behold he got it into specs.  It just goes to show that sometimes you have to insist on having the work done properly.

Thanks to 89 Maui, member of the AACA & ROJ forum, for this information.