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03 Corolla Struts Change


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#1 Big_Beard

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 12:42 AM

Hello all I wanted to change the struts in my 2003 Corolla. I read through my Haynes manual thought the job should be simple enough so decided to go ahead.

Thinking the rear struts would be easier to begin with I bought a set of Monroe rear struts and set about the job.

When I began to look for the top mounting bolts they were nowhere to be found. In fact the entire top portion of the strut seems to be buried under a sheet metal cowling which is spot welded to the frame.

I can see no access to the top of the rear struts the Haynes manual implied rather directly that they should be accessible from the inside of the trunk once inner lining is removed. However all I could see was the sheet metal covering the area where the top portion of the strut should be mounted to the frame.

Anyways just wondering if anyone has any advise?

Not even sure if it worth doing at this point since I only have 150 000 KM on the vehicle?

Im just a teacher so the shop cost is going to be prohibitive for me so looking for a way to make this work is possible.

#2 fishexpo101

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 07:32 AM

You should be able to see the three nuts that hold the top of the strut. That sheetmetal brace, should have an opening at the very top that you should be able to see the top of the strut, immediately to the left and right - should see the threads of three bolts and nuts popping up to and flanking that vertical sheetmetal brace. One of those might need to be held with a wrench when you attempt to loosen it (look up under the fender well at the top of the strut (bottom of upper mount) - you'll see that two of the studs are pressed in, one has a hex head on it. Make sure you brace the rear beam before you loosen anything.

It is a little hard to picture, if you haven;t worked on them before. I'll try and upload a graphic and update this post later today.

As for strut replacement at this time, 150K km is a decent distance, since Toyota generally uses a more complaint strut, they do seem to wear out a litter faster than other cars that I've had. Struts will eventually wear out, if you've noticed that the ride quality has changed and/or seen some abnormal tire wire - good time to replace them.

#3 TRCar54

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 11:46 AM

My 95 with 281K just reminded me that it needs struts....think I got my money's worth??

The struts have been shot for a while now but the left rear seems to have frozen with the latest cold snap. I think it freed up as I turned into work after a 1 hour commute.

Has anyone else had a shock freeze.......man that is much more squirrelly than mushy struts.


...........As for strut replacement at this time, 150K km is a decent distance, since Toyota generally uses a more complaint strut, they do seem to wear out a litter faster than other cars that I've had. Struts will eventually wear out, if you've noticed that the ride quality has changed and/or seen some abnormal tire wire - good time to replace them.


Edited by TRCar54, 07 December 2009 - 11:47 AM.

#4 fishexpo101

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 12:39 PM

Almost 300K miles on a close to 15 year old car, you definitely got your money's worth there.

As for the cold weather stiffening the strut up to the point where it affects the damping - I get that as well. Mine are getting soft, damping was not quite what it used to be. Actually the cold weather seems to make them run decent for a while, before they heat up and ruin the ride.

#5 TRCar54

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 02:35 PM

Yeah, this car has been the best commuter car I've ever owned. I've owned it since 105K and most everything is original as far as I can tell.

I think the strut actually froze as a result of a lot of heavy rain last week and a cold snap over the weekend. We'll see how the commute home goes. Either way it looks like struts are in order.

I've only done struts once...fronts on a K car. Anything i should know before I start?

Thanks,
Jay in MA


Almost 300K miles on a close to 15 year old car, you definitely got your money's worth there.

As for the cold weather stiffening the strut up to the point where it affects the damping - I get that as well. Mine are getting soft, damping was not quite what it used to be. Actually the cold weather seems to make them run decent for a while, before they heat up and ruin the ride.


#6 fishexpo101

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 03:59 PM

Front struts are pretty easy to get to - need a spring compressor for the spring (once you get the strut assembly out) and a long breaker bar or impact wrench to get the two bottom bolts off the strut. New struts generally don't come with bellows, so you'll need to get them if needed. Same with the upper strut mounts (pillowball) - might be time to replace it, won't know for sure until you get it out of the car and check for slop.

The rears are just like the 8th gen Corolla - biggest trick is working around the brake line. Either disconnect it or slot the strut body's tab to keep from every cracking open the line. This would also be a good time to check spring heights - make sure the axle set are symmetrical. Other than that - they come out, go back in the same way as the fronts.

#7 TRCar54

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 10:21 AM

Thanks Fish. I bought a spring compressor a while back for when I do end up changing them. They also have safety pins in the event that the spring away from me.

The car was fine for the ride home so water had to have entered somewhere and frozen. This wasn't just firm....it was like the strut was replaced with a steel bar.

Front struts are pretty easy to get to - need a spring compressor for the spring (once you get the strut assembly out) and a long breaker bar or impact wrench to get the two bottom bolts off the strut. New struts generally don't come with bellows, so you'll need to get them if needed. Same with the upper strut mounts (pillowball) - might be time to replace it, won't know for sure until you get it out of the car and check for slop.

The rears are just like the 8th gen Corolla - biggest trick is working around the brake line. Either disconnect it or slot the strut body's tab to keep from every cracking open the line. This would also be a good time to check spring heights - make sure the axle set are symmetrical. Other than that - they come out, go back in the same way as the fronts.


#8 Big_Beard

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 11:16 PM

I found the top mounting bolts!

They are indeed in the trunk and relatively accessible.

They were much lower then I thought (they are essentially flush with the floor of the trunk). Also they are located much further back than I was expecting – they are at the bulkhead between the trunk and the back seat. They are much shorter then I was expecting.


So the lesson is: basically I should have looked around a little more.

Well – I guess that means that I will be changing my struts sometime when the weather is a little more favorable (it has been -25) for the past few days.

Now the question is should I go with Monroe or KYB (I ended up returning the Monroe struts I bought because I thought I could not do the job) – I don’t mind paying a little extra for quality and durability so I am leaning towards KYB, however I don’t really want a firm ride as I find my Corolla has quite a lot of road noise already also a lot of vibration from the road.

Oh as a follow up question can I pair my OEM spring with either the Monroe or the KYB? Or should I also get new springs? If so I think cost might make me visit the dealer and buy an OEM set.

Edited by Big_Beard, 09 December 2009 - 12:59 AM.

#9 fishexpo101

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 12:08 PM

The original struts are KYB, the replacement ones (KYB-GR2) are valved slightly differently, they tend to dampen the ride a bit more, which might help cut down on some of the road noise. Plus side, they seem to work very well with the existing spring rates on the car. But overall road noise, can't due too much about, as the Corolla is fairly thinly insulated (sound insulation adds weight and cost - OK for a Lexus, but not cost effective in the car's target segment).

As for springs, they generally will out last the struts, unless if you noticed if the ride height has significantly dropped over the years. You should be OK pairing the OEM springs with either strut - but IMO, I'd take the KYBs over the Monroes.

#10 TRCar54

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Posted 11 December 2009 - 02:36 PM

The strut was frozen again this morning....time to change them out. The strut is probably so worn that it allowed water past the seal and freezes up now.

I can deal with mushy and even bouncy but this is just plain dangerous. :D