GM Cavalier/Sunbird/Skyhawk/Firenza 1982-1994

MacPherson Struts

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The struts retain the springs under tremendous pressure even when removed from the car. For these reasons, several expensive special tools and substantial specialized knowledge are required to safely and effectively work on these parts. We recommend that if spring or shock absorber repair work is required, you remove the strut or struts involved and take them to a repair facility which is fully equipped and familiar with the car.

REMOVAL & INSTALLATION



See Figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7

  1. From inside the engine compartment, pry off the cover on the strut tower, if equipped, then unfasten the upper strut-to-body nuts and/or bolts.
  2.  



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Fig. Fig. 1: Exploded view of the strut assembly



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Fig. Fig. 2: Unfasten the strut tower retaining nuts

  1. Loosen the wheel lug nuts, then raise and safely support the vehicle.
  2.  
  3. Place jackstands under the front crossmember. Lower the vehicle slightly so the weight of the car rests on the jackstands and NOT the control arms.
  4.  
  5. Remove the wheel and tire assembly.
  6.  
  7. Before removing front suspension components, their positions should be marked so they may assemble correctly. Refer to the illustration.
  8.  



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Fig. Fig. 3: Remove and discard the tie rod end cotter pin



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Fig. Fig. 4: Use a suitable tie rod end puller, then ...



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Fig. Fig. 5: ... separate the tie rod end from the strut bracket



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Fig. Fig. 6: Unfasten the strut-to-steering knuckle bolts, then carefully remove the strut assembly


WARNING
Whenever working near the drive axles, use care to prevent damage from over extension of the drive shaft joints. When either end of the shaft is disconnected, over extension of the joint could result in separation of the internal components and possible joint failure.

  1. Install a drive axle joint protective cover (modified), such as J-34754 or equivalent.
  2.  
  3. If necessary, remove the brake line bracket.
  4.  
  5. Remove the cotter pin and nut, then press the tie rod out of the strut bracket using J 24319-01 or equivalent two-armed puller. Discard the cotter pin.
  6.  
  7. Unfasten and remove the strut-to-steering knuckle bolts and carefully lift out the strut.
  8.  

The steering knuckle MUST be supported to prevent axle joint overextension.

  1. Remove the strut assembly from the vehicle. Be careful to avoid chipping or cracking the spring coating when handling the front suspension coil spring assembly.
  2.  



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Fig. Fig. 7: Scribe a matchmark as illustrated, for alignment purposes during installation

To install:
  1. Move the strut into position, then install the nuts and/or bolts connecting the strut assembly to the body.
  2.  

On 1982-87 vehicles, make sure that the flat sides of the strut-to-knuckle bolt heads are horizontal, as shown in the accompanying figure, before tightening.

  1. Align the steering knuckle with the strut flange scribe mark made during removal, then install the bolts and nuts. For 1982 vehicles, tighten to 140 ft. lbs. (190 Nm). For 1983-94 vehicles, tighten to 133 ft. lbs. (180 Nm).
  2.  
  3. Position the tie rod end into the strut assembly, then secure with the tie rod end bolt and new cotter pin. Tighten the tie rod end bolt to 44 ft. lbs. (60 Nm).
  4.  
  5. Tighten the nuts and/or bolts attaching the top of the strut to the body to 18-20 ft. lbs. (25-27 Nm).
  6.  
  7. Install the brake line bracket.
  8.  
  9. Slightly raise the vehicle, then remove the jackstands from under the suspension supports.
  10.  
  11. Install the tire and wheel assembly.
  12.  
  13. Carefully lower the vehicle, then final tighten the lug nuts to 100 ft. lbs. (140 Nm).
  14.  

OVERHAUL




CAUTION
The coil springs are retained under considerable pressure. They can exert enough force to cause serious injury. Exercise extreme caution when disassembling the strut for coil spring removal.

This procedure requires the use of a spring compressor and several other special tools. It cannot be performed without them. If you do not have access to these tools, DO NOT attempt to disassemble the strut!

1982-84 Vehicles

See Figure 8

  1. Remove the strut assembly from the vehicle, as outlined earlier in this section.
  2.  
  3. Clamp the spring compressor J 26584, or equivalent, in a vise. Position the strut assembly in the bottom adapter of the compressor and install the special tool J26584-86 (see illustration). Be sure that the adapter captures the strut and that the locating pins are engaged.
  4.  



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Fig. Fig. 8: Strut disassembly - 1982-84 vehicles

  1. Rotate the strut assembly so that the top mounting assembly lip aligns with the compressor support notch. Insert two top adapters (J26584-88) between the top mounting assembly and the top spring seat. Position the adapters so that the split lines are in the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions.
  2.  
  3. Using a 1 in. socket, turn the screw on top of the compressor clockwise until the top support flange contacts the adapters. Continue turning the screw until the coil spring is compressed approximately 1 / 2 in. (13mm) or 4 complete turns. Never bottom the spring or the strut damper rod.
  4.  
  5. Unscrew the nut from the strut damper shaft and then lift off the top mounting assembly.
  6.  
  7. Turn the compressor adjusting screw counterclockwise until the spring tension has been relieved. Remove the adapters and then remove the coil spring.
  8.  

To install:
  1. Clamp the strut compressor body J 26584 in a vise.
  2.  
  3. Position the strut assembly in the bottom adapter of the compressor and install the special tool J26584-86 (see illustration). Be sure that the adapter captures the strut and that the locating pins are engaged.
  4.  
  5. Position the spring on the strut. Make sure the spring is properly seated on the bottom of the spring plate.
  6.  
  7. Install the spring strut seat assembly on top of the spring.
  8.  
  9. Place BOTH J 26584-88 top adapters over the spring seat assemblies.
  10.  
  11. Turn the compressor forcing the screw until the compressor top support just contacts the top adapters (do not compress the spring at this time).
  12.  
  13. Install long extension with a socket to fit the hex on the damper shaft through the top of the spring seat. Use the extension to guide the components during reassembly.
  14.  


WARNING
NEVER place a hard tool such as pliers or screwdriver against the polished surface of the damper shaft. The shaft can be held up with your fingers or an extension in order to prevent it from receding into the strut assembly while the spring is being compressed.

  1. Compress the screw by turning the screw clockwise until approximately 1 1 / 2 in. (38mm) of damper shaft extends through the top spring plate.
  2.  


WARNING
Do not compress the spring until it bottoms.

  1. Remove the extension and socket, position the top mounting assembly over the damper shaft and install the nut. Tighten to 68 ft. lbs. (92 Nm).
  2.  
  3. Turn the forcing screw counterclockwise to back off support, remove the top adapters and bottom adapter and remove the strut assembly from the compressor.
  4.  
  5. Install the strut assembly in the vehicle, as outlined earlier in this section.
  6.  

1985-94 Vehicles

See Figures 9, 10, 11 and 12

  1. Remove the strut assembly from the vehicle, as outlined earlier in this section.
  2.  
  3. Mount the strut compressor J-34013 in holding fixture J-3289-20.
  4.  
  5. Mount the strut assembly into the compressor. Note that the strut compressor has strut mounting holes drilled for specific car lines.
  6.  



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Fig. Fig. 9: View of the strut assembly mounted in a compressor



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Fig. Fig. 10: Use a socket and a wrench to remove the dampener shaft nut spring cap while compressing the spring



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Fig. Fig. 11: Install the rod to guide the dampener shaft straight down through the spring cap while compressing the spring

  1. Compress the strut approximately 1 / 2 its height after initial contact with the top cap.
  2.  


WARNING
Never bottom the spring or dampener rod!

  1. Remove the nut from the strut dampener shaft and place alignment/guiding rod J-34013-27 on top of the dampener shaft. Use the rod to guide the dampener shaft straight down through the spring cap while compressing the spring. Remove the components.
  2.  



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Fig. Fig. 12: Exploded view of the disassembled strut components

Be careful to avoid chipping or cracking the spring coating when handling the front suspension coil spring assembly.

To install:
  1. Install the bearing cap into the strut compressor if previously removed.
  2.  
  3. Mount the strut assembly in strut compressor, using bottom locking pin only. Extend the dampener shaft and install clamp J-34013-20 on the dampener shaft.
  4.  
  5. Install the spring over the dampener and swing the assembly up so the upper locking pin can be installed.
  6.  
  7. Install all shields, bumpers and insulators on the spring seat. Install the spring seat on top of the spring. Be sure the flat on the upper spring seat is facing in the proper direction. The spring seat flat should be facing the same direction as the centerline of the strut assembly spindle.
  8.  
  9. Install the guiding rod and turn the forcing screw while the guiding rod centers the assembly. When the threads on the dampener shaft are visible, remove the guiding rod and install the nut. Tighten the nut to 65 ft. lbs. (85 Nm). Use a crowsfoot line wrench while holding the dampener shaft with a socket.
  10.  
  11. Remove the clamp.
  12.  

 
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