Monday, May 12, 2014

How to replace the struts on a 1996 to 2002 Chrysler Minivan

     When the struts wore out on my 2000 Dodge Caravan the ride became very harsh and bumpy. I had replaced the strut assemblies on a vehicle like this before, a 1998 Caravan, several years ago. This time I decided to tear down the assemblies and replace the struts only. It's a good thing I saved the assemblies from the '98, as the springs on the 2000 were rusty. If your springs are rusty, swallow hard and shell out the $240 each for the entire assembly. When tearing down struts, use extreme care as the compressed springs can be potentially dangerous. Use a good quality spring compressor and stay out of harm's way when the springs are compressed. After completion of this repair, the alignment should be checked and possibly require adjustment.

                                                                  The Repair Basics                                       
  • Safety: Safety glasses, gloves. 
  • Tools: A hydraulic or scissors jack, jack stands or substantial wood supports, a  set of metric sockets and wrenches (10, 13,19,21mm) 6 mm Allen socket, spring compressors, breaker bar.
  •  Parts and materials: Strut assemblies or struts only. Sway bar link(s) may also be needed. 
  • Cost of materials: Monroe strut 81964 $54.99. Sway bar link $17.99 each for two.
  •  Shop labor cost for the job: $75-150. 
  •  Home mechanic estimated time: 2-4 hours   

Remove the strut from the van

1) Break the lug nuts loose on both front wheels
2) Jack up the front end high enough to get the wheels off the ground
3) Remove the front wheels and set the van on stands just behind the  steering knuckle.
4) Remove the brake hose bracket from the strut assembly with a 10mm socket.
5) Remove the sway bar link from the strut. I find this to be the hardest nut to crack on this job.  with a 18mm box end wrench, while holding the stud with a  T30 (torx) bit. This is really rusted together. I soaked it in WD40, hammered on the wrench and picked at the thread junction. With a cheater pipe I got it to go for several turns and then the inner torx stud stripped out. I cut it off with a sawzall. It will have to be cut off.

Removing the sway bar link
6) Mark the lower 21 mm strut to steering knuckle bolt. It is for alignment. Take a good picture and then mark a line on the bolt and steering knuckle. I also made an arrow on the bolt head, pointing at the knuckle.
7) While holding one of the bolts to prevent turning (it is a serrated  lock nut) loosen the nuts. I used a breaker bar and it came off fairly easily.

Mark the cam bolt and steering knuckle to maintain alignment on re-assembly

8) Remove the 13 mm strut tower bolts with a 13 mm socket (front nut) and a 13 mm box end wrench on the rear two.
9) Lower the strut out of the van taking care not to damage the outer CV boot.

Separate the strut from the rest of the strut assembly

1) Mark the strut with paint at the top from the cap through the bumper to the spring. Mark the bottom of the spring where it sits in relation to a hole in the bottom pan of the strut.

Mark the strut components with paint to assure correct orientation upon re-assembly

2 Clamp the strut upright in a vice. Clamp it  where the strut bolts to the knuckle. Don't over-do the torque on it.
3) Install spring compressors 180 degrees apart on the outside of the springs and as far apart as possible on the coils. Follow the compressor directions. I managed to compress three spring coils on this assembly.
4) Compress the springs. Be careful here and stay away from the top of the assembly. Alternate turning the two compressors. I mounted them across three coils of the spring. When I started the coils were six 1/4 inches apart. Finally at 3 5/8” the upper mount begins to turn freely.  I finished with the three coils  3 1/2” apart. The spring, though still in contact with the strut at the bottom and the upper bumper as well, can now be moved out of contact.

Near full compression at 3 1/2"

5) Remove the strut nut. This can be done with ordinary sockets, a 10 mm 3/8" socket on the end of the strut shaft, a 13/16 deep well spark plug socket with rubber holder removed on the strut nut, a 3" extension bar, a 7/8" box end wrench. , and a 3/8" ratchet or a breaker bar on the center hex part of the strut. Make sure the large socket will seat on the nut before it bottoms on the strut shaft. Remove the strut nut.

Strut nut removal tools in action. The only one you can't see is the 10 mm socket

6) Remove the strut components. The cap, the jonce bumper, the spring, the boot and the lower rubber isolator. Check the parts for condition and if OK clean and reassemble.

Reassembly of the strut assembly

1) Put the lower rubber isolator in place. There are guide holes that will align with knobs in the base of the strut.
2) Put the compressed spring back in place, being careful to keep the end away from your head.
3) Slip the boot back over the strut
4) Align the mark on the jounce bumper and install.
5) Put the cap back on, aligning the paint mark with the mark on the spring
6) Turn on the strut nut and torque to 75 ft lbs.
7) While keeping all marks aligned, release the compressors alternately and evenly until the springs are no longer compressed and remove the compression tools.

Install strut assembly back on van 
1) Protect outer CV boot by placing a thick towel over it.
2) Install strut into strut tower. Ideally this is a two person job, but though a bit awkward, one can person can do it. Have a tower nut ready and raise the strut with the left hand until the strut tower studs come through the tower hole. With the right hand, thread on the outermost nut first and then, with the strut now supported by it, turn in the two deeper ones. Turn in loosely for now to allow for some fitting of the lower mounting bolts.
3) At the same time the lower strut mounting bracket must seat over the strut attachment portion of the steering  knuckle. Slip the lower cam bolt through the strut and knuckle. This will require some jostling of both pieces.
4) Slip the upper bolt through the strut and knuckle now. Thread on a bolt loosely for now.
5) Tighten up the 21mm lower bolts in two stages. First torque to 65 ft lbs. Then turn the nuts an addition 90 degreees. Remember to hold the bolt head stationary and turn the nut only. Align the lower cam bolt to the mark made during dis-assembly and torque the nut.
6) Torque the top bolts at the tower to 21 ft lbs.
7) Mount the bar link and torque to 21 ft lbs.  I had to get a new one.
8) Mount the brake hose to the strut bracket. 10mm
9) Mount the wheels and snug up the lug nuts.
10) Raise the vehicle and remove the stands. Lower onto the tires.
11) Torque the lug nuts opposite and in three stages to 100 ft lbs.
12) Test drive the van and check for any alignment issues. If necessary, have the front end re-aligned.
                             Quality strut                   Compression tool



  1. This is by far the best write-up on how to do this strut job for the caravan. Best help on the internet, it's even better than the alldata software, haynes, chilton, or anything else I could find. It's too bad I didnt find this before I had to do this same job. Would have saved me alot of time that I spent looking for this level of detail and never did find. I am going to save this article just incase I have to go back in and do this again. Good Job!

    Dan in Orange County, Ca 2015

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