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Old 02-04-2012, 08:14 PM   #13
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perpetual problem...update on old post

Here's a tip for anyone faced with removing stubborn struts from older Focii...

I just installed new struts - but only after battling through a decade of rust & winter salt corrosion that had cemented the old ones to the car!

The passenger side went okay, but the drivers side was impossible - the strut was rusted into the lower mount. With the pinch bolt removed and the entire front end submerged in WD40, I beat the steering knuckle like a red-headed stepchild, but it barely budged.

Then I got one of those once-a-year inspirations: I inserted a "key" (any piece of thin, hard steel) into the knuckle gap so that it covered the pinch bolt hole. While holding the key in place with one hand, I threaded the pinch bolt into the wrong side of the knuckle, until they met. I continued threading-in the bolt with a drive ratchet until the knuckle expanded and separated from the strut.

Here's a photo (after the strut was removed) of the drivers side knuckle showing the trick:

Some suggestions:
  • Prior to embarking on this procedure, wire-brush the pinch bolt and clean/lube the threads inside of the knuckle. This will prevent unnecessary thread damage, as well as allow you to hand-thread the bolt.
  • Expand the knuckle gap no more than necessary. Ie., don't overtorque the pinch bolt, so as to not deform the knuckle. In fact, after removing the strut, verify that both sides of the knuckle remain on-axis by fully threading the pinch bolt into the correct side of the knuckle and ensuring that it grabs the threads cleanly; this will provide some reassurance that no unpleasant surprises await you when installing the new strut.
  • Insert the key into the knuckle gap prior to threading the pinch bolt, so that you can use a mirror to peer down the bolt hole and determine when the key is fully covering it. The heart of this trick is the key blocking the pinch bolt's progression.

Some notes on the "key":
  • Key must be hard steel (ideally, hardened) otherwise the pinch bolt will simply deform it. A nickel, quarter, or your ex's house key won't work!
  • Key thickness should match your knuckle gap - about the thickness of the strut hook (a little thicker than a quarter).
  • In a normal strut installation, the strut hook points to the engine and occupies most of the knuckle gap, engaging the pinch bolt there from the top, side (engine-side), and part of the bottom. That leaves a small opening in the bottom of the knuckle gap, so your key must be long & narrow enough to squeeze in there - but not too narrow because it must be wide enuf to cover the bolt hole. (If you are able to leverage/bang the strut out of the knuckle by at least 1/4", then the hook will no longer block access to the side & bottom of the gap, giving you a wider choice of key geometries.)
  • For my key: I used bolt cutters to snip the hook off of the other old strut I had removed earlier. Its hook-shape allowed me to fish it up into the gap and cover the bolt hole, as shown in the photo above.

Good luck!!
"I'm jealous of girls because they get to wear dresses." (Todd Flanders)
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