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Discussion Starter #1
I have a 2002 Ford Focus SE Sedan with 148K miles. I've been told the struts are worn and am considering the following five options, but would like some advice:

  • Do nothing. The struts aren't leaking, the car drives okay. The only real wear I see is the rubber around the spring seats is cracked, but most replacement struts don't even come with this.
  • KYB Front Struts and Rear Shocks from RockAuto - $175. I would either rent a spring compressor or Harbor Freight sells a four-point one for $65. Typically, I'd be fine with this, but Ford sent a notice early on about a recall - http://www.autosafety.org/ford-repair-springs-focus - I seem to remember getting a letter about it, but it was for 10 years or 150K miles, and I'm over that. Not sure if that means I really should replace the springs, or since they haven't failed, mine are okay.
  • KYB Quick Struts and Rear Shocks From Rock Auto - $287.71 - This replaces the front springs and upper mounts as well - basically fixes MOST of the potential problems (except sway bar links, etc.)
  • M-3000-ZX3A from Tasca - $334 shipped. This also replaces the needed parts, but I would have to change the rear springs, but everyone says it is a great kit. A bit more than I'd like to spend, though.
  • M-3000-ZX3 from Tasca - $285 shipped. Oddly, this is less money but includes the rear bar and is about the same price as the RockAuto Quick Struts. But if it don't re-use the 13-year old mounts, the cost is the same as the ZX3A, and I'm not sure if my car is setup for the rear bar anyway.

Other considerations - I guess I would want to replace the top mounts for around $50 if it don't go with quick struts, and the end links for $25-ish regardless.

http://www.focusfanatics.com/forum/showthread.php?t=151009 - Pictures aren't working here for me, but apparently there is a rubber isolator at the base of the OEM spring. That part is cracked and broken on my car. Obviously, it will take the same amount of work to replace that part alone as it would to replace the strut or springs - but I don't see it included with any of the replacement kits. Is it important, and can it be bought separately and should I try to buy a new one if I replace the struts or springs?

Advice and opinions?

Thanks in advance!!!
 

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I used the Moog complete struts from RockAuto. They were the cheapest at the time and they've been fine for me. I only replaced them because the handling was actually getting bad, with nothing to dampen reciprocation in the springs.

Toby
 

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Discussion Starter #3
That would cut it down to $220 and free up some money for end links (a bit more b/c shipping from two warehouses).

I was a bit leary of Monroe so avoided Moog as they were even cheaper than Monroe, but good to know they are working well for you!!!
 

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I was skeptical myself, but I'd heard such good things about Moog that I gave them a shot. They aren't miraculous or anything, but I've used the Monroe junk before, and the Moogs are a world apart. I'm like you, I just want to keep the car moving down the road. I've had the struts for about half a year and they work just fine.

Toby
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I decided to put this project off until next Spring, and I thought I would also replace the sway bar end-links and bushings at the same time, but I do have three additional questions:

  • The front sway bar bushings look like a pain to change. The left one I can't even see or feel. Some threads mention loosening the subframe without dropping it to replace them, but I don't think I want to attempt that. Is there any harm in NOT changing the front bushings? (I'm assuming not since I'm not changing any of the parts until next year ...)
  • The Haynes book mentions something about setting the design height when you change the rear suspension parts. I think it is talking about control arms and such, but it isn't very clear. I assume I don't need to be concerned with this with just rear shocks and sway bar bushings, correct?
  • None of these items are really under load, correct? i.e. I essentially just jack the side up and remove and replace the components, correct?

Thanks in advance!!!
 

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I replaced my end links when I did the struts and left the bushings for the reason you mentioned -- big PITA. The sway bar didn't feel like it had any play in it and I haven't had any problems since. 207,000 miles.

Toby
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks - You did the rears also, correct?

So - I assume there is nothing major to look out for when doing this? (Other than I expect the pinch bolt to be a pain to take off after 13-years on the car ...)
 

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Pretty much -- I did rear shocks a week or two later. Those are easy. The pinch bolts were tough to get out on all four corners, but they did come out. I used a breaker bar with a pipe and backed them out a little at a time until I didn't need the pipe. I didn't have a ball joint separator and got the struts in and out okay, but I don't recommend that. Do yourself a favor, get a puller and pop the ball joints and tie rod ends out so you can put the knuckle right onto the strut. I had to use spring compressors and fought with them like hell trying to angle the bases in, then had to fidget with the spring because it rotated and wasn't seated properly. I made an easy job very difficult.

Toby
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Got me worried now.

I was planning to follow this guide: https://web.archive.org/web/20120325172522/http://jason.hodges.cc/suspension.htm - although it is for coil-overs so I thought I could skip most of the steps.

It doesn't mention ball joints or tie rod ends or spring compressors (except for changing the springs), and just says:

Getting the strut out of the control arm wasn't too tough, but getting it back in was a pain. I was trying to use the jack under the wheel hub to lift, but just grabbing the arm under the strut and lifting upward worked better.

Could you provide more detail on exactly what you had problems with and how you worked around it.

I think I'd rather not remove the ball joints and tie-rod ends, unless I really need to.
 

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With everything still attached to the steering knuckle, I had to pry it down just to get the base of the strut into the knuckle, but it was at an angle and wouldn't drop in. I had to compress the spring to reduce the length of the assembly and then trying to maneuver the base and the knuckle together. I was finally able to get it in there but it took a lot of fighting with the jack. Next time I will remove the knuckle, get the new strut threaded into the tower, and then slide the knuckle onto it before popping the ball joint back in and reconnecting the tie rod. You're supposed to get an alignment afterwards anyway, so why not.

Toby
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Hmmmn - so it sounds like maybe the new springs are longer than the 13-year old springs - which isn't surprising.

And sounds like I need to rent tie-rod/ball joint tools and spring compressors before starting - just in case ...
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks - hopefully last dumb question ...

What exactly do I need to get?

I thought that the tie/rod ball joint tool really was a pickle fork and that was just the fancier name for it ...
 
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