Maintenance: Changing Front Struts

You’re familiar with that new car feeling, where the vehicle feels firmly planted and smoothly absorbs all the bumps. At 55k miles and with plenty of free time, I decided to change my suspensions/struts to achieve that new car sensation. I had previously replaced the suspensions/struts on my Xterra with Monroe and had a positive experience. I hoped for the same outcome with my Explorer, but unfortunately, I ended up going back to the OEM. You can read about my experience here. Now, let me walk you through the process of changing the front struts:

What I used:
Step 1: Slightly Loosen lug nut from wheel. Note: Loosen, not remove.

Slightly loosen the 19mm lug nut from the front tire so when it’s off the ground it’ll be easier to take off.

Step 2: Jack car up.

Jacking up the front should be good enough if you are only changing the front suspensions

Step 3: Take off the lugs nuts and remove the wheel.

Now that the wheel is off the ground, you should be able to take the lug nuts off entirely and remove the wheel.

Step 4: Put some support under the lower arm.

Putting some pressure on the lower arm helps remove the knuckle bolts, stabilizer bar link, and  prevent the suspensions from suddenly dropping when removing upper strut mount nuts.

Step 5: Remove upper stabilizer bar link nut, speed sensor harness and knuckle bolts attached to the suspension.

First, I removed the top stabilizer bar link nut. I had to use both 21mm and 10mm wrench.

Once the nut is removed you might noticed there’s no clearance to remove the stabilizer bar link. If the front wheel is entirely off the ground, you can freely turn the disk brakes until there is clearance and then just push it out.

Second, detach the speed sensor harness.

For the top part, I was able remove it just by tugging it out. For the lower piece I wedged in a flat-head screwdriver to create a small gap, then I wedged in a needle nose plier and finally pried it off.

Last, remove the knuckle nuts.

These nuts were difficult to remove due to the amount of torque + corrosion. So I highly suggest breaker bar with a 24mm socket.

Helpful notes:

  • I inserted a screwdriver into one of the knuckle holes to prevent the strut from falling off when the top strut nuts are removed.
Step 6: Remove top strut nut.

There are four 15mm nuts holding the top strut. For the front two bolts I was able to use a 3/8 ratchet with a 15mm deep socket to remove it.  For the two bolts in the back with low clearance, I had to use a 1/2 ratchet with a 15mm shallow socket.

Step 7: Install the strut.

Now the strut is removed. Do the reverse and install.

Here’s some helpful notes:

  • It’ll be easier to install the knuckle bolt, and then the stabilizer bar link. Once installed, you can push the strut upward and install the top strut 15mm nuts.
  • The wheels can be turned to help install the stabilizer bar link.
  • If you don’t tighten the stabilizer bar link enough, it’ll make a popping sound when turning. I made this mistake.

Tada! Front struts installed. Eventually I went back to the OEM struts that I saved to the side. In the future, when I have more funds, I’ll be replacing them with OEM Motorcraft struts (ASH24673) to see if there is any improvement in ride quality.

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