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How to Change the Struts on a Nissan Altima

by Melissa Kelly; Updated November 07, 2017

Items you will need

  • Tire iron

  • Jack stands

  • Pliers

  • Nut driver

  • Socket wrench

  • Hammer

  • Punch

  • Vice

  • Rags

  • Spring compressor

  • Torque wrench

A vehicle strut consists of several components that function together as part of a vehicle's suspension to support the weight of the vehicle, adapt to road irregularities and dampen the movement, or reduce the amount of bouncing from bumps, of the vehicle. Both the front and rear suspension systems on the Nissan Altima are a strut/coil spring design with the upper end of each strut attached to the vehicle body and the lower end connected to the steering knuckle. If the struts exhibit the telltale signs of wear, such as leaking fluid, loss of damping capability or sagging and chipped coil springs, then replacement may be necessary.

Removal

Loosen the front wheel lug nuts partially with a tire iron. Raise the front of the vehicle up on jack stands and then fully remove the lug nuts and the front wheels.

Unclip the brake hose from the strut bracket with a pair of pliers. Detach it from the bracket.

Remove the ABS line bracket bolt and the two nuts with a nut driver or socket wrench. Detach the speed sensor wiring harness from the strut. Drive out the strut-to-knuckle bolts with a hammer and punch.

Separate the strut from the steering knuckle at the bottom. Be careful not to overextend the inner CV joint and do not let the knuckle fall outward, as it could damage the brake hose.

Support the strut and spring assembly with one hand and remove the three strut-to-shock tower nuts with a nut driver or socket wrench. Remove the assembly from the fender well.

Inspect the strut body for leaking fluid, dents, cracks or other obvious signs of damage. Check the coil spring for chips or cracks in the spring coating. Inspect the spring seat for cuts, hardness or deterioration. If any undesirable conditions exist, then proceed with disassembly and reassembly. If not, proceed to installation of the strut.

Disassembly and Reassembly

Mount the strut assembly is a vices that is lined with rags to prevent damage to the unit. Do not tighten the vice excessively.

Install a spring compressor on the spring and compress it sufficiently to relive all pressure from the upper spring seat. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installing the compressor.

Remove the damper shaft nut using a socket wrench. Lift the upper suspension support off the damper shaft. Inspect the bearing in the suspension support for smooth operation. If it does not turn smoothly, replace the suspension support. Check the rubber portion of the suspension support for cracking and deterioration. If there is any separation of rubber, replace it.

Lift the spring seat and upper insulator from the damper shaft at the top of the spring. Check the rubber spring seat for cracking and hardness; replace if necessary

Install the upper insulator and the spring seat after replacing any spring components. Make sure the cutout on the spring seat is facing out (away from the vehicle) in line with the strut-to-knuckle attachment points. Install the dust seal and suspension support to the damper shaft. Install the nut and tighten to the proper torque specification with a torque wrench. For a 1993 through 2001 Altima, torque to 29 to 40 ft lbs. For a 2002 Altima, tighten to 13 to 16 ft lbs. For a 2003 and later Altima, tighten to 31 to 37 ft lbs.

Installation

Insert the strut assembly up into the fender well and place the upper mounting studs through the holes in the shock tower. Once the studs protrude from the shock tower, install the nuts so the strut won't fall back through.

Verify the cutout in the shock tower aligns with the alignment mark on the body. The cutout and alignment marks should also align with the steering knuckle on the outside portion.

Slide the steering knuckle into the strut flange and insert two new bolts. Install new nuts and tighten to the proper torque specification with a torque wrench. For a 1993 through 1997 Altima, tighten to 87 to 108 ft. lbs. For a 1998 through 2001 Altima, tighten to 123 to 127 ft. lbs. For a 2002 and later Altima, tighten to 93 to 114 ft. lbs.

Guide the brake hose through its bracket in the strut and install the retaining clip. Connect the stabilizer bar link to the strut if you are working on a 2002 or later model.

Install the wheel and tighten the lug nuts using a tire iron. Lower the vehicle from the jack stands and fully tighten the lug nuts

Tips

If you come across fasteners that are difficult to remove due to road grime, mud or rust, allow penetrating oil to soak in for awhile and use a wire brush to remove the grime. This will help you remove the fasteners without damaging them. A spring compressor can be rented from most auto parts stores or equipment yards on a daily basis to assist with strut disassembly.

Warnings

After replacing the strut, you should take the vehicle to an alignment shop to have the alignment checked and adjusted.

References

About the Author

Melissa Kelly is a freelance writer from Indianapolis who focuses on scientific and medical topics. Kelly attended Marian College where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. Recently, she completed her Master's in business communications & project management.

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