Also, the new assembly includes the spring insulators, upper bearing and mount, which often need replacement. You’re paying for a new coil spring, which may not be a bad idea either, as springs can sag, affecting ride height and wheel alignment. Replacement (bare) name-brand struts run about $60 to $80 apiece, and after you include the insulators and upper bearing, you’re only a bit shy of the cost for the complete unit — $160 or so. The prices I mentioned involved some frugal shopping and may be a best-case scenario.
The standard answer is yes, you should align the front wheels after renewing struts. Your Camry has elongated mounting bolt holes at the bottom end of the strut, allowing a camber adjustment, in which the wheel leans in or out. It would be difficult to accurately guess or estimate proper reassembly position, and differences in manufacturing tolerance of new versus old strut can also affect wheel alignment. On vehicles with wishbone suspension, on which the strut is more like a simple shock absorber, or with cartridge-type or non-adjustable struts, you might forego the alignment process.
When removing your original struts, note the paint deformity and crush position of the lower mounting bolt washers. Imitate this as closely as possible when bolting up the replacement units. Wheel alignment will be close enough to allow a day or two of vehicle use prior to getting in to the alignment shop.
Thanks for bringing up this topic — it’ll likely be of use to quite a few other folks.
Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at email@example.com; he cannot make personal replies.
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