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2000 Toyota Camry with strut/spring problem (among other things*)

Hi, I have a low mileage (57K) 2000 Camry that has been very reliable. However since moving from Concord, NH (where I parked in a parking garage) back to western Mass (Chesterfield) where my car sits in a dirt parking area exposed to the elements, the exhaust has been rusting and now the left front strut/spring assembly has rusted & collapsed and is resting on the tire (see photos).

FYI: I only have Social Security as income and need to fix the car as inexpensively as possible.
I don’t have anyone to assist me or an extensive set of tools or jack/stands.

  1. What might be involved/needed as far as parts? Note: I’m looking at the “MONROE 181679” which sounds like it’s inclusive (barring unforeseen/add’tnl issues)
  2. What might the cost difference (for parts) be between the nearby (AAA) repair shop and what I see online (like Rock Auto)? (Should I buy the parts?)
  3. What could I expect as far as labor hrs (for both L & R strut assemblies) realizing that an alignment will likely be required also but not sure if the shop
    has the equipment to do it in house.
  4. What are some of the more inexpensive options to deal with the areas that are rusting (the areas with undercoating are still fine) like exhaust & suspension (within the Massachusetts regulations)?

*The flex section of the exhaust rusted (all the braids) and broke at the seams and had to be replaced during last inspection (11/2013).


if you are repairing it yourself, certainly rock auto is a good option. I replaced the parts myself but it took a lot of time and determination as many thing were rusted on and bolts would not turn without heat or cutting the bolts off.

i needed a impact wrench to do the job and separate the springs from the struts. you could probably diy at a cost of about $200.

but you don’t have tools or the knowlege so let the repair shop take it and fix it properly and safely. springs and compression is not something to take lightly.

You didn’t say anything about the other side, but replace the strut assemblies in pairs. This much rust must also be on the other side. Monroe assemblies which include everything would save you in labor and give you all new parts in the front. Inspect the rear for the same problems. If you aren’t well equipped with tools (a torch, impact wrench and a BIG hammer!) have a pro do it. You should do an alignment after replacing but you could just change them and delay the alignment for a month or 2 if you are just driving a little in-town.

Since you don’t have an assistant and few tools, You’ll need to find a shop

Call around for some quotes. Tell them you’d like them to install complete assembled front strut assemblies.

Do NOT use a big name franchised shop, such as Pep Boys, Midas, Meineke, Firestone, etc.

Once you pick the shop, call AAA and arrange for them to tow it there. I believe you have at least 1 “free” tow a year? Do not attempt to drive it there yourself. You might damage the tire.

As a matter of fact, what kind of facility is this AAA shop that you mentioned? Independent? Franchise?

For reference, Chilton labor times is 2.5 hours labor to replace both front struts. I’m not sure how many hours for an alignment

The attached website will give you all the information you need. I recommend K&B shocks, because they’re an OEM supplier to Toyota. I urge you to avoid the Monroes.

You’ll need a shock absorber assembly for each side, a new bumper stop for each side (48331), and I would recommend new rubber spring dampers (58157 and 48158) although if you’re strapped for cash you can reuses the old spring dampers as long as they’re not split. To do the work, you’re going to need a good stable means of elevating the vehicle (the lower strut bolts torque spec is 178ft-lbs, so breakaway torque will probably be upwards of 250 ft-lbs. Once you remove the assemblies, you’ll need to bring them to a shop to have the aprings compressed and the shocks replaced, Just hand him your box of parts and he should be willing to do this at very low cost. You’ll then have an assembly that you can bolt back in, but you will have to get an alignment after.

With that bad a rust on the struts and rust out on the exhaust, I would be concerned about rust in other areas. I strongly suggest having the car thoroughly inspected for structurally debilitating rust. If any rust-through spots appear around the rockers and reinforced body panels, consider letting the car go.


KYB makes complete “ready struts” for this car

Front right SR4029
Front left SR4030

Just some food for thought since money is tight. What about perusing eBay and buying a pair of Quick Struts which can often be found there for far less than most auto parts suppliers.
I’ve seen them for 130-140 a pair with free shipping and should be good enough to outlast the car.

Struts are very easy to change on these cars and unless there’s a problem with frozen bolts this should be for lack of a better phrase; a pud job. I’ve done them inside of 40 minutes; both sides.

Maybe you could round up someone to offer assistance for free or at a cut rate? Maybe a member of a local church who has a mechanical knack, local trade school, or mobile mechanic?

If I was running my own shop, I’d be hesitant to install parts that the customer supplied

that said, I’d have no problem installing helping out a fellow churchgoer

The only problem is I don’t attend . . .


Thanks a million for the info Db. When I decided my fronts needed doing on my Scion last year I went looking unsuccessfully for some quick struts.

Bummer. Thanks sincerely for the info, but I just checked, thinking of perhaps doing the rears, and they don’t have them for my Scion. I guess if I decide to do the rears I’ll get springs too (I like to change everything but the springs anyway) and make my own ready-struts.

Good comments all. Re: the trade school idea, if your community college offers and automotive program, call the department chair, or look up and call or email who’s teaching the course on the school’s website, and perhaps they’ll do the struts for you. Supply all the necessary parts in their packages along with an exploded view drawing from the site I provided, so they can quickly verify that you have the correct parts. They’ll need to go into their subscription repair databank anyway, because going “by the book” is part of the education, but I’m sure they’ll appreciate the effort you’ve made. Do a good job ordering the correct parts and they won’t have to do any ordering or wait for deliveries. They only have finite lab time, and having all the parts supplied up-front helps greatly. Typically with state schools they’ll be statutorily prohibited from making a profit on the work, so labor will be free, and it gives the students an opportunity to be exposed to real cars of different makes and models.

That’s actually the rear strut.

You can see sound deadening material sprayed on the trunk area.

On the front strut, you would see the removable plastic shroud behind the strut.

I’ve been looking under Camry’s too long.


The rear shock doesn’t use the convoluted bellows shown in the right hand photo. Only the front strut does.

The rear shock is actually a coilover shock assembly rather than a strut. The rear suspension travel is controlled by upper and lower control arms rather than the strut controlling the movement of the steering knuckle. That would make the job much easier. Two bolts to remove, one on each end, both in rubber bushings, rather than those hard-to-remove lower steering knuckle bolts. Were it the rear shocks, it would also not need to be realigned… although if the budget allows it’s always a good idea whenever doing suspension work anyway.


The rear suspension is controlled by four lateral links from the center of the vehicle to the rear knuckles which the rear struts are attached to.


And those links, also commonly called control arms, control the travel of the hub… these are not struts, they’re coilover shocks.
And, as I said, the rears do not use the convoluted boots… only the fronts do. The photo on the right is definitely a front strut.

Doubt me? I’ve provided an excellent link for your to look it up for yourself.

Looks like I can see a tie rod and halfshaft/boot/clamps on the lower left of the left pic so it must be the front. The OP states it’s the RF so no reason to doubt them.

OP, a look at eBay shows complete struts can be had for 130 something a pair with free shipping. Considering the financial situation and rust issues I would not hesitate to go that route at all.

Seeing as how the strut is no the tire this means the car ain’t going nowhere on its own so it’s fix it in place or have it towed. Around here a tow is 50 minimum and easily a 100 or more depending.
Maybe some asking around could find a mechanic or mechanically minded person willing to do the job for no more than the cost of a tow if free can’t be found.

@db4690, the church suggestion may not go anywhere but it’s a possibility anyway. They would never find me in a church. If so, that means the end is nigh… :slight_smile:

The elderly lady across the street from me is loaded; big time. I’ve done repairs on her cars and home and have refused to accept one dime even when she tries to push it on me. She’s a wonderful woman so not only do not mind helping her but am glad to do it for her.
There’s like minded people out there so hopefully one of them would surface and aid the OP a bit.



Does your elderly neighbor bake delicious cookies?

I would gladly fix a neighbor’s car, if the payment was excellent home made cookies

Provided they pay for the parts

Well, thanks to all who offered info, options, and suggestions!
I wish I had responded sooner, but I had to go on a covert mission for a shadowy international organization. That’s my story… and you can’t prove differently.

OK right off the top I have to say that I may be crazy, but I do know the difference between front & back and right & left (or is it left & right…;). So when I said “left front” that’s what the photos are of.

I will be having the work done by someone other than myself (and I hadn’t remembered to consider the local [Smith Vocational School] option*) so I will be contacting their automotive department to see if that is a timely option. I also need to calculate if the school is within the towing range of my AAA Plus membership.

There are a few options in the area as far as mechanics and auto body shops. One problem is that despite growing up in the area I’ve been away for 35 years and so I have to go by word of mouth and online reviews. The AAA garage (Cichy’s Garage in Williamsburg, MA… My home town) is where I took my car last year for inspection (and they also welded in a new section of exhaust), and they are fine, but as I’ll be struggling to come up with the money for this I thought there might be a less expensive option (w/less overhead?). I called and spoke with “O’Brien’s Auto Works” (who has some great reviews here on the Car Talk site**) and he was OK with me buying the parts and having him do the work.

I will explore the K&B shocks (thanks for the info/links “the same mountainbike”), and as far as the type of AAA shop, I think it’s ‘independent’ (“Locally owned AAA approved Auto repair and 24-hour towing…”). BTW, if you enjoy old photos of gas stations & mechanics both the Google search page and Cichy’s web site have some good ones!

Regarding the rust issue, the body is very good (as a check by Cahillane Auto Body remarked) and the frame is also, but I will have whoever repairs it advise as to what needs attending to.
I can’t afford another car, and besides, I inherited it from my father (who BTW “db4690” was a Pastor with the United Church of Christ! I however do not attend regularly…), and as I stated it has very low mileage.

Again, thanks to all of you for your responses.

*Thanks “ok4450”
**I noted (& sent ‘feedback’ to Car Talk Re) the small Google ‘location’ map on the page shows the wrong location (by 11 mi).

Every Camry I’ve had has struts on the front and rear rear 96, 99, 02, 12. Never seen or heard of Camry’s having any coil overs unless installed aftermarket.


You’ve got a good plan

I like the coffee mug

Myself, I bought a set of “Don’t drive like my brother T-shirts” . . . one for me, one for my brother

It’s actually one of my favorite T-shirts. Unfortunately, it’s not one of his favorite t-shirts