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2002 Dodge Stratus Struts issue

On my 2002 Dodge Stratus 4-cyl, a repair shop replaced ball joints/control rods and struts on front. Afterward, the front end sits very high – about 3” higher than back. It looks ridiculous. I was worried they either installed the wrong struts or installed them incorrectly. Another mechanic looked at it for me and found a gap between the strut flange and the mount on both sides, as shown in the pictures. He says they did install the correct part, but the gap shouldn’t be there. Before I take it back to the original repair shop, I’d like to know if there are practical/legitimate reasons why the installer would choose to leave a gap like this. I’d like to be armed with some understanding of the situation, and what needs to be done. Can someone help shed light on this? Any other reasons why the front end would be sitting so high after this repair? Thanks.

See pics:

This is a HUGE error on the part of the mechanic. Have this this TOWED to another shop. Eat the cost of repair. Don’t let the previous mechanic get anywhere NEAR this car again let alone with tools! I am not making too much of this. The mechanic is completely incompetent!

That ring you see in the picture is supposed to be sitting on the top of the knuckle … i. e. that gap should NOT be there! The way it is now, the bolt will not keep the strut body in place inside the knuckle. This could pop out on any bump and collapse the corner of the car and cause an accident.

Once repaired properly, you can decide if you want to try and collect the extra cost from the first shop. Or sue them for it in small claims court.


The mechanic installed the spring assembly incorrectly on the struts. The strut assemblies need to be removed and the springs compressed and reinstalled properly. This sounds like a lazy or careless mechanic. This should have been caught before it was given back to you. Shame on this shop! You can call the owner/manager and see if they have a more competent tech. They should fix it at no charge.

Wow, you can see incorrectly installed springs in those pics?

Wow! If those are really the correct struts, they are installed dangerously wrong. I’m with @Mustangman: do NOT drive the car. Get it towed to a competent shop.

struts came out of the “wishbone” but the new ones will not go in? mechanic shrugs?

Wow. Some shocks have a shoulder on them but it looks more like this-

Installed, it should protrude from the bottom. Do your’s look anything like this?-

It’s almost like he never seated them or he installed the locking bolt first…

Here’s a view of the end of a replacement strut. See the indentation where that locking bolt should go? Is that indentation visible on yours? If so, you better heed Mustangman’s advice-

Everyone – thanks for your help. Got the owner of the shop to put it on the rack, so I could show him how the ring on the strut wasn’t sitting flush on the horseshoe. We realized (as TwinTurbo suggested) that the indentation and cross-bolt would tell the story. Took off the cross bolt, pulled horseshoe out of the way, and found that the original installer had forced the bolt through the backside of the strut about 1-inch below the indentation where it was supposed to go through. In other words, as everyone here pointed out, the whole strut was sitting 1-inch too high, and the cross bolt thread scratches on the back of the strut was the proof.

the pic of the wheel/fender lip makes it look like it has at least a 6" gap? my car might look like that when i have the front lifted with a floor jack. i thought a stratus was quite low slung?your pic shows the tire on the ground. letting the strut slide down 1" is not going to do a lot for that clearance gap.

Cavell – Yeah. Good point. But I’ve been over this (and under there) a hundred times and got about 5 different people to look at it. Nobody sees any other problem except that obvious 1-inch gap. The wheel well gap in front is about 3" more than in the back. Fixing the gap issue will hopefully account for 1-inch. Another inch might slowly disappear with settling. Another inch (compared to rear) might be accounted for by the fact that the rear hasn’t been replaced in probably ten years, and may be sitting a bit lower than it should. Does any of that make sense? Also, I should say that I took the old strut and the part store and compared it side by side with the same one they installed. Everything measures exactly the same, old versus new. Nothing did not match up at all. Dunno.

Perhaps the control arms are bound up and not allowing it to settle. They should move freely and that should have been checked when they did the struts. However, anyone that would fail to properly seat the shock and ram the lock bolt through anyway is unlikely to be diligent enough to check that stuff…

TwinTurbo – yeah I agree. I got the shop owner’s promise that he would personally supervise the fix. I’ll follow up here when I see what the fix looks like.


This is where the shock/spring assembly is mounted on the lower control arm. If the shock is 1 1/2" out of that socket there will be about 2 " of lift.

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Nevada_545 – Thanks. I’ll take this image and your comment with me when I go back.

I don’t think the shop needs the picture, I was just explaining why the car is higher than the the amount of space shown in the gap on the shock.

Oh, OK, I understand. So maybe the correct fix on the shock will bring that front end down to something more reasonable. Got it.

you had shop owner look at it and he said the pinch bolt was installed so there were scratches on the tube body? that was than. it was than reinstalled right? as in now?so shock body is inside shock “clevis” now? clevis or wishbone. different names but same thing. and it sits high?new strut. old spring. this pic shows the correct assembly.

Hey Cavell. No, there’re doing the initial fix now. They put it on the rack, realized what I was saying about the gap was true, as proven by the fact that the cross-bolt was clearly rammed through 1-inch below where it was supposed to be, and then agreed to make it right, which they’re doing right now. So, right now, I’m waiting to see the fix. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

The nuts that hold the control arm should be put on loosely during reassembly. The final tightening to torque should be done after the car is back on the ground and has been jounced a few times.

If you got the shop manager on your side I expect the issue will be resolved shortly. It’s entirely possible this is the first time this particular tech has done this job. But the shop manager will have done it or seen it done dozens of times. Once the problem is fixed ask them to put the car on the rack and again and ask them to prove it is now configured correctly, and that no other parts were damaged, & no damaged parts were used in the repair. The suspension system has to have the correct geometry or it just won’t work. Like trying to play pro basketball using a 9 1/2 foot basket. Won’t work.