I have a 01 nissan frontier. Replacing the rear shocks looks simple. One broke and so I took it off. But, are front struts just as easy? Looks simple enough, but the top bolt is literally on top, is that any different than any other bolt?
I don’t have Frontier handy to check it personally. In general, the strut assembly comes out of most cars easily enough. They may not be held in by the top nut or bolt but by three (maybe four) outer nuts attaching the assembly to the strut mount.
Disassembling the strut assembly may get tricky. Often you need a special wrench to reach into the recess to hold something in place while you turn the top nut. I assume you know you need to rent a spring compressor tool. Ask for that special wrench at the same time.
Be VERY careful when working with front struts. As the previous poster implied, they are usually installed in an assembly containing a rather large spring that contains a ton of energy. That being said, with the proper care you can change them yourself. I always buy a repair manual when I buy a new (used) car, and they usually have great descriptions on how to safely remove these struts and replace them. Also, keep in mind that you may need a front end alignment after you replace the front struts.
On the subject of assembling/disassembling struts, I skipped that whole thing recently and ordered a pair of Monroe Quickstruts - fully assembled units - pop the old one out and the new one in. It was easy - but I did the rear in a small passenger car. So I can’t say anything about the front of a Frontier. But if you do decide to do it the pre-assembled units (other companies make them too) are really nice to have.
Papa1856’s advice can’t be stressed enough. If you don’t safely compress the spring before you remove the nut at the top, you will likely do serious damage to yourself.
I posted this once about a year ago.
Guy I worked with changed his struts one weekend. Came to work on Monday with a black eye and a broken cheek bone. He rented a spring compressor and it didn’t hold. He’s very lucky he wasn’t killed.
Can it be done by the backyard mechanic??? Sure it can. But you have to be very careful and get the right equipment.
This is why, while I do a lot of work myself, I refuse to touch spring compressors. The ones you rent often do not come with proper retaining pins for safety’s sake… one slip and BLAMMO!
However, if you are willing to go the route of quickstruts, then it can be a perfectly safe operation for a shadetree mechanic. I wouldn’t recommend Monroes, though - their mounts seem to be garbage, IMO. But you can likely get a strut assembly from the dealer or another source just as easily. I know Ford, for example, now sells entire strut assemblies just like quickstruts, but made with Motorcraft parts…
two separate models. don’t know which is best, or even applicable.
but im assuming they sell these tools for a reason, and it isn’t just to make money. its so people don’t get injured installing the struts.
The above tools from Harbor Freight look identical to the set you can get free from Advance Auto’s loan-a-tool program. I’ve used them on a number of occasions and had no difficulty at all. While we do try to alert users of possible risks, this simple operation is not really a cause for insouciant fear.
Buying a safety-critical tool from Harbor Freight is kinda questionable in my mind.
What I always do: remove old struts and springs. Take them along with the new struts to a tire store. Tell them you need the old springs on the new struts. Slip someone a 20. Install new spring/strut combo.
actually auto zone loans the mcpherson compresser rig too. harbor freight has pretty good pictures to show examples.