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Front End -- Repair of Struts

Same problem revisited. Problem indicated is a loud knocking coming from the front end. Previous fix was to replace struts and upper suspension supports at 86,000 miles. Apparently, the bearing in the upper strut support fails, thus creating the loud knock. This sound occurs even when the vehicle is traveling on a smooth surface.

We own a 2002 Rav4 with 118,000 miles. We have replaced front struts for the second time and find that the noise has returned after less than 1,000 miles.

We replaced struts with OEM Monroes and replaced the upper suspension supports as well.

The second strut replacement was precipitated by driving over a hazard that should have been avoided. When we tore the struts down, the flats on the threaded damper shaft had slightly jumped or climbed out of the flats on the upper spring seal.

The spring is properly installed, particullary the end at the bottom which fits into the recessed portion of the lower spring seats.

Is there an aftermarket fix, (ie. upgrade in strut that reduces the problem of this system?

Is there another problem at the root of this? Such as broken spring that is not obvious following physical inspection? Or is this spring mismatched to the strut?

Firestone is the shop that provides our alignment services for this vehicle. They assure us that all of the components of the front end are good, ie. Stabilizer bar link, balljoints, tie rod ends, control arm. In other words, it is still a tight front end.

Perhaps the only way to solve this is to find a complete strut, (including springs), assembly and install that.

Are you off-roading or mud boggin’ with this vehicle? Is there something about the conditions of the roads you use that would accelerate wear? Is this vehicle driven by a young (18-24) or elderly (70-?) person?

You not only wore out your original struts pretty quick, you wore out their replacements quickly as well, which suggests the struts might not be at fault. I hope the ones you bought at 86,000 miles came with the lifetime warranty on parts.

I would consider upgrading to struts that are made for a heavier vehicle, or aftermarket heavy duty struts.

That would confirm what I thought, these struts are definitely going out too soon. Your profile is accurate but leaves out the person of the single-mind. This car will do what I say it can do–in this case run over curbs without slowing down.

This vehicle also ran into an Interstate Highway fence after car spun out on ice. This was a low impact event, (another instance of an accident while wife was driving), but as in all low impact collisions, one doesn’t always get what he wants in terms of repair from the contracting body shop. This collision with a chain link fence is another primary culprit in the premature death of the right strut, although the strut soldiered on for nearly 15,000 miles.

No off-roading. But this vehicle has proven that it cannot handle jumping curbs.

Issue of neglect. Wife believes that she can run over curbs, (conscious neglect), and did hit a man-hole at 117,000 miles, (this abuse was accidental while being operated in a construction zone). The strut on the right side lost all its fluid at about 116,000 miles. One brother in law who drove this vehicle 300 miles when he was instructed not to move it, (separate transmission issue).

The lastest problem with the noise returning is co-incidental with a large dent in the rocker panel on the right side. I do suspect neglect, because this would have had to come from some enormous object, or just running part-way over a cliff or canyon.

The struts were covered by a lifetime warranty, but the upper suspension supports are items which cost one hundred dollars each. Small plug for Checker Auto: They sold me the first set at $64.00 ea and replaced they without charge when three years later, they listed at $97.00 ea. Far above my expectations. The only catch was, they couldn’t find an upgrade to a heavy duty strut. After doing the job again and meeting with this failure, I’m sorry that I didn’t either buy the heavy duty elsewhere or just replace everything in the whole strut assembly.

I didn’t have a problem with the first replacement interval of 86,000 miles, but am perplexed by the less than 1,000 miles for the return of the knocking.

It would seem that the springs are overload or heavy duty because they are very stiff and very difficult to compress when compared to a passenger car spring. I rate or rank their replacement at near to the level of ‘brain damage.’ All else on this vehicle suspension-wise appears to be sub-compact caliber, i.e. very light duty. This must be why the neglect and abuse respond in failure particularly for the OEM struts.

"When we tore the struts down, the flats on the threaded damper shaft had slightly jumped or climbed out of the flats on the upper spring seal. "

They don’t “jump out”. There is a trick to tightening that top bolt and keeping the flats on the shaft where they are supposed to be.

You are correct, it didn’t really jump out, it merely did a number on the spring seat.

Actually, the one side did displace and there were bright markings on the spring seat to verify that fact.

There is no trick to doing this installation, it is quite simple. There is only one way the thing can go together and literally no way to do it incorrectly because you can see exactly how it went together once you are done and before you put the strut assembly back on the vehicle. It is designed this way so that it goes together correctly.

For your information and for other consumers of this forum. I have just received an email from a Toyota specialist in my metro area. He informs me that my knocking is highly unusual for a Rav4, but common in Camrys. His read on my problem falls in line with the first responder, struts on a Rav4 should stand up for 125 to 150,000 miles.

This shop owner tells me that he has never had to replace the upper strtu, (suspension), support for this problem on a Rav4 and that he has never had to replace coil springs on a Rav4 in 14 years, (is that the lifetime of this model?).

He also informed me that he has seen ticking from the valance. I’ve not talked with him live, but assume that is the spoiler associated with the front bumper.

Solution: Knocking noise is now gone.

Installed new stabilizer bar links on both sides. This vehicle has a link that connects to the end of the stabilizer bar and a bracket on the strut.

Both links passed the test recommended in the repair manual.