Should I replace my 1998 4Runner Shocks (Struts?)

toyota
4runner

#1

OK, I guess the title of the question shows that I know nothing about my baby’s suspension system, but otherwise I’ve taken very good care of her. About 165,000 miles and strong in body and spirit, but her ride seems kind of rough. I’ve asked about shocks at three shops and received different opinions.

Two shops (one independent and one Toyota dealer) quoted me something like $1,000+ to replace whatever. The other, a Toyota dealer, said that the struts had no “maintenance interval”, and asked if I’d noticed any difference in the ride since she was new. Well, that was almost 15 years ago, so who knows?

Anyway, I asked them to check the suspension while I had her in for an oil change, and they said everything was fine. So, what to do? I do think the ride is pretty rough, but don’t want to spend that kind of money unless I’ll see real benefit. Ideas?


#2

Odds are the struts and shocks are due for replacement considering the age and miles. Often what happens is the driver becomes acclimated to a harsher ride over time and it kind of grows on them.

Drive a 4Runner with new shocks/struts for a day and then the current ride would be probably be noticeably harsher after getting back behind the wheel.

Sometimes the bounce test is not really a good indication of how things really are and that’s why the opinions can vary a bit. The bounce test may work on a corner on which the strut or shock has gone completely bad but may not be applicable on a half bad strut or shock.
Once disassembled any doubt would probably be removed but that leads into the situation of the vehicle being disassembled so replacement would be the best option at that point.


#3

Consider too the age of your tire, tire type and inflation pressures. It isn’t just shocks that contribute to a change in ride. Also, do you have another car that’s newer or one you have been riding in or driving with a better ride that brings out this difference ? IMHO, handling is a more important consideration. 165 k would always mean struts"could " be changed, but unless the handling has markedly deteriorated, don’t expect a limo ride when it’s done. It is a 4 Runner and a truck. Ok4450 is right about the bounce test. But, if it does pass, it does indicate that the handling is still acceptable, at least in a 4 Runner. Like OK says. Test “ride” other 4Runners of that generation.
$1000 k to replace all four is not unreasonable but on a truck that old, I would make sure the truck is worth the effort in every other way too, especially if the handling is alright.


#4

Struts are $50 each or $90 for ready mounts. Rear shocks are $40 each and are not struts. Shock only. Easy install.


#5

I have a 1999 4runner, 212K miles and runs great. I have thought about replacing the struts & shocks. Is there a link to a recipe to do so if I choose DIY?


#6

I would recommend purchasing or downloading a repair manual and reading it thoroughly, especially everything about jacking, safety, and anything in a box titled “caution” or “warning.”

While the work is fairly straightforward, a newb needs to realize the safety issues re: safely working underneath a car and safely decompressing springs.

I’d worry about that before I attempted the repair.


#7

I drive a Tacoma (which I believe has very similar geometry) and you’ll know it is time to replace the struts: it’ll bounce all over the place.
Replacing the struts isn’t a huge deal to do yourself but, if you don’t have a strut compressor, you can just unbolt the assemblies and bring them to a strut shop to have them compress the spring and replace the strut. If you bring all the parts, they may charge you one hour labor to replace them. With a proper strut compressor, to compress the spring and replace the strut takes maybe 10 minutes to do.
You may need a front end alignment when you’re all done.

One more thought: you can buy a hook strut compressor that consists of a long lead screw that attaches along the outside of the spring, one compressor on each end. They are pretty cheap but also pretty unsafe. I have use them but they always scared the bejebus out of me - and I’ve done a bunch. They feel unsafe and there’s a lot of energy stored in that compressed spring. It got to the point where I bought a real wall mounted compressor, one that a garage may use, because it was a cheap find on Craigslist.
Long story: unbolt your strut/spring assembly and just bring them to a shop to swap out. It will a little more money than buying the unsafe tool but it be safer for you, especially since you’ve never done it before.


#8

shop has to pay for their seldom used tool. 10 mins to do it but charge 1 hr labor?


#9

As Stoveguyy noted earlier, full complete quick strut assemblies (including the coil spring) are available for $90. Rockauto.com has Raybestos brand for the OP’s 98 4runner for $91.99 each.

For that price, it becomes easier to justify a simpl R&R of the assembly.


#10

@stoveguy, I doubt a strut compressor is considered a ‘seldomly used tool’. They are replaced all the time. If you need your struts replaced, it probably pays to check with shops in your area. One hour is what several friends of mine were charged in this area by Midas to do four struts. They brought the assembly and the replacement parts, dropped it off in the morning and picked it up on their way home.

Of course, now that my friends know I have one, they’ll probably get it done for a 6 pack of beer…


#11

@Stoveguyy

“10 mins to do it”

I wish I were that fast

In addition to what @RemcoW said, let’s not forget that his friends would have been charged significantly more labor if they brought the whole truck to the shop

FWIW . . . I use a clamshell strut spring compressor, but it mainly gets used on cars, not trucks


#12

@db4690, you can be fast too. I had to do struts on two vehicles on a weekend and happened to find a Branick 7400 on Craigslist. Some people can’t stay away from gambling, drugs or alcohol - I love using good tools.
It looks like this: http://www.estiwarehouse.com/images/Branick.jpg

With the first strut, I was really careful, aligning the thing, checking it a bunch of times.
I used to use hook compressors and struts always scared me a little. Using an impact gun on those hooks just seems scary. I always chained the whole hook and caboodle thing to a heavy desk to make sure it would only wing me when it decided to let go.
But, after the first strut with the branick tool, it was clear this is an extremely capable and safe tool, the second strut was a snap: 10 minutes after the strut assembly was off the vehicle. The ease of use really surprised me. A pro no doubt can do it just as fast.


#13

A friend of mine who drives a 2009 Corolla visited me the other day, and I compared the “bounce” of his Corolla vs my early 90’s version, which has all of its original suspension components. His was noticeably less bouncy. The OP might try something like that if they have a friend with a newer version of the same car. Just press down on the bumper near the corner of the car, and note how much force is required to press down, and note how much it bounces afterward. Yields some idea of how much wear has occurred at least.


#14

@RemcoW

Here’s what I meant

I personally own an OTC clamshell strut spring compressor. It’s decent, but no comparison to that Branick you just showed me

The shop I work at doesn’t even have one of those Branick compressors. Civil service shops are not always the best equipped . . . LOL

So I literally mean what I said. I can’t do struts in 10 minutes . . . at least not with the tools that I’ve got available.

FWIW . . . I’ve also bought lots of tools that other guys had to sell to cover their habits. To be specific, I have bought many snap on tools from pawnshops selling their wares on ebay.


#15

@db4690:
I /LOVE/ pawnshops for that reason!
Fleamarkets can be good too. I’ve found nice SnapOn tools in junkboxes people just had sitting under their tables.
It is hard to play-act like you’re not really that interested and say “how about five bucks for these wrenches and that broken tea pot?” but in my head I go “YIPPEEEEEEEEEEEE! YIPPEEE!”


#16

A strut spring can also be a lethal weapon is any compressor is not used correctly. A DIYer especially should always consider the possibily of using Quick Struts to save time, aggravation, and possibly their fingers or skull.

Even some of the most benign tools can be deadly. Two guys horsing around in the detail shop at a dealer where i worked were using long handled screwdrivers for a few seconds of faux swordplay.
One screwdriver slipped, hit the other guy in the temple, and he became a DOA statistic after dropping like a rock.


#17

Wow! That’s horrible.
Yes, I agree. Always be aware and use your head when you’re working on anything.


#18

Thank you, everyone, for your help and advice. Doing the replacement myself is WAY beyond my skill level, even if I had the proper tools. By an odd coincidence, my ex-wife was riding with me last week, and she says my 4Runner rides the same as it did the last time she rode in it in 2008. Since she (my 4Runner) is still easy to handle, I’m thinking at this point I’ll just keep on trucking. Thanks again!