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Strut mounts 2003 Saturn Ion

I bought this car used for my teenager with 108,000 miles and he has put about 20,000 (my guess, HARD miles) on it. A few minor problems but the left front tire keeps wearing out, all the way down to the steel belt on the outer edge of the tire. So I took it down to my local, highly recommended (by my kid’s guitar teacher who knows nothing about cars but swears by these guys) and they tell me: “bad strut mount”. Which is exactly what I had (so I was told) happen on my 2001 Saturn that I happily got rid of. Cost for the Ion-$968. Why? “Well, if you take the McPherson struts out, lots of labor and as long as you are doing that, you should replace the shock/struts and you can’t do just one side, you have to do both and then there is the tire and the alignment…” So I say “let me wait until the next bonus check”, buying time to think and the “reputable” mechanic says “don’t wait too long, this is not safe” which with the tire looking like it does is true. But my kid is at college so I don’t care too much, unless he comes home.

Well, I find out from the dealer that they replaced the struts just before I bought the car. So I go down to my local auto parts store and buy a strut mount. Why would I replace struts that are only 20,000 miles old? I jack the car up, put it on jack stands, take off the wheel, brake caliper, etc., pull out the strut, crank down the spring with the strut compressor (yea I know, dangerous but I have life insurance) and discover, like I always seem to with Saturns that there must be a VERY special tool for removing that last compression nut at the top of the strut. If you turn the nut, the whole strut turns too, there is absolutely now way to latch onto the strut and the compression nut is buried deep into the strut mount (rubber thing) that the only way to get to is is a spark plug socket. And then I discover that inside the bolt that connects to the compression nut is hollowed out at the top so with a star shaped area that perfectly fits one of the star shaped male sockets I have in the box of funky sockets I bought, well, because I own a Saturn. But there is no possible way to simultaneously get a wrench on the outside of compression nut and a star shaped male socket into the center of the corresponding bolt (which is the strut).

So now, in anger, as I ponder releasing the spring into the side of the car, but I can’t because I can’t get the nut off, I realize something. The strut mount looks great. There appears to be nothing wrong with it or any of the other parts on this strut!

I now have a new part upon which to release my anger. The “honest” mechanic who was about to soak me for about $1,000 for struts and strut mounts. Am I being too quick to blame here? Is it possible that I need a new strut mount when there seems to be nothing wrong with it? Do you think the tire wear issue (only one tire mind you) could just be an alignment thing? I think I remember a low klunking sound in the front of the car when you drive it but maybe that’s a ball joint, it has 128,000 miles on it. I am putting the car back together. Any thoughts on the strut mount or what my problem really is? Should I cancel my son’s guitar lessons?

To remove the strut rod nut an air impact gun is probably the easiest.

To check the upper strut mount requires removing it from the strut assembly. Once it’s removed and turned over to look at the underside of the mount, you might find the rubber on the mount is all torn up. And that would effect the wheel alignment to cause the tire to wear.


The air wrench was the only way to get that strut out because obviously, Saturn replaced the struts and used an air wrench to tighten the nut down, at way, way too high a torque setting. It took all my strength to hold down the channel locks while the guy at the tire store worked the air wrench.

The rubber mount was in mint condition. The plastic bearing inside the mount did have a little dirt in it, it made a slightly scratchy sound when turned. That concerns me because even though I replaced the mount and the bearing, I wonder if there is some other reason the tire had worn so badly on the outside. I will get it aligned this week but if that doesn’t work, I’m wondering if there is frame damage-I bought this car used. The guy at Autozone told me that he thought a bearing with dirt in it could actually cause that tire to wear abnormally, others tell me that they think there must be some other more sinister issue with the car.