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Rear shock procedure (long)
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Posted by sam96CS [Email] (#852) [Profile/Gallery] (more from sam96CS) on Thu, 1 Nov 2012 17:38:47 Share Post by Email
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This is a DIY job. These notes are from when I replaced OEM shocks with Bilstein HD shocks. I had no problems with rusted lower bolts, and there's much advice on this board about those bolts. At step 05 below some cars have the carpet already cut to access the top of the shock. Others will prefer to cut through the carpet with a razor or utility knife at the detents. I went with the peel-back-the-carpet method to have more room to work and to check the shock towers thoroughly for rust.

FWIW, I don't believe that the car's sprung weight is supported entirely by the springs. If you have a weak shock, then the car will sag at that corner, and your headlight aim also will be affected.

The procedure:
01. Remove personal stuff from the hatch and fold down the rear seats.
02. Park on level ground, put transmission in Park.
03. Put chocks in front of the front tires. Loosen the 19mm rear wheel bolts using a 25" breaker bar with 4" extension.
04. Jack up the rear of car as high as possible, support with jack stands, and remove the rear wheels. You'll need maximum clearance under the car later when you use the torque wrench. At each end of the axle you will later reposition the jack under the joint between the lower suspension arm and the axle tube, and you'll use the jack to facilitate some of the steps that follow.
05. Inside the car, pull the side carpet away far enough to access and remove the 16mm nuts that hold the top of the old shock absorber. Under the rear speakers is a hole in the carpet. Put your hand through the hole and pull the carpet away from the bottom of the speaker grille; plastic clips hold it there. Use a T40 bit with a 1/4" ratchet to remove the latch bolt for the seat backrest. Remove the scuff plate at the front of the load area, which is secured with 3 T25 screws. Remove the cover over the spare tire which is held by two T25 screws with wide heads. Pull the carpet away from the trim at the rear door opening. Now, starting at the door opening, you can pull the carpet back far enough to access the upper shock mount. You'll see two 16mm nuts threaded onto the spindle at the top of the shock. Ideally you would have a thin offset wrench to hold the bottom nut while you turn the top nut with another open end wrench or a deep socket. What I did was hold the top of the spindle with small vice grips while turning the upper nut with a 5/8" open end wrench. Remove the 16mm jamnut, the lower nut (also 16mm), cup and bushing and make note of their positions and orientations. The top of the shock is now disconnected.
06. Under the car, remove the 18mm bolt that goes through the sway bar end and the shock. The bolt screws into an 18mm nut. After the nut is removed the bolt can be driven out easily with a hammer and chisel if there is not a lot of rust. You don't need to use the jack to take tension off of the bolt in order to remove the bolt; there isn't much tension anyway. Remove the shock and save the bushing and washer at the top of the shock (note their positions and orientations). Also save the washer that goes against the head of the bolt if you intend to re-use the bolt.
07. Inspect the bushings at the end of the sway bar. If they need to be replaced, then it may be necessary to remove the sway bar and take it to a shop where the new bushings can be pressed in. The DIY procedure uses a propane torch to burn out the old bushing.
08. On top of the new shock install the wheelwell-side washer and bushing that were removed at Step 6. I used the new washer that Bilstein supplies with the HD shock. Insert the shock spindle through the bracket hole and then line up the bottom of the shock with the bolt holes. The Bilstein HD fits tight at the bottom. I used a dead blow hammer, first to align the shock directly above the bolt hole, and then tapped down on top of the spindle. I had to raise the axle with the jack slightly at this point in order to drive the shock all the way down. No need to smack it hard, just keep tapping until it is aligned. Put a coating of anti-seize on the new bolt. Install the bolt with the old nut. You can move the end of the sway bar a little by hand to align the holes. Install the bolt. Once the bolt is through the sway bar and into the shock mount you can tap it in with a hammer. No heavy blows or you will damage the threads. Install the 18mm nut on the bolt and tighten it until it is snug but not fully torqued.
09. The shock must be raised in order to attach it at the top. Use the jack to lift the axle and shock until the wheelwell-side bushing makes contact at the top. Inside the car install the bushing, washer, and locknut. Bilstein provides a 17mm locknut that you can also turn with a 11/16" wrench. You have to insert a 5mm allen wrench into the top of the spindle and prevent the spindle from turning as you tighten the locknut. Proper torque is unknown, I tightened until it wouldn't turn any more. You'll see the bushing compress as you tighten the nut. Don't replace the carpet yet, until the balance of the procedure is done. Now tighten the lower bolt to 63 foot pounds. This is awkward to do if you don't have a lift due to the lack of clearance under the car.
10. Reinstall the wheels paying attention to the tires' rotational orientation. Install the bolts snug but not tight.
11. Remove the jackstands and lower the car to the ground. Tighten the wheel bolts to 88 ft lbs.
12. Go for a test drive over various road surfaces to make sure all is well. If so, then install the carpet, working from the back to the front. You may have to adjust the position of the latch bolts that are engaged by the latches on the seat backs. Install the cover over the spare tire and then the scuff plate at the front of the load area.

The ride will feel harsh at first. After 1,000 miles or so it will feel right if you like a firm ride. If you prefer a compliant luxury car ride, then don't buy the HD Bilsteins.

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