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strut shock installation and replacement-mk5+ VW TDI and Audi A3
mk5 2005 2006 VW Jetta TDI strut shock installation and replacement
back to 1000q: a5 Jetta TDI FAQ and "how to" list
This article shows how to install strut/shocks on an A5 Jetta (for 2005.5-2010 mk5 body). The procedure should be the same for the sportwagen and mk5 Rabbit, GTI, or GLI.
Shocks/struts, springs, and other suspension bushings and mounts were not meant to last forever. As a rough test of strut condition, push down on a corner of the car. If it bounces and returns in one or two bounces, it is probably in good shape. The second bounce should be a lot smaller than the first. Also look at the shock/strut damper piston. If you can see the metal piston, consider changing the boot because the boot serves to protect the seals from dirt. Your VW TDI came stock with gas dampers. If you switched to liquid shocks, check for pooled or a noticeable amount of liquid around the shock piston which indicates bad shock seals. The OEM Boge/Sachs shocks are vilified because they're soft but their construction quality is good. But because they're so soft and combined with worn bushings, worn shocks result in a poor ride.
Note that shock/strut/damper are often used interchangeably. A damper is any "shock absorber". A strut is a damper that replaces the upper suspension arm and normally carries the spring on a perch. This is what VW uses and is called a McPherson strut. A shock is normally just the damper. The struts do not control the ride height unless the spring perch is different from stock. The springs carry the weight of the car and control ride height, the struts just dampen the motion.
Here are some brand/models that people have been happy with in the past. Just remember that ride quality and harshness are highly subjective! Someone's soft ride may feel hard to you. Sporty to one person may be "kidney bruising" to you. The Monroe sensatracks are said to be comfortable. The Koni reds are hydraulic and are adjustable. Koni reds on full soft are about the same as new stock shocks. As a rough estimate, I would set them at 1/2 turn from soft to 1 full turn from soft, depending on what you want and tire size. The koni yellows are a sport ride and comparable to the bilstein HD. The Bilstein TC (touring class) shocks are gas economy twin tube design and is close the Koni reds but different. The Bilstein HD are a stiffer gas monotube shock and a good choice for a sportier (stiffer and rougher). Both are for stock height suspensions. There are also TC sport suspension which are designed to be used as replacement with the lowered sport suspension. These are only for the lowered or sport suspensions because of the strut length! I avoid the OEM VW sachs or boge replacements because they are expensive and are soft. Also remember that the tire sidewalls are an important part of the suspension, taller tire sidewalls (higher aspect ratio) will dampen more than thin short sidewalls.
This is also a good time to inspect the brakes, anti-roll/sway bar bushings, and lower control arm (LCA) bushings, in that order of priority. The sway bar bushings are worn out by 100,000 miles and should be replaced as needed. A symptom of bad sway bar bushings is a clunking noise from the front when you go over small bumps and potholes. To replace the LCA bushings, just unbolt the links and bolts that hold the LCA and remove the LCA from the car. Once you're down there it's not much more work and it will restore all the major parts of the suspension that get worn out. It will make strut removal a little easier but it's less of a priority than the swar bar bushings and struts.
Your car will need an alignment after strut replacement. Drive around for a day to let the suspension settle in before alignment.
The pictures below are archived with permission from furmanka.blogspot.com/2006/11/spryny-instalacja-springs-install.html .
7mm allen wrench
14mm triple square socket
27mm socket for the axle
metric sockets and wrenches
spring compressor (can be loaned free at many auto parts stores)
impact wrench (preferred)
4 jack stands, wheel chocks, and hydraulic jacks
Metalnerd strut spreader (preferred) or VW tool #3424 (also included in ECS tuning install kit linked below)
Metalnerd MN2122 strut counterholder (preferred ) or VW tool #t10001/5 and t10001/11
One use only bolts (assuming both front and rear, left and right sides)
(quantity 6) VW# n 101 277 06 upper mount bolts (pictured below as #7)
(quantity 2) VW# n 909 548 01 lower strut bolt (pictured below as #10)
(quantity 2) VW# n 101 064 02 lower strut nut (pictured below as #11)
(quantity 6) VW# n 103 320 01 ball joint nuts
(quantity 2) VW# n 015 081 4 stabilizer link nuts
(quantity 2) VW# n 910 406 01 axle bolts
(quantity 4) VW# n 910 661 01 upper mount bolts (pictured bottom as #12)
(quantity 2) VW# n 910 274 01 lower mount bolt (pictured bottom as #8)
Install kit from ECS tuning (comes w/strut spreader tool, check other parts as you may need ball joint bolts and rear strut mounts from ECS tuning)
Front (quantity 2) VW# 6n0 412 249c axial grooved ball bearing (pictured left #2)
(quantity 2) VW# 1k0 412 303b (70mm) bump stops (pictured left #3)
(quantity 2) VW# 1k0 412 311b strut mount (pictured left #4)
(quantity 2) VW# 1j0 412 359 cap (pictured left #6)
(quantity 2) VW# 6n0 413 175a dust boot (pictured left #9)
If you are lowering the car, installing the Euro suspension or have 16" wheels now and are putting on 18" wheels, you may need the limiter kit. Many report no problems with 18" wheels only. (quantity 1) VW# 000 071 501 or 000071501a suspension travel limiter kit
(quantity 2) VW# 1k0 511 353p sport 133mm rear bump stops (pictured left #2)
(quantity 2) VW# 1k0 511 353f lowered 118mm rear bump stops (pictured left #2)
(quantity 2) VW# 1k0 512 149b upper spring perch (pictured left #4)
(quantity 2) VW# 1k0 512 297c lower spring perch (buffer block) (pictured left #5)
(quantity 2) VW# 1k0 513 353h rear strut mount (pictured left #11)
(quantity 2) VW# 1k0 513 167 support ring (pictured left #10)
(quantity 2) VW# 1k0 513 425 protective pipe (pictured left #14)
Work on one end of the car at a time if you don't have a lift. Feel free to sign up and ask a question about this article at the forums here: myturbodiesel.com forums
The only issue during removal is that the front struts sit in a pocket on the hub. You have to lift the strut out of the pocket to remove it and there isn't enough clearance. You have to remove the lower control arm's ball joint (3 nuts) and pull the axle out of the hub. On the driver's side, the axle needs to come out to get enough clearance. On the passenger side, you may only need to remove it half way. The last way to remove the strut is to compress the spring while it's still on the car. This is more risky because you could get pinched and you need room to put on the spring compressors. Some need to be installed upside down due to clearance and this could cause an issue when tightening the compressors. Since it's only 4 bolts to pull out the axle a bit, I suggest doing it as recommended in the factory service manual.
Remove the center cap and loosen the axle bolt a few turns with a 27mm socket and a breaker bar. Do both sides before raising the car to avoid damage to the wheel bearings. Spray the spline/axle area with PB Blaster to loosen any rust and lubricate the axle. You have to slide it out and the PB Blaster needs time to soak.
Raise the front of the car and remove the wheels (5x 17mm lug bolts). CAUTION - do not rest the jack stands on the suspension or non factory jack points! These can act like a fulcrum or move and cause the car to fall down. You need the suspension to be able to move while you work on it. Always use the factory jack points as specified in the service manual. Then chock the wheels, apply the parking brake, and make sure the car is safe and secure before working on it! Never get under the car while it's supported by hydraulic jacks since these can fail - these are for raising the car only. This article is not a substitute for the factory service manual or the services of a professional mechanic. See the TOS Agreement for the full legal disclaimer.
Counterhold the sway bar end link at the top of the strut and remove the 18mm nut. Move the link to the side and out of the way. Also remove the ABS or brake pad wear sensors.
If your car has OEM HIDs, remove the leveler arm on the front left (10mm). This sensor is how the headlights self level, if you lower the car you'll have to reset it with vag com later.
Remove the strut pinch bolt (yellow arrow, 1x 14mm triple square, not a torx!), and counter hold the other side with a 18mm socket. If you didn't read the directions ahead of time and find you don't have a triple square, use a torx T60 with a vise grip plier clamped onto the head of the bolt. It might strip but it's worth a try.
Then remove the ( 3x 16mm) nuts that hold the ball joint at the outer end of the lower control arm. Separate the ball joint from the lower control arm.
Using a plastic or wood dowel, tap the axle on the outer face to push it through the hub. Try not to hit it hard with metal since this can deform the axle or damage the hub splines. I suggest spraying it with some PB Blaster and letting soak to loosen the bond and lubricate the splines. Again, on the driver's side you probably have to pull the axle all the way out, on the pass side you may only have to push it halfway out.
Once the axle is out, support it with string or wire. Don't let it hang from the transmission or joints.
Insert the strut spreader at the yellow arrow and turn it with a wrench to pry apart the strut cup. You should now have enough clearance to pull the strut out of the hub.
Now remove the upper connection that's holding the strut assembly from falling out. Open the hood and pull out the rubber weatherstripping for the cowl cover. There should be enough clearance to pry the cowl plastic up without removing it from the car. Remove the 3x 13mm bolts and the strut assembly will drop out.
If your car is old and the plastic is dried out, you may want to remove the cowl to avoid cracking it. Remove the wipers, they are held with 13mm bolts.
Now use a spring compressor and compress the spring. If you don't have a spring compressor, they can be loaned at many auto parts stores for free.
CAUTION: Be careful when using spring compressors since any failure or slipping could result in the sudden release of the spring, strut, or other stuff on the assembly! Don't stick your hands near the springs while the springs are being compressed! You could get pinched or the spring compressors could fail! Always point the spring and strut away from yourself so that if it does fail, it doesn't hit you!
You want to remove the nut that's holding the strut assembly together but the issue is that the bolt needs to be counterheld against the strut shaft or else it will just spin. There are a few ways to counterhold it. You could just blip it off with an impact wrench but you can't use this method to tighten the nut or else it will crack the strut bearing. The preferred way is to use the Metalnerd MN2122 strut counterholder (pictured below and in use at right) since it has an attachment for a torque wrench (always mate at 90o angle!), is cheaper than buying a new wrench set, and works. It also has both 21mm and 22mm ends for OEM and aftermarket struts. VW tool #t10001/5 and t10001/11 will work but it doesn't have sizes for aftermarket nuts, the metalnerd MN2122 does.
I have a gearwrench pass through wrench (pictured below with an mk3 VW), which lets you loosen the bolt while using an allen wrench to counterhold the shaft.
A 13/16" spark plug socket works too but remember that some aftermarket nuts are 22mm. And you have to cut flat spots for a wrench into the side to hold it.
Here is another idea - two nuts tightened against each other can counterhold the shaft but my strut did not have enough threads to do this and I had the tools.
In any case, remove the 21mm nut and the assembly will come apart. Note the order of the bushings, mounts, etc. If you are lowering the car cut the bump stops shorter and reinstall. If you have Bilstein HDs, they have internal bump stops.
Reassembly the reverse of removal. Check the beginning of the spring coil's position against the spring seat - it should fit snugly. You may find it easier to do the other side before reattaching the sway bar link to the strut.
NOTE - The top mount has some arrows that should be aligned with the direction of travel so it should only go on 1 way!
All suspension components should be tightened in the loaded position - not fully extended and not fully compressed, in about the curb weight position. Hand tighten the fasteners and then use a jack to help you lift the entire assembly/arm while you tighten the suspension bolts.
Tighten the axle bolt to 148 ft lbs and lower the car. Once on the ground, tighten it another 180 degrees.
Front torque specs
3x top strut assembly bolts - 11 ft lbs + 1/4 turn (always replace)
1x top strut assembly nut - 44 ft lbs (always replace)
1x bottom strut pinch bolt - 52 ft lbs + 1/4 turn
3x ball joint nuts - 10mm = 52 ft lbs ( if they happen to be 8mm, torque to 30 ft lbs)
1x stabilizer link to strut - 48 ft lbs
1x 27mm axle bolt - 148 ft lbs, once car is on ground, +180 turn.
If you can get access to the 2 upper strut bolts, remove them now.
Otherwise, raise the rear of the car and rest on jack stands, chock the front wheels, etc., see the disclaimer above. You don't have to remove the springs or axle to replace the strut only. Remove the wheel. Compress the suspension arm with a jack (there are some grooves where it should be secure) to hold the arm and prevent it from snapping down or use spring compressors to clamp the springs. If you don't, it will snap down due to the spring force. Remove 2 bolts at the top of the strut and one at the bottom and it will come out. If your car is equipped with HID levelers, remove it.
Remove the lower strut bolt from the hub.
If you want to remove the springs, compress it if you haven't already and remove, noting it's position in it's seat. The bottom coil's start rests in a pocket in the lower control arm.
NOTE - The rear suspension components should be tightened in the fully loaded curb weight resting position. Use a hydraulic jack to move the lower control arm and hand thread and then tighten the bolts in the curb weight position.
NOTE - the Bentley manual has a typo, the correct torque for the lower strut bolt is 133 ft lbs, not 33.
Torque specs for rear
2x upper mount bolts - 37 ft lbs + 45o turn (always replace)
1x lower strut bolt - 133 ft lbs (tighten at curb weight position)
Drive around for a day to let the suspension settle and then get an alignment. If your car is equipped with self leveling HIDs, and you lowered the car or replaced the bushings, use a vag-com to reset it.
Here is an example of a lowered car with about 0.5" drop, this and many pics from furmanka
Here is a full list of torque specs.