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Front Strut Cartridge Replacement- 1994 Cutlass Supreme


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bluecalais79

Anyone out there ever replace their front strut cartridges in their CS, I'd like to take a crack at it and save a repair bill. I know I'll need a special tool that I see goes for about $50 to $55 on E Bay. But after seeing a video showing someone doing this job on a 1994 Buick (Regal?) W Body, this looks like something I can do. I have the KYB cartridges but I'd also look to be replacing any and all parts on the way in, and I have a too to drain the oil.

Any feedback would certainly be appreciated. The rears are all set, my Mechanic just got done installing them, including that FSTB in the trunk.

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oldmangrimes

I've done it on my 95 Cutlass vert, it wasn't too bad.   I ordered the special tool, you might be able to find it cheaper from someone who is selling their used one, or rent it from an auto parts store.   One thing I had a problem with on one side was that I had to apply some horizontal force to get things lined up in order to re-assemble the parts into the opening.    Also, I made a mistake of selling the special tool right after I installed the struts (I needed the cash).   Because a few months later I started hearing a clunk on one side, and once I realized that one of the struts had come loose, I had to re-buy the special tool and tighten it back up.   I kept that tool, and then now of course I haven't needed it for the last few years it's just collecting dust.   I'd ship my tool to you to use, but Murphy's Law dictates that the day after I would ship it then I would need it, guaranteed lol.    Anyway, make sure you torque things down properly when re-assembling everything.    

Another thing I remember is that the installation uses a different combination of tools, the KYBs I installed had a different nut on top than the old ones I pulled out.    

I didn't notice any oil in mine when I changed them, but I wasn't the original owner so probably the previous owner had already changed them once.      

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bluecalais79

Thanks, the shop wanted over $700 to do this job but I think they had in mind changing the entire mechanism, not the cartridge itself. I watched that You Tube video again last night, as long a I have ALL the replacement parts at the ready I think this is one job I can do that will save big bucks on the whole.

I just sunk $3400 into it getting it back up to being roadworthy after 8 years of neglect/abuse by my Dad & Brother, and since I'm the original owner and would really like to see my nephew get this car, it is all surely worth it.

No turning back.

 

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Its not a particularly hard job.  But one caveat -- if your spring seats use the GM powder coating, rather than the paint, then a full disassembly of the entire tower is necessary to inspect the coil spring seat.  I'm not sure if 1994 cars used powder coat or painted parts.  But unfortunately the powder coat parts, the powder coat fails, and eventually causes failure of the spring seat.  Even in climates in which not much salt is used.  

Otherwise, one runs the risk of having the spring seat fail, which can be quite a serious issue.  

If a shop wants $700, they should be pulling the whole knuckle, right down to the ball joint and the axle, compressing the spring on an external spring compressor, inspecting and replacing the spring seat if necessary, and then reassembling.  

If you need new spring seats, they're cheap on Rockauto, like $3-$5 a side including bearing.  Make sure you use some paint to mark the positions of everything so you can put it back together correctly.

Edited by pitzel
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  • 4 weeks later...
bluecalais79

Job done. I did one a weekend due to honeydolist time restraints. The 2nd one took half the time the first one did due to knowing how to get it done. MAJOR, major ride improvement. Had do file away some of the holes for the FSTB but no big deal. It's all in and I will never have to deal with that job again. I replaced both black rubber insulator/bushings but only one yellow bumper as the holes in the KYB bumpers were to small and I had to gouge them out a bit which I found was really stupid. One of the original bumpers was used as it was in good shape but one fell apart when I removed it.

My big mistake with the first one was I was not on level ground which caused a pitch forward as soon as I unbolted the unit. For the 2nd one I was on dead level ground. Big Help.

Next will be 4 wheel alignment at my local shop and it's a done deal.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Mark 1997 Cutlass Coupe

Did you end up buying the special tool to take the cartridge out, or did your parts store have one to borrow? Did it change the ride height? My 97 rides terribly on rough roads, and I'm hoping I'll have the same positive results you did. Finally, which parts did you end up buying for the job? Thanks for your help, I desperately need to do this!

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bluecalais79

Yes indeed, I bought all the special tools needed for this job, and as I am NEVER going to do this job again I can sell you what I used if you want to consider buying it.  The only thing that broke was the T-50 socket fitting that came with the kit, I knew that was going to happen. I recommend getting a socket that isn't junk.

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