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#1 (permalink) Old 05-24-2009, 08:13 AM
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Cool My Bilstein 5100 install - fronts

Well I ventured into replacing my front struts yesterday and thought I'd share what I learned. I'm by no means a mechanic and would say the job is very much a DIY that can be done in a couple of hours if you know what you're doing. It took me 6... 5 of which was the first one. It's amazing how much better things go when you know what you're doing.

My truck is an 01 AC 4x4 TRD.

Some tidbits on what I learned:

- You need a strut (outside the spring) spring compressor to do the job.
- You don't really need to (or want to) disconnect the front stabilizer bar unless you absolutely have to. These are one-time use nuts and you can easily brake the cap and ball linkage at $95 a pop.
- DON'T release the spring compression (ie. remove the old shock from the spring assembly) until you've attached the spring compressor (you'll understand more as I explain it later).
- After you've completed one side, your truck will sit higher, you need to be able to jack it up higher on the other side.

OK, so here's the right way to do this, at least in my case.

1. Jack up and stabilize truck with jack stands (I like two) unleass you're working on some kind of lift. I used a trolly jack I got at Advance Auto sitting on a wide board for some additional height. You might want to loosen your front lugs before raising all the way off the ground.

2. Remove the wheel and move it out of the way. You might want to put a piece of plywood or ar tarp down to catch grease dripping.

3. You're going to remove the 3 #14 nuts at the top of the spring perch and the shoch bolt at the bottom of the shock (and that's really all), so give them a spray with some liquid wrench.

4. Remove the #18 (or #19, can't remember) lower shock bolt. You should have something that will fit through the hole to knock the bolt all the way out. It's a good idea to have a small box or something to throw your nuts and bolts in so they don't get scattered or lost.

5. Remove the 3 #14 nuts at the top of the spring perch. The best thing to use is actually a ratcheting wrench since there's not much room for a deep socket. They'll be a little tight, but shouldn't be that bad. Watch your hands and feet, because once you remove those 3 little nuts, the whole thing will just drop out, shock and all. That's your strut assembly.

6. Take the strut assembly to your workbeck or somewhere in the shade where it's easly to work on.

7. The first thing you want to do now is attach your spring compressor. My first time around I remove the strut first and believe me, compressing a spring back to where it is now takes some muscle, even with the compressor. Also, be sure to use the keeper clips (security clips)...they really stabilize the spring compressor. The first time after an hour of wrenching the thing, on slipped over. Not only did I have a really dangerous situation, I had to do it all over again once I removed it! SO, the way to save yourself a LOT of work is to attach the compressor now and make sure its on tight. You want the compressor to be as even as possible on both sides and you want it to attach as far along the spring as possible, ie. the top most part of the spring you can get to and the bottom most.

8. Now remove the top shock bolt. I recommend wiping off any grease to allow for a better grip on the strut bolt. There's a keyed top on the bolt to grip and keep from spinning. I used basic vice grips, but first I slipped a ratcheting wrench onto the nut since it's a lot of turns to get it off. I also used a shop rag under the vice grips to get a better hold...worked well. You'll find that this nut is under pressure and won't go without a fight. Once that's done, remove the shock.

OK, so now we're on the install, which is basically a reverse of what you just did.

9. Decide what notch on the 5100 you want to use to lift the truck. I went with the third or middle notch since I didn't want to add a block or anything to the rear, just wanted to level. It turned out to be perfect, giving me about 1.5 inches of lift. Set the spring clip for hieght by moving it with a pair of pliers a little at a time. Don't remove it from the shock. Slip the spring perch over the shock. It's pretty obvious how it goes.

10. Slip it into the spring to see if you need to tighten the spring compressor in order to get the shock mounted. Likely you'll need to go a few good turns to get there since the spring is mounted higher on this shock than the stock shock. BE CAREFUL... a loaded spring can do some damage. You don't have to baby it, but don't be careless either.

11. Once you get the spring where you need it, install the shock. Remember to remove the old bushing on the under side of the top spring perch. Again, you're just going in reverse order of the disassembly. Pay some attention to the direction of the lower shock bolt because it will be a little difficult to twist once you've tightened it up. Doesn't have to be perfect.

12. Now you have a reloaded strut assembly...put it back just as you took it out. Fully attach the 3 top #14 nuts first, then align your lower bolt. You will need a pry bar to push down on the upper control arm in order to align the bottom shock bolt. I pried between the spring and the UCA and easily had the leverage I needed to push the suspension as low as it could go. The longer the bar, the easier it will be. If you ABSOLUTELY have to, loosen the front sway bar linkage, but make sure you replace that nut with a new one.

13. Replace your wheel and stand in awe of your new machine. Repeat for other side.

Good luck. Sorry no pics, but I was a little greasy. -T
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#2 (permalink) Old 05-24-2009, 09:25 AM
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What happened to the sway bar linkage? If there was any damage to the stock linkage I would highly recommend Downey's HD links and bushings. Both sides for under $70 gives you the sway bar bushings also. A lot heavier duty than stock. I just received in my 5100's for the front and hope to install soon. Thanks for the writeup-
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#3 (permalink) Old 05-24-2009, 04:42 PM
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Yeah man great write up. That's exactly what you have to do. My front shock broke yesturday while I was driving. I'll post pictures in a few minutes. I have them, just need to find the cable. Now I have a reason to get the 5100s to lift the truck. Or pay almost the same price for OEM shocks. But can you tell me, I had the regular shocks, so are the bilstien TRD shocks different then the 5100s? Or do the 5100 just give it the lift, but the same ride. Or should I just stay with the OEM shocks since I like the softer ride? How do they compare?
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#4 (permalink) Old 05-26-2009, 10:54 PM
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I wanted to share a pic of those sway bar links I mentioned in my last post. A huge difference from stock. Also I mounted up one of my coils tonight so as it fits the above write up I thought I'd throw a pic in here.


and the Downey links

Last edited by Tundra1000; 05-26-2009 at 10:59 PM.
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#5 (permalink) Old 05-27-2009, 09:54 AM
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Great write-up!

I hate being bipolar ....... It's awesome!
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#6 (permalink) Old 05-27-2009, 07:18 PM
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Thanks!

Hey, Sorry I was offline for a few days.

Tundra1000, thanks for posting that pic of the Downey linkage...that looks like the right ticket, and cheaper than stock. I already have the Downey replacement bushings for the bar itself, so will do them all at one time. I actually need to get a stronger pair of vice grips or something to keep the bushing from spinning so I can get the nut off of it. PITA. It didn't brake, but it was close. Good luck with the install.


As far as going with standard shocks, forget it...the 5100s are great riding shocks and they give you the option to raise it up (which you might as well do while you're at it). Truck looks much better leveled out.
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#7 (permalink) Old 05-28-2009, 04:02 AM
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Oh alright. Thanks a lot man. Great right up to.
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#8 (permalink) Old 06-04-2009, 06:43 PM
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ah man, this sounds great! any before/after pics? i'd love to see the comparison. nice write up!
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