View Full Version : Adventures in changing struts on the All Trac

12-31-2012, 01:52 AM
I've been needing to do some suspension upgrades to the car for a while but I've been putting it off. In January of 2011, gtfour77 over at Alltrac.net put a set of Koni RACE series struts up for sale. I talked with Martin about them and he had used on them on the back of his car for part of an autocross season and was going a different route. After talking it over with him, we decided they'd work for what I was wanting to do so I bought them. They came in a set of All Trac rear strut housings that had already been modified for use with the Konis. The only thing was that the spring perches had been cut off for use with coilover sleeves. At the time, I wasn't sure what route I was going to go, use sleeves or swap them into another set of housings with the spring perches. With moving into the new house and getting the wife down here, I put them in the garage cabinet and went on with other things.

Sometime last year I bought a used set of Ground Control coilovers from a member here but wasn't sure about the spring rates so I ended up selling them. This summer, I finally broke down and ordered the Konis for the front of the car. It took a while to get them as they had to special order them from Koni.

Not long after I got them, l0ch0w put up a complete set of struts with Koni inserts and lowering springs for sale. I went ahead and bought these from him with the idea of using the housings with the inserts I already had.

Once I got them, I found some numbers on the springs and tried to identify them. Didn't have a whole lot of luck there but I did find out that these struts had been floating around for a while and it didn't really look like anybody had installed them. So, I went ahead and started tearing them down to install my inserts. The fronts went really well and they had the same Koni insert that I had just purchased in them. I went ahead and installed my new ones. (The ones that I took out are in good shape and I'll be looking to sell these soon.)

The back ones ended up being a different story. I took the gland nut off the top of one like I had with the front ones but to my surprise there was no insert. The actual guts of the strut came out with the oil. The reason this was surprising was that the strut housing were rear All Trac struts that had been converted to use inserts (All Trac rear struts are sealed and to use inserts the top has to be cut off and about 2" from a front strut with the threaded top has to be welded on). I looked at the bottom of the strut and it had the bolt that some Koni inserts use but I've never seen anything like this from Koni. There are a couple of holes in the welds that you could see through and the inserts were yellow and they are adjustable. I tried to get the insert out of the housing but nothing I did would get the insert out. They're in there to stay. So at this point I figured I'd just put oil back in the one I opened and use these on the back. This didn't work. I used fork oil like a lot of people suggest but I never could get the strut to work right.

So, now the plan became to take my rear struts off the car, cut the tops and weld the tops on from the ones I got from gtfour77 and use the original inserts I purchased.

Today, I started my install with the front ones that I had ready to go. The left one went on great. It took about half an hour to get it installed. I did have to use a cheated pipe to break the bolts loose but no problems. I got it put back together and installed the camber bolt kit. It's ready to go. I moved around to the right side and first found that I had forgotten to break the lug nuts loose. I had to lower the car and do this. Once I had the wheel off, I sprayed the bolts down with PB Blaster and waited a while. After this, I found out that the car was too close to the garage wall to use the same piece of pipe I had used before. So, I pulled the top off of my jack handle and used it. I put it on the handle of my rachet and applied pressure. Pop, it sounded like the bolt broke loose. WRONG, I had just suceeded in breaking my rachet that I've had for 30 years. That sucked. :banghead: So I went and got my breaker bar, snapped the socket on it, put the cheater on it and applied pressure. Pop, the bolt came loose. Wrong again, the damn stud that goes into the socket had sheared off the breaker bar! :banghead::banghead: I've had that thing for 30 years as well but I've probably used it 8 or 10 times in all those years.

So any way, at this point I figured I had better stop for the evening. Tomorrow I'm getting the impact out and that had better break the damn things loose. Once I've got the bolts loose, the right front shouldn't take too long to swap out. I'm just hoping that the rears don't have a ton of surprises. I would like to get this project done and move on to other things.

Updates to this adventure will follow.

12-31-2012, 02:18 AM
Before anybody asks, I did not touch the tools.

12-31-2012, 05:50 AM
^Now that you mention it, I'm dusting for prints in the morning just to be sure.

12-31-2012, 10:18 AM
Air tool FTW.

12-31-2012, 06:56 PM

Or Mike, you could pick up a Snap-On 1/2" impact (18v). I love mine. There's nothing that gun can't get off...

That's what she said. :)

01-01-2013, 04:17 AM
Well today went better although I did manage to break a Kobalt 1/2 to 3/8 adapter first thing is morning. Sheared right off at the base.

Any way, I found out that my pneumatic impact has weak sauce. I used it on the right front bolts that were giving me grief. I managed to get the top on off with it after using some heat but it wouldn't budge the bottom even after heating the hell out of it. I finally used my 1/2" rachet with the impact socket and a short section of jack handle. I got the right front installed in about an hour and half.

After that I move to the back. I started with the left rear and it came off fairly easy. Once I had it off, I had to tear it down and cut the top off of it. Once that was done and cleaned up, I test fitted the Koni insert to see how much I needed to cut off of the other housing housing and weld onto this one. I had to add an 1 1/2" section to the housing. This all went well. I got it cut and cleaned up pretty easily even though the pipe cutter I got at Harbor Freight is a POS. I also got a chance to tryout the new auto darkening welding helmet I got for Christmas. It worked really well. I was pretty pleased with how the weld job came out as I haven't welded much. It looked pretty good and didn't break when I tighted the gland nut down, so I must have done something half way right.

Once this was done, I put the unit back together with the lowering spring. This went well and I got the strut back on the car although I did manage to drop one of the top mount nuts down between the strut tower and the interior trim. Luckily I found a replacement in my spares box and didn't have to tear the interior apart.

As of now 3 of the 4 struts are changed out. I'm going to try and get the last one done before the wife gets back from WV on Friday. I have to go back to work on Wednesday so I don't know how that will work out.

On a different subject, the electric impacts work really well? I've looked at them for several years but haven't got one yet. I'm going to have to replace my pneumatic impact but I may very well look into getting an electric one as well.

01-01-2013, 10:37 AM
DeWalt has a really nice electric impact for around $200, by far the best battery powered you'll find for the price.

As for a pneumatic to have around the house, pick up a HF earthquake half inch. I recently used mine to do a 5FSE swap and to do an axle job on a friends Taco, took everything off like they were assembled with butter. I actually believe the 700ft/lb rating on those things, really nice tools.

01-01-2013, 03:52 PM
Yeah if you get electric get at least 18volt and use lithium batteries. Here's the kit I received.


It's only about 150 or so ft/lbs of torque, but that's enough to break loose most all the bolts on my car that I use it for (I usually just use it for lug nuts though). I really didn't care for the driver, I really was in it for the drill :P

01-01-2013, 04:56 PM
Everyone I've talked to raves about electric impacts. I haven't tried mine yet but based on feel I really think it will be more than adequate. If I really need to I could crack it manually and still save a tonne of time with the electric wrench.

Here's mine, similar to Tim's in torque rating but with a compact frame and a 1/2" socket drive. This one's in the 1800 in-lbs when most of the compact frame ones out there are around 1400. In terms of value for price, it would be hard to match it.


My air compressor failed a while back and I can't be bothered to have it fixed. It's just never convenient to use.


Sent from my Transformer Prime TF201 using Tapatalk HD

01-01-2013, 05:02 PM
Yeah same with my compressor, my regulator is leaking over 60lbs. I don't feel like fixing it just yet.

01-04-2013, 04:47 AM
Got the last strut housing converted, the insert installed and the right rear suspension reinstalled on the car tonight. Just have to tighten the lug nuts, get the car back on the floor and a four wheel alignment and this project is finally done. The struts on rear came off fairly easy and converting the housings wasn't too bad at all. That went a lot better than I had figure. If I had know it would go this well, I would have just converted the housings a month ago and been done with this.

01-04-2013, 05:16 PM
If I had know it would go this well, I would have just converted the housings a month ago and been done with this.

I love and HATE when that happens...

01-05-2013, 05:38 AM
I am getting tired of reading these posts about suspension and getting lost in all this talk about inserts and coilovers. Makes me think I should try a suspension upgrade soon. Then I read a post like this and realize why I havn't tried yet.

So how does it ride?

On the impact wrench subject, I bought a plug-in cobalt impact last year. It was fairly inexpensive, it feels very sturdy and I have only found one or two bolts it didn't power right through (keep in mind, I just essentially completely dissasmbled my 5th gen parts car).

01-06-2013, 04:42 PM
I still have it up on the jack stands. I have a little exhaust work to do so I figured that while it was up in the air I'd get the parts and fix that as well.

As far as installing inserts on the strut housing already made for them (the ones with gland nut already) this can be easy or it can be a complete bitch. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense but I'll explain. The gland nut screws down into the top of the strut housing. It's got about 3/8 to 1/2" of fine threads. It also, more than likely, is round (although the ones on the housings I got from gtfour77 actually looked like nuts on top) and will require either a pipe wrench or the special gland nut wrench. I bought one of the gland nut wrenchs but it didn't really work much better than the pipe wrench.

Any way, you won't really know until you start how hard the gland nut is going to be to get off. One of the four, one of the front housing, came off with just the pipe wrench. The other front one come off with the pipe wrench and a 5 foot cheater pipe on the end of it. One of the rear ones that ended up not using was a complete bitch. It took the pipe wrench, the gland nut wrench, heat, PB Blaster and the cheater pipe. I also broken my bench vise on this one. The other rear one that I didn't use, I never could get this one to budge even a little. I'll add this as well, the two front ones had been opened before so this probably helped. The rear ones had not been opened. So if you have the original struts on the car it will most likely be a bitch getting them open. Then again, maybe not. It didn't seem like the PB Blaster penetrated in very well. My theory on this is that there is very little room between the nut and the top of the housing to get the penetrating oil in there in the first place and I also think the fine threads have some impact as well. I sprayed mine down several time and let them sit for a few days. It didn't seem like it made much difference.

Once I get it down and aligned I'll have a ride/drive report. I'm expecting a fair improvement at least. I know one of my front ones was going bad. When you jacked the left front off ground and then let it back down, the strut basically stayed expanded and only settled back down once you moved the car. It was also making a hell of a noise over larger imperfections in the road and was starting to bottom out at times. The odd thing was it didn't appear to be leaking when I took it off.