Dear Tom,

I own a ‘97 Honda Accord SE Coupe. I want to replace the front and rear struts. What safety precautions should I take? Can I  jack up each corner of the car with the bumper jack and replace one strut at a time?

Jack from Seaport, FL

Jack,

If you are determined to do this job yourself then you will have to use more than a bumper jack to safely replace the struts on your car. Get four jack stands and a floor jack to start. Next, pick up a service manual to find out the proper procedure and don’t take any shortcuts. You will need special tools to do the job, so put together a tool list and go to your local AutoZone store. They offer a free tool loaner service and I think you can get all the required tools (like spring compressors). This is no small task. Be safe and good luck.

Tom

Jack’s question concerned me at first. Just the thought of bumper jacking each corner of the car to replace struts is frightening. But for someone who has the skills needed to do the job, and who has the right tools, the technical info, and knows the precautions, a job like this could be easy. Let’s take a closer look at the dos and don’ts of replacing struts to avoid damaging the vehicle and/or the person/s doing the repair.

1. Jack Stands
A steady and strong foundation is essential to safety. Use four strong jack stands capable of holding the vehicle’s weight. When buying jack stands, check each stand’s load capacity. Multiply it by four and compare this figure to the GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight). The collective stands’ capacity should far outweigh the vehicle’s overall weight. In addition, a good quality floor jack is also needed, because the suspension has to be relieved of tension in order to remove the strut mountings at the top and bottom.

2. Information
Information is essential to do the job safely. Get your hands on the technical service procedure, and make sure you READ the step-by-step procedure before starting the job. If you’re not sure you understand the instructions, ask a professional. It’s a lot less taxing on the body to eat a little humble pie than to be hit by a spring bouncing out from under a suspension.

3. Have Proper lighting
Put lots of light on the subject. I can’t emphasize this enough. Work with more than adequate light so that you can see what you’re doing and avoid problems.

4. No Smoking, Ever
Remember, we’re dealing with an automobile. Fuel lines are strung like roads on a road map throughout the entire undercarriage. Get too close to a fuel line with a small leak in it and you and your car go BOOM!

5. No Mood-Altering Substances
I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of people getting together to work on their cars and they make a party of it. Ultimately, someone uses poor judgment and either himself or another person gets hurt or dies. Work sober! Working on cars can be fun, but it’s no party. Celebrate after the job is done.

6. Never Work Alone
Years ago, a friend of mine was working on his car alone one night. He was removing the transmission to install a clutch. He was flat on his back on a creeper using a large pry bar in order to get the transmission loose from the set pins on the back of the engine block. The car dropped off the jack stands and onto my friend. He died there that night. Had someone been with him, they could have jacked up the car and taken him to the hospital. He would have said, “I didn’t want to bother anyone.” Don’t let feelings override proper safety procedures. Don’t work alone. Ask a friend for help, even if it’s just to keep you company while you work.

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