How to Replace Struts on a Nissan Maxima

Written by david mcguffin
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How to Replace Struts on a Nissan Maxima
Replacing the strut will require the removal of the wheel and tire assembly. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

The Nissan Maxima is generally known as a reliable vehicle, however, even the most reliable vehicles break down and require regular maintenance. The struts on a Maxima connect the vehicle body with the steering knuckle. There are slightly different variations of strut-coil assemblies for different years the Maxima was made. However, most -- if not all -- years use a strut-coil design for the front suspension. If at any point, you feel that you have started a job which exceeds your automotive mechanical ability, you should consult with a licensed mechanic.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Tire iron
  • 1.5-ton floor jack
  • Jack stands
  • Pliers
  • Torque wrench
  • Hammer
  • Punch
  • Vice
  • Rags
  • Spring compressor
  • Replacement parts

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Loosen the lug nuts on the front tires of your Nissan Maxima using a tire iron. Do not remove the lug nuts all the way because your vehicle is still resting on the wheels for support.

  2. 2

    Roll a 1.5-ton floor jack underneath the Maxima's engine, and pump the handle until the front tires are elevated off the ground. Insert jack stands directly beneath the reinforced frame sections under each of the front doors. Slowly lower the Maxima until it rests securely on the jack stands. Remove the lug nuts completely, then remove the wheels.

  3. 3

    Unclip the brake hose using a pair of pliers to detach it from the strut bracket.

  4. 4

    Unscrew the two strut-to-knuckle nuts on your Maxima using a torque wrench. You may need to use penetrating oil -- allowing it to soak for at least an hour -- to remove the bolts because many of the larger bolts and fasteners on the underside of a Maxima are regularly exposed to dirt, dust, grime and mud, easily becoming stuck in their thread holes. Drive the bolts out of their holes using a hammer and punch, if necessary.

  5. 5

    Unbolt the three upper mounting nuts from the strut assembly, carefully supporting the strut with one hand before removing the final bolt. Lift the strut assembly out from the wheel hub. Only unscrew the three nuts surrounding the centre nut from the strut assembly. The centre nut should not be unscrewed.

  6. 6

    Inspect the strut and coil for signs of wear, which include a loss of damping capability, chipping, sagging, cracking in the coil springs or signs of fluid loss.

  7. 7

    Mount the strut assembly in a vice with the vice jaws lined with wood or rags to prevent damage to the assembly. Close the vice enough to secure the strut assembly while being careful not to tighten the vice too much, which could damage the strut.

  8. 8

    Install the spring compressor onto the coil until all pressure is relieved from the upper spring seat. It is extremely important to follow the specific manufacturer's instructions when installing the spring compressor as this is a potentially hazardous part of the job.

  9. 9

    Unscrew the upper mount's piston rod nut with a socket wrench. Lift the upper mount off of the piston rod. Inspect the bearing inside the upper mount for smooth turning. Rubber parts on the mount should also be inspected for signs of wearing out or cracking.

  10. 10

    Grasp the spring seat and upper insulator, and remove it from the piston rod of your Nissan Maxima. Continue to check rubber seals, gaskets and other parts for signs of cracking and wear.

  11. 11

    Lift the compressed spring from the assembly, using extreme care that the spring is never pointed toward your body. If the spring compressors slip or fail, the spring could cause serious harm if you are caught in the way of a loaded spring. Follow the manufacturer's directions explicitly as you release the compressed spring.

  12. 12

    Use your hands to slide the dust boot off from the piston rod of your Maxima. Inspect the lower insulator for signs of cracking and hardness.

  13. 13

    Replace the lower insulator if it shows signs of damage. Slide the insulator onto the piston rod and set it into place so the dropped portion rests on the lowest part of the seat on the rod. Fully extend the damper rod, and slide the dust boot on top of the insulator.

  14. 14

    Compress the new spring fully using the spring compressor. Place the compressed spring onto the lower insulator so the end of the spring is rests on the lowest part of the insulator.

  15. 15

    Slide the upper insulator and spring seat back onto the rod, making sure that the spring seat's cut-out is in line with the strut-to-knuckle attachment bolts. Reinstall the dust seal and upper mount to the piston rod. Tighten the upper mounting nut to 35 foot-pounds. Carefully release the spring compressors, once again being careful and deliberate to follow the manufacturer's instructions.

  16. 16

    Insert the strut assembly into the wheel hub. Use your hands to insert the upper mounting studs through the holes in the shock tower and install the nuts, carefully holding the strut while doing so to prevent it from falling. You may need to ask for help from an assistant for this part.

  17. 17

    Reinstall the steering knuckle onto the strut's bottom and insert new strut-to-knuckle nuts and bolts. Tighten the nuts and bolts. Maximas made from 1993 to 1994 should have strut-to-knuckle bolts tightened to 116 foot-pounds. Years 1995 to 1999 should be tightened to 110 foot-pounds. Years 2000 to 2003 should be tightened to 130 foot-pounds.

  18. 18

    Reinstall the brake hose and retaining clip into the strut bracket. Reinstall the Maxima's wheels, making sure that each lug nut is tightened securely. Lower the vehicle from the jack stands.

Tips and warnings

  • Shop around for replacement strut assemblies that are already complete with springs, which will reduce the time required by this job, as well as removing a potential hazardous situation of compressing the springs.
  • Follow the specific manufacturer's instructions when using the spring compressor as this is a potentially hazardous part of the job.

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