Front suspension replacement on a Saab 9-5. The old and tired original dampers and springs are being upgraded with Bilstein Sport dampers and Eibach Pro Kit lowering springs. The strut mount and bearing are also getting replaced.

Tools:

  • 22 mm socket: Bilstein retainer nut (optional);
  • 21 mm socket: original retainer nut;
  • 18 mm socket: knuckle housing bolts, anti-roll bar link nut;
  • 18 mm wrench: new style anti-roll bar link nut;
  • 17 mm socket: wheel bolts;
  • 17 mm wrench: old style anti-roll bar link pin;
  • 10 mm socket: strut mount bolts;
  • 7 mm socket: new style anti-roll bar link pin;
  • 7 mm Allen socket: damper rod;
  • torque wrench;
  • vice-grips;
  • car jack and axle stands;
  • spring compressor.
29.09.2007
Jack stands

Secure the car on jack stands, take the front wheel off. Both wheels need to be in the air, otherwise it becomes difficult to align the anti-roll bar link with its mounting hole on the strut. Spray the bolts with rust solvent and wire brush the threads on the anti-roll bar link and knuckle housing bolts.
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Link

Unscrew the anti-roll bar link from the strut. The old version had a grip behind the strut, so you could use a 17 mm spanner on it. The new version has a smaller hex pin protruding in the front, which requires you to use a spanner on the nut itself, while holding the pin with a small socket.
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Bracket

Detach the brake line and the ABS sensor wire from the bracket on the side of the strut.
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Knuckle

Undo two bolts holding the strut to the knuckle housing. Remove the nuts and pull the bolts out.
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Disconnected

Detach the knuckle housing from the strut. It might be a good idea to support the control arm from below so it doesn't strain the brake line with its weight.
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Strut tower

Undo three bolts holding the strut mount to the top of the tower. While loosening the last bolt, catch the strut before it falls down and rips the CV joint boot.
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Strut

Lower the strut to the ground.
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Spring compressor

Attach a spring compressor to relieve the load on the spring seat.
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Retainer nut

Grab the damper rod with vice-grips and undo the retainer nut on top of the strut. You can use a regular ratchet, but the impact wrench makes the job much more satisfying somehow.
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Apart

The strut apart (counter-clockwise): damper, spring, bump stop, dust cover with upper spring seat, thrust bearing, strut mount, retainer nut.
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New vs old

The Bilstein monotube damper features it's famous massive rod, and the "Sport" version is a bit shorter, being designed to match the ride height with lowering springs. The Eibach spring has the same number of coils as OEM, but is wound tighter, and has slightly thicker coils. It's obviously shorter too, the posted lowering amount is 35 mm.
29.09.2007
Strut mounts

An aftermarket strut mount kit comes with everything you need to refresh the mounts, including a new bearing and a set of bolts. It's made in India, but looks reasonably solid. Unfortunately I could not use the 22 mm nut supplied with Bilstein dampers, because my 22 mm socket did not fit into the narrow opening in the strut mount, so I had to reuse the old 21 mm nut.
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Dust shield

The old strut mount came with a little rubber skirt to protect the bearing from dirt. It can be removed and transferred to the new mount.
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Thrust bearings

The thrust bearing is tight, shiny and certainly more presentable than the tired old one, although they came looking a little dry, so I added some bearing grease just in case.
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Ready for assembly

Bilstein dampers come with integrated bump stops, so you don't need to reuse your old one. The spring needs to be compressed, and the strut mount is already assembled with the skirt and the bearing on.
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Fit together

Slide the spring over the damper rod, making sure that it's not upside down, and that the end of the last coil matches the little stop on the lower spring support. Install the upper seat, the mount, and screw the nut on.
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Tightening

This is how you are supposed to tighten the retainer nut - hold the damper rod with a thin Allen wrench and tighten the nut. Unfortunately, the shallow Allen socket is easy to strip, making the required 76 ft-lbs hard to achieve.
29.09.2007
Tightening

Alternatively, you can grab the damper rod with vice-grips and use a good sized torque wrench on the nut. Just wrap the rod with something so it won't get scratched (I use a nylon belt). An impact wrench also works well on the top nut.
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Strut tower

Lift the strut to the underside of the strut tower. Align the smallest hole first, put the cover on and screw the bolt in. Fit the remaining two bolts and tighten all three to 13 ft-lbs.
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Knuckle housing

Lift the knuckle housing to match the holes on the damper. You will have to raise it higher than before, because the strut is shorter now.
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Big bolts

Insert the two bolts, don't forget to fit the brake line bracket. Mind the camber setting if you use adjuster bolts. Tighten the nuts to 75 ft-lbs +45°.
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Bracket

Attach the ABS sensor cable and the brake line to the bracket.
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Link

Fit the anti-roll bar link and tighten the nut to 62 ft-lbs.
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Lowered

Install the wheels, tighten the lug bolts to 81 ft-lbs and lower the car to the ground.

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