Here in Part 3 we will diagnose and repair the cause of the suspension noises and the torn axle boots. Now that the engine has been returned to a fully operational status, it's time to do the same for the suspension. You may remember from Part 2 that the axle boots are torn and throwing grease everywhere. I called Toyota and got an estimate for all 4 boot kits, and for everything needed it was going to be $92. Anyone that has pulled the axles on a V6 Camry knows this is a serious job, and most of the time the carrier bearing gets damaged during removal. So in an effort to save myself some work and get all new parts, I went with new axles instead. The driver side axle is easy but I tried everything to get the passenger side axle out; penetrating fluid, heat, air hammer, very large pry bars, and even the trick to break the bearing race. Nothing worked, so I unbolted the carrier, jacked up the engine, and removed the whole mount and axle as one piece. I then had to take it over to a vice and use a very large hammer to pound the axle out of the carrier . Then finally, success.
Now at this point I was exhausted and thought the hardest part was behind me, but then as I was cleaning the rear mount/carrier I noticed the rubber rear engine mount at the bottom was torn almost all the way through. I ordered a replacement mount bushing and marked the carrier how the mount was positioned, then took it over to the press.
I had a hard time getting the old mount to budge and ultimately had to remove the rubber, then cut the race to get it to start pressing out. After the old mount was out, I cleaned the surfaces then pressed in the new one and installed it back into the car.
I applied some grease to the carrier where the bearing sits and a little in the hubs then installed the new axles ( don't forget the snap ring and retaining bolt). I put the car back together and took it out for a test drive, everything seems to be ok with the axles, so lets focus on the suspension. Every time the car goes over bumps or into driveways there are knocking noises from the front of the car. I raised the car on a lift and looked over the front suspension, we used a large pry bar to check for play in the ball joints and there was none here so lets check the control arms. Right away you can see the control arm bushings are in bad shape.
I removed the control arm to inspect the rear bushing as well, and I will also try to remove this smaller bushing before deciding on what direction to go with parts replacement. So I lock the control arm in a vise and start pounding away with my sledge hammer, and after 20 minutes of working on this thing the small bushing still hasn't budged. At this point I decided to order new control arms, instead of possibly damaging the control arm trying to disassemble. While we wait for those parts to come in, lets move on to the front struts.
These struts weren't leaking, but you could tell by driving the car that they were done. I removed both fronts with no struggle and took them over to the spring compressor to disassemble. As I remove the parts from the first strut I can tell something is wrong, so I set the old and new parts side by side to compare. You can see here just how unsafe this car was.
I guess at some point the strut mount started to wear out and the previous owner just kept driving it causing the piston threads to wear halfway through and carve the mount hole into an oval shape. This is the cause of the suspension noise, and gone unchecked, this car could have had the front struts ripped off the mounts by a pot hole. I replaced both front struts and strut mounts at this time. Please pay attention to noises and don't ignore them!
Here you can see the new strut and mount assembled, and also the new control arms. I assembled the car and then headed over to the alignment machine. I adjusted the toe and set the steering wheel straight, then took the car on a road test. WOW, WHAT A DIFFERENCE. This car has been successfully returned to its XLE status, and If you drove it I bet no one could blindly guess its true mileage. Now its time to do the smog/registration process, stay tuned!
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