Installing Shocks & Springs
The rear shocks are easier to install, so let's start there. You should start by loosening the lug nuts. Just break them loose now because it is easier to do while the car is on the ground. Jack the rear end of the car up by putting the jack under the differential. Block the front wheels so the car won't move and support the car on some jack stands for safety. Remove the lug nuts and the rear wheels. The wheels might be difficult to remove, if they are, try hitting them with a rubber mallet, or wedge a big long 2x4 in the wheel spokes and try to crack the wheel loose. Put some anti-seize compound on the back surface of the wheels so it won't stick the next time.
The diagram below shows the order in which the parts are to be removed and reinstalled. This procedure is pretty straightforward, so I will just follow up with some notes that I made during the removal process, following the numbers from the diagram.
1. It isn't obvious, but you can hold the bolt with a 17mm open-ended wrench. The nut is also 17mm. Here's a picture:
2. I had to unbolt the sway bar link from the sway bar to remove it. Much like in the first step, you can use a socket and an open ended wrench. This time they are both 14mm:
Just follow the diagram and remove the rest of the items in order.
If you need to re-use the stock upper mounts, first reconsider. The rubber was really bad on mine, and I understand that these are often not in good shape. New upper mounts from Mazda are around $35 a shock, I think. I installed coil-overs which had their own upper mounts, so I did not have to take the shock assembly apart. If you do need to take this apart, you have to use a spring compressor tool. These are often called a "MacPherson Strut Spring Compressor" and they are available to buy or rent from most auto parts stores. I bought one from AutoZone for $35 but ended up not using it. Be careful when dealing with compressed springs. I think people have died as a result of a coil springing loose. Use common sense and use the tool properly, and you should be fine.
Install in the reverse order. I am not providing any more detail here because it isn't needed. If you took the old shock off, you can put a new one on. Be sure to follow the torque specs on the diagram. I figure half the readers are just wondering what is involved in changing the shocks in general, and I think I have covered that sufficiently.
Well, I never got around to writing up the front installation procedure, so I have are some hints. You will need to remove the upper a-arm from the body (but leave it attached to the upright on the wheel side). The ABS sensor can be left in place if you can't get it loose, but you need to free the wire from the suspension arm. Free the brake line from the shock. Remove the nuts holding the upper mount and the bolt through the bottom of the shock at the lower arm. Then pull it down and out of the car. If you can get the old shock out, you should have no trouble getting the new one in.
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