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Hotchkis Spring Install

For this article, we will be installing a set of Hotchkis springs on an '03 Evo 8. Coilover installation would be basically the same work with the exception of actually needing to remove the spring from the strut. Before beginning this install, you should have a spring compressor available that works with MacPherson struts and some general purpose grease. Generic spring compressors are cheap enough to buy from auto supply stores, either local or online. If you don't want to shell out the cash for your own, many local auto parts stores have tool rental or loaning programs to get one for a day or two. Some "specials tools" are called for in this installation as well. If you do not have access to these tools, there are options, but do them at your own risk. IMPACT TOOL WARNING: Mitsu clearly warns against the use of impact tools to remove the strut shaft nut. The valve inside the strut can be damaged as well as the vibration causing the spring compressors to slip.

1. THIS STEP FOR USE WITHOUT SPECIAL TOOLS ONLY: Without removing the strut shaft nut the "proper way" using the special tools (see Step 9), use this method at your own risk. Note to step 2
2. Before jacking up the car or anything else, pop the hood and pull the dust cap off of the center of each front strut. This will allow access to the strut shaft nut (top pic). There is plenty of grease in there, so carefully dig some out to keep it from being pushed out. This grease will need to be replaced. For a closer look at what's under the cap, see Step 8. Using a ratchet or breaker bar and a deep 17mm socket, break the strut shaft nut under the dust cap (bottom pic). A quick, solid pull should break it loose relatively easily. Once broken, only loosen 1-2 turns to facilitate removing it after the strut is removed from the car. Do not completely remove the strut shaft nut with the strut assembly in the car. Reinstall the dust cap in the top of the strut and then continue in order from Step 2. NOTE: While working up top here, mark the outside 14mm stud (not the nut) to allow reinstalling in the same orientation after removal (circled, bottom pic).
3. If you are going to want to know exactly how much ride height is really reduced, measure from the top of the fenderwell to the middle of the hub on each wheel before proceding. Measure again after all springs are installed to note the reduction. Using all of the proper precautions (chocks, jack stands, etc.), jack up one side of the front and remove the wheel. For the front spring install part, we are showing the front left (driver side). The passenger side front spring install is identical. Had the picture been a little less zoomed (sorry ;), you would see the stock spring installed on the top of the strut (bottom pic). The entire strut will be removed to extract the stock spring and install the aftermarket version. The "knuckle" is what the strut bolts to at the bottom.
4. On the inside of the strut (facing the middle of the car), remove the 12mm nut holding the brackets for the brake line and wheel speed sensor harness to the strut.
5. The bottom of the strut is connected to the knuckle via two 19mm Grade 10 nuts/bolts (top pic). These must be removed. For reasons explained in the NOTE, hold the bolt steady and the loosen the nut (bottom pic). Note to step 6
6. For those working without the benefit of an impact gun, be extremely careful not to hit the fender lip with your wrench/socket handle when the nut breaks! NOTE: The top 19mm bolt is special. In addition to having notched edges, note the arrow painted on it. This bolt allows 1 of camber adjustment. In the stock position (arrow facing the middle of the car), this is a -1 camber setting. With the bolt turned and facing outward, camber is -2. Since the bolt is notched, it is not infinitely adjustable between -1 and -2, it's one or the other only.
7. Pull the two 19mm bolts holding the knuckle to the bottom of the strut. It should not fall without some persuasion, but if it does, it will not go far. Pull the knuckle out of the bracket on the strut and let it hang down. NOTE: Pull the top of the rotor outward using the dust shield on the back until the knuckle has cleared the strut bracket. Be very careful to not get any greasy/oily residue on the rotor or your brakes won't work very well!
8. With the knuckle disconnected from the bottom of the strut, the last remaining bolts holding the strut to the car are the three 14mm nuts on top of the strut tower (top pic). Remove these bolts while holding the strut up. A helper can be handy here to either hold strut or remove the bolts. Be careful not to drop the strut on the outer CV boot when the last bolt is removed. The rubber boot can be punctured/torn. Note to step 9
9. Finagle the strut assembly out from underneath the fender well and lay it on a clean surface to work with it (bottom pic). NOTE: before removing the strut tower bolts, index the stud (not the nut) closest to the outside of the car by marking it with a permanent marker, paint pen or tape to allow it to be reinstalled in the same orientation. Note to step 10
10. Following the instructions for your particular spring compressor, attach them to the coils and compress them. WARNING: unless your spring compressor can compress the middle two coils of the stock spring almost fully together, there will still be some tension from the spring when the strut shaft nut is fully removed. Compress the coils as much as your compressor will allow to eliminate as much tension as possible and expect a tension release when removing the shaft nut.
11. Remove the dust cap from the center of the top of the strut assembly (top pic) to expose the strut shaft and nut, which is under gobs of grease (middle pic). Note to step 12
12. You can carefully dig some of the excess grease out with a flathead screwdriver or similar to access the nut without making a mess (bottom pic). Note to step 13
13. This grease will need to be replaced, so make sure you have some general purpose grease available.
14. The 17mm nut is connected directly to the shaft of the strut. As can be seen in the pics of Step 8, the top of the shaft is notched. This is to hold the shaft while removing the nut. Yep, "special tool" time. In fact, not one, but two special tools. WARNING: Mitsu explicitly warns against the use of impact tools to remove this nut, citing potential valve damage as well as causing the spring compressors to slip, so use an impact gun at your own risk if you do not opt to purchase the special tools. If you broke the strut shaft loose by hand in Step 1 before removing the strut assembly, it should be relatively easy to simply unbolt the strut shaft nut by hand with a ratchet now. Use caution when removing the nut. Even with a spring compressor on the spring, there may still be tension, causing the nut (and your ratchet/hand) and the strut isolator to be pushed off when the nut reaches the end of the threads.
15. With the strut shaft nut removed, the spring can now be removed from the strut. Note the upper spring seat is a separate piece, but is still stuck to the spring in this picture. Also note that all the grease under the dust cap on the top of the strut is lube for the bearing which can be seen in the bottom of the strut insulator.
16. The Hotchkis spring kit includes new shorter poly bump stops. If the springs you are installing do not include shorter bump stops, you will likely be required to cut the OEM stops. Follow any instructions included with your springs for how much height to remove from them. Note to step 17
17. Slide the bump stop and plastic cover off the strut shaft and then remove the stock bump stop from the plastic cover using a flat head screwdriver (top pic). Then insert the Hotchkis bump stop into the cover (middle pic). Note to step 18
18. Slide the cover and new bump stop onto the shaft. If it's a tight fit, a little light lube (ie. 3-in-1 or WD40) on the inside of the bump stop will make it slide on easier (bottom pic).
19. A quick shot of the Hotchkis Evo springs (silver) next to the stock front springs (top pic). Note the Hotchkis has more coils and a barely noticeable progressive wind. Note to step 20
20. Attach the spring compressors to the spring and tighten them down. Note to step 21
21. Test fit as necessary, but the springs should be compressed enough to leave room for the upper seat, insulator and allow the strut shaft nut to be threaded on at least a few turns (middle pic). NOTE 1: Use the impression from the OEM spring to seat the end of the coil on the bottom of the aftermarket spring in the lower spring seat against the notch. NOTE 2: The strut shaft is notched on one side below the threads (bottom pic), so the upper spring seat will only go on one way.
22. After the spring is compressed and the upper spring seat properly oriented on the shaft, put the insulator on top and tighten the strut shaft nut (top pic). Note to step 23
23. TECH TIP: Before removing the compressors, you may verify that the upper spring seat is properly oriented by using a rod or similar tool through both of these holes and confirm that they are positioned in line with each other (bottom pic). If they are not, loosen the strut shaft nut once again and tweak the upper seat until it is correctly positioned. With the upper and lower seats in proper alignment and the strut shaft nut tightened at least a few turns, remove the spring compressors and temporarily install the dust cap on top of the strut to keep an dirt out while reinstalling the strut.
24. Reinstalling the strut is the opposite of removal. Push the strut into place from under the fenderwell with the insulator studs aligned to the correct holes as indexed prior to removal. Hand tighten the three 14mm nuts on top to hold the strut up. Note to step 25
25. To reinstall the knuckle to the strut bracket, it is easiest to first get the lower bolt into place through the knuckle and strut bracket. The upper bolt will line up very easily after that. NOTE: Lower springs will increase negative camber, so we recommend installing the upper bolt in the factory position, with the arrow facing the middle of the car (top pic). This will offer the least amount of negative camber, which is best for most people (least tire wear). If you race in events with turns and want the added negative camber, the choice is yours ;) Torque both of the 19mm knuckle nuts to 123 FT-LBS. Reattach the brake line and wheel speed sensor harness brackets to the back of the strut. Reinstall the wheel (73 FT-LBS on the nuts) and lower the car to the ground, THEN torque the three 14mm nuts on top of the strut tower to 32 FT-LBS and the strut shaft nut to 45 FT-LBS (bottom pic). Actually measuring torque on the strut shaft nut will be all but impossible, so use your best judgement. Lastly, refill the area around the strut shaft nut with grease, reinsert the dust cap and this corner is done! Repeat the process for the opposite front side and then continue to the rears...
26. Begin the rear spring swap by removing the trunk interior panels to reach the top of the struts. We cheated a little here since a rear strut bar was installed and the panels were already out. If you can't figure out how to remove the trunk panels without instruction, you probably shouldn't be doing the springs either ;)
27. Unlike the front struts that require a special tool, the rear strut shaft nuts are not recessed, so the shaft can easily be held in place with a wrench while the shaft nut is broken loose. This can be done with the struts either in or out of the car. To avoid having to hold the entire assembly with it out of the car, we opted to break them while still installed.
28. Place a 17mm wrench on the strut shaft nut (top pic) and then use a wrench to hold the shaft in place while breaking the nut (bottom pic). NOTE: we used a Crescent wrench for the simple fact that the ~5mm width of the strut shaft grooves were smaller than any box wrench we had on hand. Also note again that Mitsu recommends not using any impact tools on this nut.
29. Again, with the car raised, properly supported and the wheel removed, we will be removing the bolt holding the lower strut bracket to the lower arm and the lower arm to the knuckle (circled). We are showing the driver side of the rear here. You may be able to remove the strut without removing the lower bar by simply unbolting the lower strut bracket bolt, but no matter how hard we pulled the suspension down, the lower arm did not move enough to give easy clearance to get the strut out.
30. First, remove the bolt holding the strut to the lower arm and then remove the bolt holding the lower arm to the knuckle. The lower arm can then be pulled down, offering plenty of clearance to pull the strut right out. The suspension/rotor will not fall down with the lower arm removed.
31. Prior to removing the strut (or immediately after), marks should be made on both the lower strut bracket and insulator (top) indicating which side faces forward to aid in reinstallation. Remove the two 14mm bolts on the top of the strut tower while holding the strut up (top pic). Again, an extra pair of hands comes in handy here to hold the strut or remove the nuts.
32. With the top nuts removed, the strut can be extracted from the car (bottom pic). Note that green tape indicates which sides face forward when installed.
33. Unlike the front springs, the rears do not really need a spring compressor to be removed or installed. Simply loosen the strut shaft nut and before it reaches the end of the threads, it should feel very loose (easy to turn = little/no tension). There may be very slight tension from the stock spring, but nothing should really go flying dangerously when the nut comes off.
34. Again, the token aftermarket .vs OEM shot. Note again that the Hotchkis rear springs (silver) also have more coils than the stock springs. The Hotchkis spring has progressively wound coils that increase tension when loaded during cornering while maintaining a fairly comfortable ride (maybe moreso than the stock springs) during normal driving.
35. Pull the cover off of the bump stop (top pic) and then remove the OEM bump stop.
36. Install the supplied shorter poly bump stop (bottom pic) and then reinstall the cover over the new bump stop. NOTE: if your particular springs do not come with shorter bump stops included, you will likely need to cut the OEM bump stop shorter and reinstall it. Check the instructions that came with your springs for the appropriate length to make them.
37. Slide the new spring over the strut with the progressive coils at the bottom and make sure that the end of the coil is seated in the notch of the lower spring seat (circled).
38. The upper spring pad will also have a notch pressed into it from the OEM spring. Line up the notch in the pad to the end of the coil on the top of the spring (top pic). Now the important part of the rear spring install. With the spring properly set on the lower seat and the upper pad properly set on top of the spring, the insulator needs to be pushed onto the upper pad.
39. The key here is to have the lower strut bracket and the studs on the insulator aligned as shown by the lines (bottom pic). Do not forget to make sure that the indexes applied to the insulator and lower strut bracket are facing the same direction. With everything inline and the spring still properly seated at the top and bottom, push the spring down by hand if necessary, reinstall the washer and strut shaft nut. Tighten the nut a few turns with a wrench/ratchet to keep everything in the assmebly where it should be.
40. With the completed assembly together, reinstall it in the car. Insert the top into the strut tower making sure that the indexed sides are facing forward. Again, an extra pair of hands to either hold the strut in place under the car or to hand tighten the two 14mm nuts in the trunk will make this easier.
42. Pull the lower arm up and install it to the lower bracket on the strut (top pic). Make sure that when you raise the lower arm, that it goes between the two ears on the knuckle and that the bushing in the lower arm is straight across (unlike in the photo ;). If you can't quite get the lower arm high enough to reconnect to the knuckle with the strut attached, use a jack under where the strut is bolted to it to raise it up a little.
43. NOTE: when reattaching the lower arm, make sure to note that the bolt on the lower strut bracket faces the front of the car while the bolt on the knuckle faces the rear. This goes for both sides of the car! Torque both the knuckle and strut bracket nuts connecting to the lower arm to 65 FT-LBS (bottom pic).
44. Reinstall the wheel and lower the car to the ground. Inside the trunk, torque the two 14mm bolts to 33 FT-LBS. The strut shaft nut cannot truly be torqued with a ratchet because the shaft needs to be held with a wrench (or torque it with a torque ratchet without holding the shaft). Either way, it's not going to be exact. We'd rather hold the shaft and make a guess using the Crescent wrench to hold the shaft and 17mm open end wrench to tighten the nut like was done in Step 16 to break it. For the record, the torque spec for the rear strut shaft nut is 19 FT-LBS.
45. Repeat the entire process from Step 16 through Step 27 for the opposite rear side. When finished, take it for test drive. Start slow. Any creaking or banging would indicate you missed something potentially serious. If everything sounds and feels good, find a road with a sign like this and give it a little workout! With the Hotchkis springs installed, we're convinced a passenger not wearing a seatbelt would be thrown out the window on a hard left :)
46. Of course, the benefit of a lower center of gravity comes by way of a new lowered stance. It really doesn't take more than an inch or so to get rid of the off-road style wheel gap. Sure, it's AWD, but does it HAVE to look like a 4x4? Top picture is stock, bottom picture is with the Hotchkis springs installed.
47. One final note is to make an appointment to have the alignment done as soon as possible after any suspension work. Enjoy the new look, ride and handling!

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