In 1982, the Toyota Camry became an independent model line for worldwide distribution. Originally a compact car featuring four-door sedan and five-door hatchback models, the import has endured seven generations and several redesigns. It is the leading import car sold to this day. The Camry features strut assemblies at all four wheels for suspension components. Although no major recalls or technical service bulletins have been documented on the history of Camry struts in its tenure, many variables can factor in as when you may have to replace them.
What Struts Do
The strut is much like a shock absorber. As a matter of fact, it is a shock absorber, but it is integrated inside the coil spring and then attached to the upper vehicle support and to the knuckle. This is where the strut becomes different than a shock. Because the knuckles of a wheel turn in the front for steering capabilities, the strut assembly has a bearing plate and mount that make this possible. Shocks are a separate component from the coil spring and mount to the lower control arm and the upper car frame away from the knuckle. Although struts and shocks are different, they both have the same purpose, which is to control the rebound of the coil spring in order to keep the tires of the vehicle in contact with the road.
Strut Change Intervals
If you took a look into the maintenance service manual for your Toyota Camry, you would not find one interval recommendation to "replace" the struts. However, you'll notice on many mileage intervals to "inspect" the struts. Since newer cars are more lightweight and shocks and struts are built better, there's no true expiration date on struts. Struts in one region of the country are going to outlast others because of variations to terrain. Struts can and do fail, but there are telltale signs of weakness in them.
Time to Change the Struts
Test driving the Camry---down a bumpy and curvy road with little or not traffic---will put the struts and suspension under scrutiny. Noises such as clunks, rattles and squeaks going over bumps and taking turns or corners might be a good indication the struts are weak. Feeling the Camry sway more than it should on cornering or curves, nosediving when braking hard and sagging low in the rear when accelerating, are also good indications of compromised struts. Some Camrys made in the late '90s to the early part of the '00s had some upper strut mount wear. The bushing of the mount would deteriorate in extreme heat or places that used sand and salt on the roads in winter. To replace the bushing, the strut would have to be removed, and a lot of people were told to replace the strut by their mechanics.
Because the Camry has struts in the front and the rear, it rarely needs all four struts replaced. However, they should be replaced in pairs per axle.
Lastly, conduct a physical inspection on the strut to determine if the shafts are leaking an oily residue. This would indicate a strut that should be replaced soon, because you cannot ascertain the amount of oil left in the strut cartridge. The old-fashioned bumper bounce test would be another easy inspection. Two bounces would indicate the struts are weak. Over two and they should be replaced.
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