February 2

1997 VW Golf; Rear Strut Replacement



Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 38 years of repairing cars in Vancouver and 18 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. How’re you doing Bernie?

Bernie: Fantastic

Mark: Fantastic, because I know you were a little bit sick earlier this week, so we’re talking about an old VW, a 21 year old VW Golf that you had some work on, what was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: This vehicle had a really bad clunking noise coming from the rear and the rear struts were worn out so, and in all fairness has been a client of ours for quite a long time and we knew the struts were wearing but I want to talk about this today because I mean just the amount of wear on these struts before the replacement was horrific. It’s just very interesting to kind of look at and just talk about the struts and old VW’s.

Mark: So there’s lots of noise, what else was going on when the vehicle was being driven?

Bernie: Well mostly there was just noise, I mean when you drive the vehicle and I mean any of the little minutest amount of a bump, I mean even a microscopic bump there’d be a creak and a bang in the back of the car. As I mentioned it had been going on for quite some time but this person has been a regular client for quite a while and being an older car, it needed a lot of work. So we fixed up what needed to be done, the priority items and the struts were not on the priority list initially by they certainly became high on the priority list. Especially when the vehicle was in for the last service about a month ago, it had a bad wheel bearing problem which is pretty severe in the rear. So we serviced that, fixed all that up and we noted that the rear struts of course had deteriorated so badly in fact you could take the back wheel and rock it back and forth like quite a lot. And you could see the strut, there was play in the strut, just a massive amount of movement. So I said, hey you know, you’ve got to fix this as soon as possible, so recently as soon as possible happened and we fixed it. I’m going to share a couple of pictures because when we took it a part, it’s just interesting to see just how badly worn a part like this can be. I’m going to actually start with a picture of the repaired strut. So this is what a good strut looks like, this is the actual strut part that got replaced. You can see this rusty piece that’s the coil spring. In this case, we did not replace it but this accordion bellow piece here was replaced and there’s a piece up here called the snubber which is a little like a foam cushion when you, if you hit a bump to hard it’ll actually prevent the top of the strut from hitting the strut plate and then what’s not in the picture is the strut place which is just out of the picture, and that’s what mounts the strut to the vehicle. This forms a sort of top part of suspension, it keeps the wheel from you know flopping in and out. Plus it also provides the shock absorbing spring motion. So that’s why I like a MacPherson strut. It’s a pretty unique component. It actually eliminates a lot of parts that you find in other suspensions. Now here’s the broken part. So I put a couple of nice arrows here, now this is actually at the bottom, we removed the bottom mounting and basically the strut just fell apart. You can see the spring has slipped down and normally this wouldn’t happen. The strut would actually stay in place but because it’s so badly work at the bottom of the strut tube has actually broken off inside. So this is the outside tube and this is the piece that moves up and down when you hit bumps. The red arrow basically sort of points to the separation of the two components and then the yellow, I’m just pointing at the tube and you can see this ugly brownish colour, there’s oil inside struts and as they wear, they leak and of course water gets inside. That’s just an emulsified oil with a boiled water mixture, it’s just kind of ugly. So a good indication if your struts are actually wearing is if you know, you see actually fluid, like an oil seeping out of the strut. That’s a good sign the struts are on their way out and need to be replaced. So there’s a couple photos of what we saw. I don’t have a video of the actual, of the initial movement of what was there but trust me, it was pretty scary.

Mark: And is this a difficult replacement?

Bernie: Not really too difficult on this vehicle. It does involve some removal of the interior to access the upper strut bolts but the job itself is not too difficult. This strut came, it’s not available in bits and pieces. We had to actually order whatever parts we needed which is why the spring is still old. But what we do in a lot of newer cars and it’s available for many models, a part they call a Quick Strut or I think other manufacturers have different names for it but that’s Munro’s name a Quick Strut. What it is is a complete assembly. It’s the strut, it’s the upper mounting plate, it’s the coil spring, everything is brand new. So you just unbolt the assembly, bolt in a new one and you get all the new parts, so it actually makes for a really good job. Probably a little more expensive than replacing bits and pieces but then you’re not going to forget something and find later, of it’s making a little clunk or thump, the springs are a little soft. You get the complete job. It’s like restoring the suspension back to new. So it’s a really good option and we use it wherever we can. But in this older VW, you can only buy the strut and the mounting plate, bits and pieces.

Mark: And how did it ride?

Bernie:  Oh much better, yeah no noise, smooth and of course safe. You know I mean what would happen is eventually if it broke apart, you know the spring would fly out, I’ve never seen it happen because nobody I’ve ever seen anyone leave that far but you know it could take maybe a little bit longer for that to happen like you know that the spring could fling out, that the wheel could flop out to the side or something like that. It could be pretty scary. But anyways, much safer, nice quiet ride.

Mark: 21 year old Golf, is that, would that still be a worthwhile used car purchase?

Bernie: Well it could be if I mean, first thing I would never buy one with an automatic. Like ’96 to about ’06 VW somewhere in that year range, with automatics were really problematic but if it’s with a standard transmission, well maintained, you know it’s obviously not going to be a very expensive car, but you now if you’re looking for something inexpensive it could be a decent used car. Again with a mechanics inspection.

Mark: So there you go, if you’re looking for an old VW that you need replacement or service on or you’re looking to buy one and you want to have it inspected before purchase, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book ahead, they’re busy, you have to book ahead or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com or search for Pawlik Automotive on Youtube, hundreds of videos on there from all kinds or repairs and cars and makes for many years now. Thanks Bernie

Bernie: Thanks Mark

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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