How To: Replace the rear shock absorbers on the 4.3 - Toyota RAV4 Forums
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post #1 of 58 (permalink) Old 05-27-2012, 08:30 PM Thread Starter
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How To: Replace the rear shock absorbers on the 4.3

Andy over at Toyota Owners Club (user name shcm) has written up an excellent tutorial on replacing the rear shock absorbers on the 4.3. Although the version sold in the UK has a shorter wheelbase, the job is essentially the same. The OEM part number for the shock in N. America is 48531‑42130. Also, remember a few terms are different i.e. spanner = wrench and wheel nuts = lug nuts:

Difficulty: Easy-ish
Time: About 1 hour
Tools: Two 17mm spanners - ring and open. Long spanners may help.

As the chart below shows, it's quite normal for a shock absorber to have traces of oil around the top. However leaks like level 3 to 1 mean the shock absorber (SA) needs replacing.

Probably a good idea to replace in pairs.

As always, apply hand-brake, chock the opposite front wheel and without the vehicle raised, slightly slacken off the road wheel nuts.

Jack the vehicle up and place on an axle stand:

(note to self - it's a good idea to secure the stand with the split pin on the chain!)

2009 and beyond models are fitted with superdooperGoFasterAerodynamicFuelSaverGizmos to the rear suspension arms on each side. It makes things a bit easier, by removing this. Easily done with a 10mm socket.

Support the suspension arm with the jack and remove the road wheel. Place a piece of wood between the jack head and the suspension arm, to prevent damage to the arm:

(No the drive doesn't slope, must have had too much vino, picture is on the tilt).

The vehicle should feel firmly supported now. Don't gamble with this - it's not worth it.

The shock absorber is attached top and bottom with bolts and nuts. Shown here with nuts and bolts partly and fully removed.

The bottom bolt is not too bad to access, the top is the worst, which is where you may need the open ended spanner. Obviously hold the bolt head with one spanner, while releasing the nut with the other.

The bottom bolt attaches through a carrier, which in turn is attached to the wheel "hub" assembly.

The bottom SA bolt will not come out unless this carrier is removed. The suspension arm is in the way and prevents the bolt coming fully out. If the bolt was inserted the opposite way around, there would be no problem and the bolt would come out, without removing the carrier. I suspect it is done like this so that if the bolt should come loose, it cannot drop out completely.

Look underneath the "hub" and you will see two bolts:

These attach the carrier to the "hub".

Although I couldn't see how there could possibly be any relative movement, it's not a bad idea to place match marks before removing anything suspension related. It can save a whole heap of re-alignment later.

In fact, the carrier doesn't have to be removed, slacking the bolts off a little and lowering the carrier, as shown, is enough to remove the bottom SA bolt.

Once you have the top and bottom SA bolts out, the SA itself should come out easily:

At time of writing part number is 48531-42240. Same part is used for both sides (no surprise really). Always check that the part number hasn't been updated.

When refitting, the piece of metal welded to the lower part of the SA, goes towards the front of the vehicle. Some out of focus, installed SA pictures:

Replace the top and bottom SA bolts and nuts.

Torque up the SA carrier bolts to 80lbft. The top and bottom SA bolts are also 80 lb ft. The bottom SA bolt is easy, but the top one is difficult to get a torque wrench to (At least with my kit), so I used "mechanical judgement" on that one.

Replace the road wheel and the superdooperGoFasterAerodynamicFuelSaverGizmo. Lower the vehicle. Road wheel nuts are 76 lbft.

If you, can bounce the suspension a bit.

Toyota procedure calls for the rear suspension alignment to be checked at this point. Unless there is other suspension damage repair, or tyres are scrubbing, I don't see that it is necessary. It's quite an involved process too.

So, there you are. Next time the spotty "youf" in Kwikfit or wherever, tells you your shocks need replacing, thank him kindly for the advise, then check yourself and if necessary, replace them yourself.

Help RAV4World members help you by providing your car's operating location in your profile page. Climate can cause a RAV4 in Dallas Wisconsin to experience a different set of issues when compared to the same model in Dallas Texas.

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Last edited by JuneBug; 05-29-2012 at 02:16 PM.
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post #2 of 58 (permalink) Old 06-28-2012, 03:53 PM
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Nice breakdown. While shocks typically are very easy, and many might think - I need a pictoral post on changing shocks?" Toyota did a nice job with that top bolt (NOT). Did mine a few months back and thought the same thing about the position of the bottom bolts...AFTER I put them back in the easy way. I think maybe I should climb under and check.
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post #3 of 58 (permalink) Old 10-22-2012, 06:57 PM
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Thank you JuneBug and shcm for the great info. I have to replace the shocks, rear stabilizer links and exhaust, (not the convertor), and need mm wrench sizes and most importantly, the torque specs, and then deal with the most recent 'possible recall' for the alignment issue. I'll let you know how this works out.
Meanwhile, I'm looking for any tips, especially torque values for the rear stabilizer links
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post #4 of 58 (permalink) Old 05-20-2013, 11:12 AM
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What are the best replacements, OEM or KYB Monroe What have you all done?

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post #5 of 58 (permalink) Old 05-20-2013, 11:22 AM
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thanks for the writeup, will be useful in the future. junebug, have you considered making a separate section here that has DIYs compiled?

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post #6 of 58 (permalink) Old 08-08-2013, 11:58 PM
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Rear Shock Replacement - Tried and Died

I've got a 2008 RAV4 Base Model V6 with 120,000 miles. Decided it was time to replace the shock absorbers. I looked at the rear shocks and decided I could do that job. Read Junebug's post (quite a good explanation) on how to do it. I had all the right tools so nothing new was needed.

The left rear shock took me 4.5 hours to replace! Now, I'll admit I'm very methodical and double check everything I do mechanically especially if it's something I haven't done before, so I go slower than most. But, 4.5 hours!?!?! The lower bolt connection and carrier were relatively straightforward to remove, difficult to break the nuts free though (rust, high torque installation - I don't know). It was the bolt holding the top end of the shock that was one of my worst nightmares. I could get nothing but an open-end wrench on the nut. There was NO room available in that area so that you could adequately apply force. Took me a good hour just to break the nut free, and it was a MAJOR struggle, penetrating oil and all. It took another hour to get the nut off because I could only move the nut 1/3 of a turn because of the lack of space to move the wrench. Move the nut 1/3 of turn, stop and realign the wrench. Repeat this process for the next hour (there are other annoyances that arise along the way). By the way, the upper nut and bolt showed almost no signs of rust anywhere, very clean. It was just torqued on that tight.

The next day I went to do the right rear shock. Things were going much quicker because of the experience I gained doing the left rear shock. However, when I went to undo the dreaded nut at the top of the shock, I was completely and thoroughly bested. Nothing I did, none of the tools I had, none of the penetrating oils I used could break that nut free. I quit after 2.5 hours. It was just impossible to get a secure enough bite with an open-end wrench and no room to get any torque on it. I'm taking it to my mechanic tomorrow.

I have no idea how the Japanese could tighten those nuts so securely. I know of no tool that could get into that limited space and apply that much torque. Would I attempt this again? Absolutely not. Other's have had better experiences than mine, however they all complain about the upper nut and bolt. I have plenty of quality tools and am not afraid to take on more car projects than most. But this was insane. I normally applaud Toyota for paying attention to design issues that make good mechanical sense, but the placement of that upper bolt and nut is reprehensible. This should have been a walk-in-the-park replacement. This design oversite needlessly adds to the expense (labor cost) of what should have been a routine swap out.

I post this merely as a cautionary warning. Just be aware that should you try this yourself, don't put yourself into the position of needing your car quickly. I've seen posts where guys have reported replacing both shocks in 1.5 hours. Could be done if no problems are encountered, definitely not my experience though. If you can't get the upper nut off, you'll have to reassemble or call a tow truck to get your car to a mechanic. Stay safe out there.

Last edited by bgbowers; 08-10-2013 at 11:32 AM.
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post #7 of 58 (permalink) Old 08-09-2013, 12:47 AM
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Replacement Shock Absorbers

I've done a lot of research regarding shock absorbers that are available for the 4.3 series RAV4. Searched a lot of forums, looked at a lot of technical specs, tracked down anything I could find on the internet as well as talking to my car mechanic buddies.

If you look as long and as hard as I did, you'll find somebody who has a complaint with every brand out there. Kind of like the Apple vs PC crowd, both have their diehard supporters.

So, regarding my criteria for shocks, price was not a major concern. Quality of construction and reliability however are significant to me. I will pay extra to get these two features. Excluding some esoteric German shock absorber (I forget the name) that was about $200-$300 a shock (at this point price does matter to me), here are my top three choices. There is no one perfect choice and I guarantee you someone will have had a bad experience with all of them. The trend I saw, however, was that these three seem to have fewer complaints, an overall reasonably good track record, good design/reliability, and recommendations by mechanics I talked with.

1) Bilstein - currently they only have them for the rear
2) KYB
3) Tokico

I would have bought Bilstein's (my first choice) had they had struts/shocks for the front. Currently they don't. I did buy KYB as they had both front and rear replacements and were easily available locally. Tokico (I believe these are OEM parts originally put on RAV4's) seem to perform quite adequately on balance, but were only available through my Toyota dealer at significant cost. Good shock, but not good enough that I thought they were worth the extra expense above say KYB. I could not find enough documentation that clearly indicated that any brand of shock was significantly superior to all others in the market. Did I look at other brands than the three above? Yes, I researched Monroe, Koni, Rancho, Goodyear, and a couple of others. Not a lot of companies make shocks for the RAV4. So, the brands I mentioned above made my short list of shocks I would be willing to buy.

Last edited by bgbowers; 08-10-2013 at 11:53 AM.
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post #8 of 58 (permalink) Old 08-09-2013, 11:12 AM
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I installed the Bilsteins on our '11 base model and am quite happy with them. They provide mostly an OEM quality ride but seem to be just a little firmer when subjected to full jounce bumps. Of course my OEM left rear had barfed out most of its oil so that may be the difference I'm feeling.

I could not remove the bottom bolts without first removing the carrier. Even with the top bolt removed and the suspension lowered as far as I dared, the head of the bolt would not clear the suspension arm. When I reassembled I put the bolts back in the other way around with a dab of blue Loctite to make subsequent replacement a bit easier if I ever have to do this again.

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post #9 of 58 (permalink) Old 08-09-2013, 11:43 AM
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Would a flex-head wrenches or ratchets be useful for this job?
I have something like on the second link for mnay years now, very useful and cheap.

Deen - Ratcheting Box End Wrenches Flex-Head
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post #10 of 58 (permalink) Old 08-10-2013, 11:01 AM
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The flex-head wrench theoretically would have been a great help. However, I don't think it will work for this job because of the placement of the top bolt and nut. The nut end of the bolt is about 3/16", maybe a smidge less even, from touching the metal frame inside the wheel well. The physical thickness of wrench's metal is too wide to fit through this narrow space and allow you to get the closed-end side of the wrench around the nut. It's so close, but there just isn't quite enough clearance. So frustrating that maybe just a millimeter or two of additional space would have allowed you to use a much better tool, such as the flex-head wrench, and made this job a very reasonable task.
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