TN Post Wh*re
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Wheeling, Illinois
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I did this job (rear struts with Monroe Quick Struts) about 4 years ago on my 98 Camry. It's the same as your 97. I can offer a few tips.
First, get a manual. If you don't have one, you can download one for free at the top of the Camry forum over at AutomotiveForums.com. The manuals are stickied there at the top. These are Toyota factory service manauls and are free downloads. Download the generation 4 manual and refer to the suspension section for the complete procedure.
Second, after reading the manual, a couple of days before doing this job remove each rear wheel and spray down all the bolts/fasteners that are going to be removed with a good penetrating oil like PB Blaster. Then reinstall the rear wheels and drive the car like that. Do this a couple of times over a couple of days, reinstalling the rear wheels and driving the car each time. The driving of the car will cause some vibration that will help the penetrating oil works in to all the threads. I'm sure you have lot's of snow and salt in your area, so rust could be a problem on a 13 year old car. This procedure will hopefully avoid problems.
Third, you really don't have to remove the rear seat cushion. You can press down firmly on the ends of the cushion and will see the one bolt on the bottom of the side bolsters (can't remember if it's 12MM or 14MM) that has to be removed. Remove the bolt and then lift up on the side bolsters and they will come right off. This will expose the 3 nuts that hold down the top of the struts. It's a bit tight in there, but they can be removed. You will have to work with a box wrench, since you won't be able to fit a socket in there. Take your time removing and reinstalling those 3 nuts on each side.
Fourth, you will need an allen wrench when removing the sway bar end links. It's needed to hold the back side while you loosen the nut form the other side. This is an area you really need to spray down well, as you don't want to brake these end links. If you do, you will have to replace them. That will add about $50-$60 to each side.
This job really isn't difficult. I did both sides in about 2-1/2 hours and I was working slowly as it was pretty hot out when I did them. Again, I highly recommend reading the procedure in the Toyota service manual before starting this job.