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D.I.Y.'er since 2004
2000 Camry LE
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227 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
DIY Custom rear strut bar on gen 4

This was done on a gen 4.5, I do not know if the same dimensions will match the gen 3-4.0
After completing this and test driving it on a couple of 90 degree bends and S-curved back road, I felt a noticeable improvement in the handling in that the rear stayed more firm and planted than before. The car had stock struts/springs with a whiteline RSB and generic front strut bar. I know have on TRD Struts&springs and have not yet gotten around to testing it with that setup.

Full size pictures here.

Depending on which route/design you pick below, the difficulty will vary. These are general directions and should not be considered complete. A good deal of trial and error occurred during the fabrication of this strut bar. This project took approximately 24 hours total to complete over 3 days with a friend helper.

Materials list:
- ~0.125"(1/8" or 10-11 gauge) steel plate (grade A36)
- 44" long x 1" diameter with ~0.125" thickness aircraft grade (6061T6) aluminum circular/square tube (not pipe, tube will be stronger than pipe)
-Bolts and locking nuts depending on the template/design you choose.
(I recommend the use of aircraft grade aluminum since it will be lighter and almost as, if not the same or more, strong as a steel tube.)

I bought my materials at a local Metal Supermarket, but they are also online if you do not have a local store near you. Their prices are cheap and the metals are good, shipping is also very reasonable. They also have no minimum order requirements and they will cut the metal to size.

Tools that I used for fabrication:
-Welder
-Drill press
-Angle grinder with metal cut off wheel
-Metal grinding disc
-Rotary tool with metal cut off wheel
-1/2" pipe tapper with WD-40
-18" monkey wrench
-belt sander

First off, to gain access to the mounting of the rear strut, you'll have to remove practically the entire rear deck and back seating area.
This DIY: GEN4 Rear Seats & Speaker Removal from the faqs will get you started.
In addition, you'll have to remove the black seat backing to trunk cover to access the mounting area and remove the seat belt coils to get more room.

Here are 2 general templates for the mounting plate, the holes and semicircular cut out are correct, but the sides will require adjustments to fit.
Download printable PDFs here.
(PDF is to scale, so when in the print dialog of acrobat reader, set the "page scaling" to "none")

Template 1:
requires a welder
WARNING: Do NOT weld while the plate is in the car. Electrical current from the welder MAY damage your electrical system.

You will have to measure and cut to fit your own vertical bracket to hold the bar.
The vertical bracket design will also depend on the tube you decide to use.
(I used this template with cicular tube, following pics will be of this setup)

Template 2:
simplest and easier solution.
Fold the steel plate up at the dotted line to create the vertical bracket and drill holes to bolt the bar to the bracket.
(I have not tested this method to see how strong/durable or effective it is)




Bar shape and vertical bracket examples:

The first and last brackets are better suited for square tubes and simply requires drilling holes and bolting the bar to the bracket.
The middle bracket is more for circular tubes and is what I did. Tapping the tube to use a steel pipe bushing to pull the bracket and pipe together.
Using a square tube will be easier over all and will probably be stiffer.
You will have to decide on the size of the bolt you to use to attach the tube to the bracket.

Basic guidelines to follow:

Refer to the following measurement diagrams.
The seat belt coils will restrict the height the bar can be set and the width of the area limits the width of the bar.
Measuring the area, I have concluded that a 1" max bar width/height is most optimal for the area and when the plastic trunk cover is in place.
The length of the bar from the inside nuts is approximately 43 inches, but I recommend buying a 44 inch bar and cutting to exact size after you fabricate the brackets.



Cutting the brackets out from the plate:
With a 6"x6" plate, you should have enough left over for cutting and making brackets for template 1.
If you have access to a plasma or torch welder, use it! It will make it faster and easier.
Remember to cut away from the lines and grind them down to fit.

If you do not have access to a cutter like me, this is what I did:
I used a 4" angle grinder with a metal cut off wheel since I didn't have access to a plasma/torch cutter. The longest part was the large semi cirular center.
Using the cut off wheel, slowly cut about 1/8-1/4" away from the line at a 90 degree angle. The deeper the cut gets, the closer it will get to the line. At about 2/3-3/4 through the plate, I switched to a small 1" diameter rotary cut off wheel to finish the cut.

The holes for the bolts are 7/16" diameter drilled with a metal step bit and plenty of oil on a drill press.
For template 2:
I recommend using a bench top vice clamp to hold the plate where it needs to be bent and then hammer it to bend it. Or if you have access to a metal bender, that would be perfect.


Vertical bracket and bar fitting for Template 1:
WARNING: Do NOT weld while the plate is in the car. Electrical current from the welder MAY damage your electrical system. Remove the mounting plate after test fitting to weld.

Test fitting is a must, it will take longer but will help to guarantee it fits.
Test fit the brackets put them in with the nuts holding them in place.
Using shims or a helper, test fit the bar and find the height that you like best and create the end plates first.
With the end plates made, test fit again and find where you want the end plates to sit on the mounting plate and mark it.
Measure the length between the 2 mounting brackets to get the length of the tube and cut the bar slightly longer, easier to shorten it than to cut it too short, test fit until satisfied.
Cut out plates for the front and back sides that will hold the end plates and test fit them before welding them in. Mark the placement for the holes to be drilled to bolt the tube in.
Drill the holes before welding them in and test fit them again with it bolted up. Mark the locations where the plates will be welded.
Remember to check the clearance of the surrounding area.
Tack weld the plates in making sure they are on the marks you made.
Test fit one last time before completing a permanent weld.
Circular tube:
What I did for my set up was to have the brackets get pulled in tight with the bracket by bolting it from the ends.
My tube was 1" diameter with 1/8" thickness for an inner diameter of 3/4"
I used a 1/2" Pipe tapper with a monkey wrench to hold the bar as I tapped it and used recommended WD-40 as lubricant for aluminum tapping.
This was 10x harder to tap than when I tapped black steel.
After tapping it I used 1/2" to 3/8" galvanized steel bushing from Home Depot as the bolts.
The end plates were drilled with a 13/16" hole to snugly fit the bushings through.


SQUARE BAR version can be found on post #25
It uses the same dimensions and mounting plate as the circular bar. The only change is the bracket design in which the bar is clamped in with bolts and nuts. This is more like generic strut bars you find.
This is a much easier design to pull off and I recommend this for beginners.



Template for square bar bracket:
Use this template only as a guide to fabricating the brackets for square bar mounting.
Cut out templates and glue to cardboard and test fit and make mock-ups.
Make adjustments to the templates to fit before using them to cut the steel.
To drill the holes for the bar, clamp the templates to the bar in the car in position.
Mark the template where the bottom of the bar sits on the bracket. Measure the area where the bar clamps to the template and find the center to drill your holes.
*Drill all holes as precise as possible for best fit, if the holes are off on either bracket or bar, it will be hard to put the bolt through.
*The top of the templates will sit close to horizontal and slant inwards. The mounting plate is NOT level or square to the car.
***I cannot stress enough how important it is to get the templates to fit first before cutting and fitting the metal.

Download printable PDFs here.



Bar fitting for Template 2:

Test fit the mounting plate and put the mounting nuts on to hold them.
Test fit the bar and find the height you want to put it and mark for the holes.
Drill the holes in both brackets and the on one end of the bar/tube.
Test fit again and bolt one side of the tube in and then mark the length of the tube to fit to the other bracket and where to drill the holes for the bolt.
Cut the tube and drill the holes for the bolt.
Test fit one last time.

Finishing:
I recommend tightening the bolts to the tube first before torquing the strut mount nuts down to the plate.
Because I used a monkey wrench on my tube, there were teeth marks dug in, so I used a belt sander and put the tube on a horizontal rod while I allowed it to spin with the belt sander. The result is a brushed aluminum look.
The brackets were painted with self-etching primer only since it will all be covered up anyways.

CIRCULAR BAR:


SQUARE BAR:



Again, full size pictures here.
Download printable PDFs here.

FYI: I am a beginner welder using core flux MIG welder from cheap Harbor Freight Tools for $87.

Feedback welcomed.
 

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Registered
00 Camry
Joined
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530 Posts
good job! .. make more for a group buy for this new group buy i started!

G R O U P - B U Y

1. one_to_hate
2. PortugalFocus
Holy Yahtzee! That is quite impressive!! Price pending, I'd be interested for a group buy. That's a lot of creativity and ingenuity.
 

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D.I.Y.'er since 2004
2000 Camry LE
Joined
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227 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Sorry guys, no group buy. I'm just not equipped well enough to make many of these. I also don't have the time to make them between school and work. I only had the time to do this one since it's my spring break.

I still have my rear interior out so I don't remember how it's setup back there. Does the interior fit well on top of the brace?
Yes, the black plastic cover that goes behind the seat goes to the top of the rear deck and creates a cavity of space that covers the seat belt coils along with the brace.
So after the brace is on and the interior is back on, no one could tell that you have one.
That's why I didn't bother painting it or making it look really nice, no one can see it unless you gut out the interior.
 

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D.I.Y.'er since 2004
2000 Camry LE
Joined
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227 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
pretty cool.

but is it necessary with the 5 90 degree bends already on the shelf there?i cant see how the center would flex at all. its not like an engine bay where theres nothing at the top.
I thought the same thing. I was thinking minimal difference almost like "eh, can barely tell" and wasted my time and money. But surprisingly there was a noticeable difference.

On a ~50 ft 90 degree bend, the car tended to slide out or fishtail. But after the bar was put in and taking the same bend it actually stuck to the road better that I was more confident to take it faster than I usually would.
 

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D.I.Y.'er since 2004
2000 Camry LE
Joined
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227 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
My spring break is over now and I've got a backlog of school work to finish over the weekend, so I won't have time to find a gen3 and test fit it myself anytime soon. Have to wait until summer break when I have more time to find a gen3 and give it a try.

But looking at the illustrations in the repair manual, the mount looks very similar. I think the mounting template will probably fit. The rear deck mounting area looks similar as well with the exception of the seat belt coils mounted to the side. So I think the dimensions I have up there would probably work for the gen 3.

But if someone with a gen 3 could to test fit with a paper template from the printable PDF and report back, that would be great. You don't have to take the mount or nuts off, just lay the paper template over the bolts and see if it fits. Some pics of the area would be nice too, if you can.
 

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D.I.Y.'er since 2004
2000 Camry LE
Joined
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227 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Sorry, I forgot about finding a gen3 to test fit. At the end of the semester it got very hectic and I forgot about this, didn't sleep for 3 days to finish projects.

I'll see if I can go to a pull-a-part this week after work to test fit, but no guarantee that I'll remember to do it.

Like my last post requested, if anyone with a gen3 can just use a printed template to test fit, that would be very much appreciated.
 

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D.I.Y.'er since 2004
2000 Camry LE
Joined
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227 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
There's a link in the OP, but here it is again for convenience.
You can download printable PDFs here.
It's to scale, so make sure you set the scaling to "no scaling" in the print dialog of acrobat.
 

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Registered
Toyota Scepter
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526 Posts
I was deciding whether or not I would make my wagon a rear strut bar since I would be limiting the rear cargo space, although I know the aluminum bar/tube itself can be detached anyhow. This is a good thread. Great Job!
 

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Premium Member
'96 Camry XLE
Joined
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11,248 Posts
^ For TRUE stiffening, this doesn't do too much in the sedan, but it WOULD un the wagon as there is nothing holding the strut towers together. I can tell by hearing the body creak in my dad's wagon and not my sedan.
 

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Premium Member
'96 Camry XLE
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11,248 Posts
IF anyone has interest or questions about this, please send him a PM or Email about the bar. :)
 
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