July 2, 2009

Autoexe Strut Tower Special

I think I can still hear the swears echoing in my head from the two days it took to figure out how to install these parts. With the help of my friends, (big ups to Oleg, Shane, James, and Murph) we managed to understand what the Japanese instructions could not illustrate for us. Following my brief review of the parts, I’ll have a DIY so that anyone else brave enough to buy these, they won’t have to go through the pains we experienced.

The part itself is phenomenal for a lack of a better term. The front 6 point is an impressive sight, as on Sunday’s event, I had many people observing and questioning about it while I was in the tech line. The rear got some praise as well, but people were just very surprised to see a 6 point, especially how it bolts to the fender line. In terms of feeling, the response increase was well worth the money. I get much more feedback from the rear of the car (considering I had no rear strut bar before), as well as a much more solid and responsive feeling from the front.

When I took the car out for a test run, I was surprised at how on sweeping turns, I no longer feel any slight slop or any response from the body. All feeling and focus is directly on my tires and what they’re doing. How they’re responding to me, the grip I’m obtaining with them. It’s like floating with wheels attached to my fingertips.

Highly recommended for those looking for that step above the “unnecessary but awesome” step, as this set of two really is more than good looks and some functionality. It’s top notch, and I have yet to see anything match it.

On to the DIY, in which you’ll thank me for writing and saving your time. After 2 days, 6-7 hours each day of trying to figure this out, I had to write something about this. For starters

TOOLS NEEDED
  • Level surface for the car to sit on
  • Sockets, ranging from 8 – 17, both deep and normal
  • Swivel extension for a socket
  • Open end wrenches, 10, 12, 14
  • Small vice grips
  • Allen wrenches (Don’t remember sizes, but on the bigger side)
  • Phillips screw driver
  • Touch up paint for your car (incase you do what I did)
  • Drill with 15/16 drill bit to make a hole in the fender bigger
  • A lot of patience and a helping hand
REAR
The rear was the easier one, so I would recommend doing this one first if you’re short on time or want to try out one of them separate first.
  • Start with removing the carpeting in the trunk space. Carpeting on the side, and on the bottom to make sure you can access all bolts in the rear
  • Once the rear shock hats are exposed, remove all of the bolts you see (literally), weither it be bolts for the floor, or the shock itself, just remove them.
  • The rear comes assembled with the two shock braces bolted with the actual bar. Undo this so that it’s in 3 separate pieces. Remember how the bolts were on the bar.
  • Look into your bag of goodies and you will see 4 black hook plates. If you notice on the illustration, this goes into the body of the car, above the shock hat…Yes, it goes into that tiny circle hole that if you drop it, you aren’t getting it back. It acts as the backing nut for some of the bolts. This is where the vice grips come handy. With vice grips, you can latch it onto the end of the hook that sticks out of the hole, so that it won’t fall in while you install the rest of the shock brace and begin to bolt it down.
  • That being said, place the small vice grips on the hook ends and place all 4 into their respective holes (there is another small hole back more, you have to either sit in the trunk and look in, or feel for it.
  • While your friend is in your trunk helping you with this, and his ear is right next to the rear speaker, be sure to play your radio at a good volume to make sure he’s awake and working properly on your rear.
  • Line up the shock braces with the holes on the hat and the studs on the floor. From there, begin to bolt down (not full tightness yet!) using the bolts as described in the instructions. It’s not really displayed well in the illustration, but for the center large bolts (yellowish in color) you will need a nut in the back to hold it in place now (I needed a nut before hand for my coilovers. OEM shocks have a backing for those bolts). Don’t forget to remove the vice grips.
  • Once both sides are in and bolted down good enough, from here I tightened the bolts from bottom to up. I felt that to center it, it would make sense to bolt it down first, then bolt the backings against the car to ensure it’s firm and straight. Did this twice.
  • Last step is to place in the actual bar! Place it in (be sure to have Autoexe brand facing you and not backwards for proper bling effect) and line it up with its respective holes. Place in those bolts with washers. I tightened left bottom decently, then right top, followed by left top, then right bottom. Then I went through and tightened as much as possible to ensure it was fully tight. This is where the allen wrench comes handy because you will need it to ensure that it is as tight as possible with these bolts.
  • From here, you are done! Shake it a little and make sure it’s in there firmly and securely. Place back your carpeting and away you go for the rear. In the instructions they put measurements on what you should cut out for the carpet, but I don’t use my carpet so I unfortunately can’t provide any help with that. I’m sure it can’t be that hard!
FRONT
This is the tough one. Make sure you have plenty of time for this, just in case things go sour like they did for us.
  • For starters, grab your patience tool, your anger fixing drink (I’d go with Amstel or something light) and start removing the OEM (or whatever you have) front strut bar. If you have coilovers, rejoice as you can now put the front dampening adjuster on top of the shock finally!
  • Once this is done, take a look at your fender walls near the firewall. I have engine insulation removed, so you may not see what I see, but in the fender there are two holes there. That is the mounting point for the fender brace.
  • At the firewall, the engine insulation there (again, I have removed) is being held on by two white plastic nuts on studs. Those nuts need to be removed as your firewall braces are going to go there. Be sure to look at the picture in the instructions to verify you placed the proper brace support on each stud. It’s different for 04-08 bodies from 09 body RX8. This will be your first bolt on, but not as tight as possible as you will need some play room in the end.
  • You MAY need to use pliers and lift up the cowl a bit to give you extra room by the fender. We did only because we were not sure what had to be done at first. BE WEARY of the screws in the cowl. I couldn’t unscrew mine oddly enough, but every time we ignored the screws, gave an extra scratch on my strut bar.
  • For placing the front strut bar in, two people are needed for easy placement. With one person on each side of the car, as level as possible, slowly lower the rear into the car . Once in place and back against the firewall, position the strut tower holes as close as possible to the studs sticking out. NOW, this is the tricky part with the rear part resting on the firewall supports (the fender parts will probably rub thus the touch up paint). You will want to have both of you push at an angle one at a time to get the bar in. It’s really a simple concept that somehow can take more than an hour if you don’t do it right. My friend came, stood next to the car and pushed down hard to get one side in, then went to the other side and did this.
  • Now that the brace is in place the fender brace plates need to be installed. To install these it is key to have the car jacked up in the front with the fender liners peeled back (towards the front), or the fenders off the car. There is one problem and that is the small hole is (yes you guessed it) to small. The remedy is a 15/16 drill bit. It makes the hole just big enough for the small allen wrench bolt to fit in with ease. Place the brace inside the fender and line up the holes, while someone else places a bolt inside to keep the brace in place. From there, bolt up the fenders per instructions, just tight enough to be on.
  • From here, you now need to finish tightening the strut bar down. We did the struts first, doing a nice even torque all around, followed by the fenders, making sure it was very tight from side to side numerous times to ensure it was flush with the fender (if a touch of space is left between fender and brace, it’s okay because it’s probably flush in the back). Lastly, the firewall brace needs to be bolted down.
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