Is Your Hatchback Falling? Replace the Strut!

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The Rear Hatch Strut

rear hatch strut
How to Replace Your Rear Hatch Shocks. Matt Wright, 2015

Have you been hit in the head by your falling hatchback? It's amazing how much anxiety can be created by a hatchback shock that's failing. Sometimes they hold the rear hatch up just fine, but when you least expect it, and usually when you're unloading a car full of groceries in the rain, the hatch will break free and come crashing down on your head, leaving a driveway full of grapefruits and one really sad driver. That's you. The bottom line about the hatch struts is that they're easy to replace and it's one of the most satistying repairs you can make to your car. Unlike replacing your spark plugs or installing a new radiator, you'll be enjoying your newly bouyant rear hatch right away. By the way, the rear hatch strut is that little shock absorber looking thing that holds your rear hatch up when you lift it all the way. Sometimes they are right out in the open (lucky you!), other times they are hidden behind an access panel. Either way, they're easy to deal with replacing. 

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Accessing the Hatch Strut

access screw
A screw like this torx secures the access panel. Matt Wright

 If you're lucky enough to have a hatch strut that you can put your hands on, you can skip this step altogether, say a prayer to the hatchback gods for being so kind to you, and move on to removing your tired, worn hatch strut. 

If you can't see your hatch strut, it is likely hiding behind a single access panel. On the Volvo XC70 we used for this tutorial, the hatch shocks are located along the roofline underneath a plastic panel at the top. To access the actual hatch strut, a torx screw needs to be removed to loosen the plastic panel. It's actually secured at the bottom end by the next panel which overlaps it slightly. The other panel simply snaps into place, so carefully pop it out if you have one, which will free up the panel that had the screw in it. Your situation may vary, but that covers most possible scenarios. With the panel removed, you'll be able to see the strut.

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Remove the Securing Clip

strut securing clip
Remove this securing clip to pop off the end of the hatch strut. Matt Wright

Your hatch strut needs to be securely attached to both the hatch that moves up and down and the roof of the car that doesn't. It holds a lot of weight up in the air but also needs to pivot freely as the hatch is raised and lowered. On each end of your new strut you'll see a socket that looks kind of skeletal. This socket corresponds to a ball that is attached to the hatch and the frame of your vehicle. The socket pops over the ball with a nice click. Some hatch struts are secured to the ball by a metal circlip that needs to be removed before removing or installing the stut. 

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Installing the Replacement Hatch Strut

strut circlip
Carefully remove the circle before removing or installing the hatch strut. Matt Wright

 If your hatch strut is secured by a metal circlip, you'll need to remove it before you pull your old struts out, and remove the clip on your new strut before installing it. Be careful when removing them as they have a tendency to spring out and fly off. You won't be able to reliably install the new strut without the clip, so don't lose them! With the clip off you can pop the old strut off its ball using a screwdriver to pry lightly against it. The new hatch pops right on, but be sure to put the clip back in!

Safety Note: Be sure to have a friend hold up the hatch BEFORE you remove the strut as it might come crashing down on your head one last time.