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The service manual says:

"Perform the final tightening of the rear suspension member and axle installation position (rubber bushing) under unladen condition with tires on level ground".

Does this just mean to remove the jack and tighten the nuts to spec torque with nothing significant in the back seat/deck etc? i.e. full weight of the vehicle on the suspension

(I know what the dictionary definition of 'unladen' is, but it seems a bit ambiguous since the vehicle is a load on the suspension).

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Yes, the vehicle is a load on the suspension and that is the load that should be applied when you finally tighten those suspension joints.

If you ignore that, then the bushes get pre-loaded incorrectly and fail sooner than they should.

You should check the workshop manual for the vehicle as it will often say a full tank of fuel or 1/2 tank... But draining fuel out on a customer's car is not usually done...

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Unladen means the vehicle is on the ground but no people or cargo is loaded into the car.

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