You shouldnt need new struts after 77k. The Versa ride is a little harsh from factory.
All responses are in Blue :57:1. How and what do I use to compress those tight springs? (Can I rent it or get it at a local auto store?)
You need a spring compressor. Yes, you can rent them or habor freight tools has them for 12.99. Watch some youtube videos on how to change lowering springs
2. What is the bar attaching to the strut (looks like a stabilizer of some sort), but I've never seen something like this before on any strut.
That bar is attached to the sway bar, you remove the top 14mm nut and slide the top end off.
3. Is there anything I need to watch out for while doing this that ya'll have encountered?
You dont need to remove the cowl but you can if you want it makes it easier. Use a 1/4 ratchet, extension, and swivel to get to the back top strut bolts.
Thanks for all your responses in advance!