Shocks and struts are an integral part of a vehicle’s suspension which work together to dampen vertical motion, provide structural support, and keep the tires in contact with the road. If a vehicle’s shocks and struts go bad, it can negatively affect the ride quality, handling, and braking. Depending on how badly the parts have degraded, they can even put the driver at risk of a collision.
It’s best to replace faulty shocks and struts as soon as possible. Continuing to operate your vehicle will only cause the parts to deteriorate further, reducing the stability of the suspension, and causing you to lose control of the vehicle while driving. Fortunately, it’s easy to identify bad shocks and struts and the parts can be replaced at a minimal cost.
If you’ve noticed that your vehicle no longer rides as smoothly as it once did or is harder to handle, continue reading to learn more about two essential parts of the suspension system. This guide will explain everything you need to know about the shocks and struts, how they work, what causes them to go bad, and how you can identify a problem.
What are the Shocks and Struts?
The suspension system of a vehicle is made up of many different parts, all of which work together to provide a smooth ride. The shocks and struts are two of the most important components as they are responsible for absorbing the impact of bumps and potholes in the road. Anytime a driver goes over an uneven section of road, the shocks compress to absorb the impact of the bump.
Shocks and struts are made up of a metal coil, a piston, and a hydraulic fluid. The metal coil is located at the bottom of the shock and is what allows the shock to compress and expand. The piston is located at the top of the shock and works to push the hydraulic fluid through the coil. The hydraulic fluid is what dampens the impact of bumps in the road.
These parts also help to provide structural support to the suspension by reducing vibrations throughout the vehicle and keeping the tires in contact with the road. This is essential for good traction and braking. Without shocks and struts, the tires would lose contact with the road, which would make it difficult to control the vehicle.
Are Shocks and Struts the Same Thing – What’s the Difference?
Shocks and struts are both essential components of your vehicle’s suspension system but they’re not the same thing. Shocks control vertical spring and suspension motion and struts provide support for the vehicle’s weight and act as a stabilizer. Struts are an integrated part that combine a coil spring and shock to support the vehicle’s weight, whereas shocks are independent non-integrated parts that only absorb sudden impacts.
Comparing the two, struts are designed to be far more durable and stronger than shocks and often provide more support than a single shock. However, most modern vehicles use a combination of the two parts, depending on the location and suspension system.
What Causes Shocks and Struts to Go Bad?
Shocks and struts can go bad for a number of reasons but the most common is simply age, wear, and tear. Over time, the parts will start to deteriorate, leak, and lose their ability to dampen the impact of bumps. This will cause the ride quality to suffer as the vehicle will no longer be able to absorb the shocks as effectively.
Another common reason why your vehicle’s shocks and struts may go bad is if you regularly drive on rough roads. Potholes, speed bumps, and other uneven surfaces put a lot of stress on the suspension system and can cause the parts to wear out before their time.
It’s also worth noting that certain driving habits can cause your shocks and struts to go bad. If you’re not careful to avoid large potholes or you regularly make sudden stops, you’ll put undue stress on the suspension system, which can cause the parts to fail sooner.
Signs and Symptoms of Bad Shocks and Struts
Bad shocks and struts will cause a number of problems with the ride quality, handling, and braking of your vehicle. If you suspect that your shocks or struts might be going bad, there are a few signs to look out for:
- Unusual Bouncing or Bumpiness: If your vehicle feels like it’s bouncing around more than usual or the ride is rougher than it used to be, it’s likely that the shocks or struts are worn out.
- Poor Handling: If your vehicle is no longer as responsive as it once was or it feels as if you’re floating on a cloud, the shocks or struts may be to blame. This is especially true if you notice that the vehicle is harder to control when making turns.
- Dipping or Leaning: When shocks and struts go bad, they’re unable to provide the same support they once did. This can cause your vehicle to dip or lean more than usual when making turns or stopping.
- Diving Front End: If the front of your vehicle seems to tip more than usual when you brake, it indicates that the shocks and struts are no longer absorbing as much of the vertical motion.
- Squatting Rear End: Likewise, if the rear of your vehicle seems to squat backward when you accelerate, it indicates that the rear shocks and struts are failing to absorb vertical motion.
- Braking Issues: If the shocks and struts have become severely worn-out, they’ll struggle to provide enough traction for easy braking. You may find that your vehicle takes longer to reach a complete stop.
If you’ve noticed any of these signs, it’s important to have the suspension system checked by a professional as soon as possible. Continuing to drive with bad shocks or struts can cause further damage to the suspension system and put you and other drivers at risk of a collision.
Can You Replace Your Own Shocks and Struts?
It’s a bad idea to replace your own shocks and struts unless you have the right tools and experience needed to operate a spring compressor. Incorrectly disassembling the parts can cause the internal springs to pop off, damaging the rest of your vehicle and injuring you in the process. And, if you improperly reassemble the suspension, you could lose control of your vehicle and crash into someone else.
Instead, take your vehicle to a mechanic every 15,000 miles and have them inspect the suspension for potential problems. If your struts and shocks have worn down, they can quickly replace all four at a cost of between $500 and $1,000. These prices will vary depending on your location and the mechanic’s hourly rate.
Avoid driving over large potholes and stick to even ground to prevent further issues with your shocks and struts.
The longer you drive on bad struts and shocks, the more likely you are to lose control of your vehicle. If you notice that your vehicle no longer handles like it once did or it dips and bumps as you brake/accelerate, take it to a mechanic and have them test the suspension. It’s best to have a professional replace the parts to avoid injury and further damage.