Shocks vs Struts vs Coilovers (What’s the Difference?)


Shocks, struts, and coilovers all serve similar functions in a car, but they differ greatly in their function and design. Here’s everything you need to know about the differences between shocks, strusts, and coilovers.

Shocks are primarily intended for dampening the effects of vibrations and bumps on the road. Struts are similar in function, but they also contain the coil springs and have a role in supporting the weight of the vehicle. Lastly, coilovers work similarly to struts in that they have shock absorbers, but the difference is that it also has coil springs.

There are several differences between shocks, struts, and coilovers that are important to understand, especially if you want to modify your car. The rest of this article will discuss the differences between shocks, struts, and coilovers.

What Is a Shock?

A shock is, as the name suggests, a component designed to control the movement of the body. Generally, it’s a hydraulic piston designed to dampen the movement of the body and absorb motion. In short, the shocks convert the kinetic energy created by movement into heat energy, which can then be dissipated through the use of hydraulic fluid.

More often than not, these shocks are dynamic, meaning that the way they operate is dependent on the speed of the vehicle. The faster the vehicle is going, the more the shocks are active to reduce motion, thereby making the ride much smoother.

Read: Bad Shocks and Struts (Symptoms & Causes)

What Is a Strut?

The main difference between a shock and a strut is that a strut has bears the weight of the vehicle. In other words, it’s necessary in holding the car’s weight, not just damping vibrations

Shocks by themselvs don’t have any role in supporting the car, and and are instead used for dampening vibrations, which is why they are often used in heavier vehicles where they aren’t needed to support the weight due to the presence of other load bearing components.


Some SUVS use shocks, but many modern vehicles use struts. Compared to shocks, struts generally take less space and aren’t as expensive to manufacture.

Shocks, by comparison, are easier to swap and more suitable for off-road adventures. One might say that a strut is simply a shock that also supports the vehicle’s weight.

That’s not to say that the two are similarly designed in the way they dampen motion, but the function of a strut is much the same of a shock. As a structural component linking the vehicle and the knuckle, the struts don’t have an upper control arm.

Read: How Do I Know If My Car Needs New Shocks?

What Is a Coilover?

A coilover is a term that’s often thrown around in the realm of aftermarket modifications, which makes sense given that coilovers often make significant changes to the suspension components. Functionally, a coilover works the same as a strut, with shock absorbers to dampen the effect of kinetic energy on the body.

The main difference that distinguishes a coilover from shocks or struts is that is also has coil springs in it, allowing the coilover to work as one unit with all the mounts, coils, and struts present in one place rather than being separate. Struts connect directly to the spindle and support the coil springs.

Read: How To Diagnose Common Suspension Problems?

Coilovers Modding

While this is the technical distinction between struts and coilovers, the latter is probably more well-known for the way it can be used to modify a vehicle. Depending on the vehicle you have, coilovers can be used to move the vehicle up or down.

Just be aware that altering your suspension system might end up voiding your suspension warranty if the dealer can prove that the alterations were the cause of the damages to the car.

There are some advantages to using coilovers to lower your vehicle. Namely, it lowers the car’s center of gravity, giving it a better turn radius and reduced drag. It’s important to note that you can only use coilovers on cars that have struts, not those that have shocks.

In addition, there are numerous different types of coilovers on the market that are designed for different types of car. The reason coilovers are labeled as an aftermarket component is because they are not integral; put simply, removing a coilover will not prevent the car from driving and steering, but removing the struts will.

Read: How To Troubleshoot Clicking Noise When Turning?

Final Thoughts

There are numerous differences in the design, function, and purpose of the shock, struts, and coilover. If you’re talking to a mechanic, you cannot use these terms interchangeably. Replacing a shock absorber is much different than replacing a strut.

The simple way to recount which is which is that shocks simply dampen movement. Struts are essentially shocks that play a role in supporting the vehicle. Lastly, coilovers are struts with coil springs included as part of the system that allow for the raising and lowering of the vehicle.

Read: Honda CR-V Grinding Noise When Turning

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