How to tell if your shocks or struts need replacement

Shock AbsorberHas a service technician ever suggested replacing the shock absorbers or struts on your vehicle? If so, you probably wondered if it was really necessary.

The simple answer is yes, and here’s why.

The spring-damper system

There’s either a shock absorber or a strut at each corner of your vehicle that works with a spring to smooth out the ride. They damp the expansion and compression of the springs to keep you from bouncing up and down while driving.

Shocks and struts wear out

A shock absorber looks like an old-fashioned bicycle pump. One end is fixed to the car’s body, and a rod sticking out the other end is secured to the wheel hub. The tube is filled with oil, which slows down the movement of a piston mounted on the end of the rod. A strut serves a similar function, but the spring is an integral part of the strut, rather than being separate from it. Depending on what kind of driving you do, shocks and struts lose their ability to damp the oscillations of the spring.

Recognizing worn shocks or struts

Shocks deteriorate so slowly that most car owners don’t notice. One way to test them is to push down each corner of the vehicle and watch how it rebounds. It should overshoot once then settle at the normal ride height. If it goes lower and comes back up, it needs replacing.

Why replace shocks or struts?

The most obvious reason to replace your worn shocks or struts is to eliminate the need for Dramamine every time you drive your car. But there’s a serious safety reason: if your car wallows on uneven pavement, your tires are losing their ability to grip the road surface. Cornering and braking ability is severely impacted. Also, worn shocks and struts can cause undue wear and stress on other suspension components like springs and ball joints, so early detection and replacement can save a lot of money down the road.

What to do

If you think the shocks in your car have done 50,000 miles or more, schedule an appointment with us to have them checked.

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