Shock absorbers and struts influence the control and handling characteristics of your vehicle. They work in conjunction with the vehicle’s springs to dampen the bouncing motion of the vehicle as affected by road conditions. The energy is absorbed as a piston inside the shock pushes against hydraulic fluid. This restricts the rebounding movement of the springs.
You can tell a great deal about performance of shock absorbers by simply feeling your car’s suspension as you drive.
Shock and Strut Warning Signs:
Coil springs are part of your vehicle’s suspension system. If your vehicle is designed with shocks, the coil springs are mounted between the wheels and the frame of the vehicle. Struts, on the other hand, are essentially a coil spring and shock absorber all in one piece. When you drive over a bump, your car bounces on the coil springs, regardless of whether you have shocks or struts. The shock absorbers in both cases keep your car from bouncing nonstop.
Your car should be steady and stable at all times – whether you are braking, accelerating, or turning – so that you can maintain control as you drive. Shock and struts help keep the car steady.
When braking, if the front end of your vehicle, otherwise known as the nose, of your car dives, it is an indication that your shocks and struts need to be replaced, or at least evaluated. Another sign that your shocks or struts require service is if the rear end of your vehicle “squats” when you accelerate. Additionally, if you make a turn and the vehicle dips drastically to one side, your shocks or struts may need to be replaced.
If the struts or shocks on your vehicle are bad, the tires will literally bounce up and down as you drive. Each time the tires hit the ground, bits of rubber can get scraped off. This is commonly referred to as “cupping” or “scalloping.” So instead of having a consistent tread-wear pattern across the tire, you might have some tread, a smooth patch, some tread, a smooth patch, and so on. This is because the holes left by the missing rubber tend to get smoothed over as you drive.
Not to confuse you with shock, but the strut, too, is responsible for keeping its spring in check. It’s more than just a damper, though; struts also add structural integrity to the suspension, so they have more responsibility than shocks. Put it this way: it’s possible, though completely dangerous and not at all advisable, to drive a car without shocks–you’d just have the bouncing problem discussed above. But a strut-based suspension without struts would simply fall apart, because the struts are part of what holds the front end of the car together. They’re like super-shocks.
Over time, your struts will begin to wear down. We’ll talk about some of the warning signs they need replaced and how much they cost.
Some manufacturers recommend replacing struts every 50,000 miles, other auto experts say 100,000 miles is a good range. Hawley recommends somewhere in between 60,000 and 100,000 miles.
If you change them as a part of routine maintenance, you’re not going to have any problems.
If the tires are fine, and there’s no indication they’re wearing down, spending $1,200 on brand new ones, that would be tough. Ninety-nine percent of the time, customers call because there’s a problem related to the struts.
This is kind of a trick question, because the real answer is, “You should probably leave that to your mechanic.” Shocks and struts aren’t like wiper blades–there’s no surefire way to determine when they’re spent. Accordingly, your first line of defense is taking your car in for an annual suspension inspection. Have our trusted technician thoroughly investigate your shocks and/or struts for signs of failure.
That’s never a good idea, honestly, but it’s an especially bad idea when we’re talking about vital suspension components like shocks and struts. One thing you need to know is struts are not simply about giving your car a smooth ride! They’re not luxury items; rather, they are integral to car control, so when they fail, your car becomes a hazard to both yourself and other drivers.