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Have you ever wondered why your vehicle rides rougher than usual or bounces more than once after hitting a bump? Things turning shaky like that indicates that your car’s shocks and struts—a crucial part of your car’s suspension system—are performing their job poorly.
Ineffective shocks and struts do not just distress your driving experience; they also pose massive safety implications – which is why you need to be fully apprised of what they are and when they need to be replaced.
Are Shocks and Struts the Same?
No – even though people do use the two terms interchangeably and both aid the vehicle’s handling and suspension, they are two different parts with different functionalities. Every wheel on your car either has a shock or a strut. They can also have an integration of both configured together somehow.
What are car shocks?
Car shocks or shock absorbers are hydraulic oil pump-like devices that help contain the effect and rebound movement of your car’s spring and suspension system – which ensures a smooth ride without any vibrations and bumps hampering your journey. Shocks are built to adjust to any road conditions.
Although all shock absorbers are inherently the same—a self-contained structural part—many different types exist to complement different vehicles and their suspension designs.
Many people have also misconstrued that a shock supports the vehicle’s weight. No – struts are responsible for that.
What are car struts?
Struts—consisting of a coil spring and a dampening unit. They are an integral structural component of a vehicle’s chassis and suspension system. They are mostly mounted at the top of the chassis in FWD while also gracing some RWD vehicles.
Car struts are responsible for ultimate vehicle control; they support weight, wheel alignment, braking, and steering. Besides, just like shock absorbers, they perform damping functions to absorb surface impacts during a ride.
Struts are compactly designed, are lighter, and occupy much lesser space than shock absorbers in a typical suspension system.
How to Determine Car’s Shocks and Struts are in Bad Shape?
Struts and shocks ensure that the tires constantly contact the road’s surface to affect safe control, good suspension, and the quickest braking response. In instances where your tires break contact with the ground, the car’s ability to steer and the brake is drastically affected. That, compounding with the reasons we discussed above, necessitates that you identify when these two components are in bad shape to avoid a costly misfortune.
Discussed below are six significant indicators calling for a replacement of shocks and struts.
Rough, bumpy drive?
If you feel your organs would pop out of your body as you ride. That is, if you feel every bounce and bump in the road as you drive, the problem is not just the bumpy/pitted road (side note: your vehicle is designed to take every lump and bump with dignity). Instead, the potential problem is with the car’s suspension system (poor coil springs or shocks).
That, or when the rear of your car constantly bobbles after having hit a bump – you need to go for your car’s inspection and any necessary repairs.
Struts absorb the entire weight/force of the vehicle as a brake is pushed, and the car comes to a halt. Poor struts cannot absorb the whole force, putting extra tension on the brake pads and rotors. It results in the brakes wearing it and increasing the braking distance many-folds. The situation also affects the anti-lock braking system of your vehicle. All in all, when you experience a poor braking experience, the potential problem could be retiring struts.
Poor steering control?
Both shock absorbers and struts help the vehicle maintain a gripe on the road while going around the corners, especially on rough and rugged terrains. However, as these two parts retire, the car is much less likely to respond as you turn. It may start to sway or lean to one side as it goes around curves or off-ramp. As a result, problems like oversteer or understeer may begin to rise uncontrollably, leading to accidents.
Exceeded 50 000 to 100 000 mileage?
Generally, struts and shocks retire every fifty thousand to a hundred thousand miles (depending on the car’s model and trim). This happened if you are a non-aggressive driver driving on smooth terrain. Otherwise, they would retire sooner than that. Unfortunately, the wear-and-tear isn’t immediately visible. As shocks and struts go bad to full bad gradually before things go from bad to worse. Hence, a timely check should be considered.
Uneven, wavy Tire Wear?
The car’s suspension and wheel alignment are also poor with the poor health of struts and shocks (as we have already discussed); hence, the tires bounce excessively and aren’t held firmly to the ground. The situation leads to uneven, wavy wear and tear of tires. In addition, you would begin noticing scalloped dips and thinning the tires in some places, which could mean that the tires will not reach their life expectancy.
So, as the first signs of scalloped dips and thinning occur, see a mechanic right away.
Fluid leakage on the exterior of shocks or struts?
Leakage means that the seals have splintered. And the internal hydraulic fluid that is integral for the shocks to absorb the impact is leaking. To determine whether the liquid is leaking from the shocks or if it’s a residual fluid from an old leak, you could wipe it off and check if the leak continues.
Time To Replace the Struts and The Shocks?
All six factors mentioned above indicate an emergency car check-up. It would determine if the shocks and the structs actually need to be changed. Once you are finally replacing them, make sure to buy quality, brand-name components. Also, make sure to replace all the components connected to these parts like bearing mounts, rubber bump stops, and shock boots.
Remember, the many-present safety systems are responsible for handling, stability, and safety of the vehicle and the passenger (anti-locks, stability control system, traction control, etc.) They would not be as effective if the two components we just talked about were in bad health. So put your safety first, be a responsible driver.