Describe your vehicle’s performance. Most people would say things about the power it has when driving on the road.
But there’s another side of performance that determines just how enjoyable the ride is.
If you’ve ever ridden in an old pickup truck, imagine how bumpy the ride was as you rambled down the road. Every bump, every pothole shot right through your system.
Now think about the ride in a high performance car. You barely heard the road. You definitely didn’t feel it. Every bump was handled with ease, barely registering on your radar.
You can thank the shocks and struts in your vehicle for that.
What’s the difference between a shock and strut?
Shocks and struts are often used interchangeably. Yet they have distinct differences. You can not substitute one for the other. If your vehicle uses struts, you cannot replace them with shocks.
A shock is the piece of the suspension system that helps coil springs absorb the impact of the road. It’s the shock’s job to take the bounce out of the movement of the car. They help keep the tires fully connected with the road instead of bouncing up as it hits different bumps in the road.
A strut combines a shock absorber and the coil spring into one single unit. While it acts as an absorber with every bump your car hits, it also provides structural support and integrity to the suspension system.
What does your vehicle use, shocks or struts?
Each wheel will either have a shock or a strut. They come in pairs. If your rear left wheel has a shock, your rear right wheel will too.
However, your vehicle may have shocks on one axle, and struts on another. Most modern vehicles have struts on the front axle, and shocks on the rear axle. You might also find struts on both axles, while it’s rare to have shocks on all four.
What does your car use?
Check your owner’s manual. If you no longer have it, a quick check online will determine what your make and model have in place.
You can also check under the car. They are easily seen if you look underneath your vehicle.
A mechanic can also tell you which components are attached to your suspension system. They can also make recommendations for replacement, when necessary.
Do shocks and struts need to be replaced at the same time?
We alluded to the answer above. Shocks and struts come in pairs. What’s located on one side of the axle will appear on the other.
Shocks and struts are always sold in pairs, and should be replaced in pairs. This provides consistency to both sides of the vehicle.
What’s more, mechanics suggest that you replace all four at the same time. This gives you a consistent response on your vehicle overall, every single bump you hit in the road.
If one set of shocks or struts wears out, chances are the other set isn’t far behind. By replacing them all at the same time, you ensure a safer, more comfortable ride.
How do you know when your shocks and struts need replacing?
Shocks and struts tend to wear out every 50,000 to 100,000 miles. The more aggressive you are on the road, the faster they will wear out. If you frequently drive on dirt roads, and love taking advantage of mountain driving, you’re more likely to replace them sooner rather than later.
Like other components, shocks and struts don’t wear out all at once. Instead, they provide warning signs of potential problems.
It might start gradually, but you’ll eventually notice your ride is getting rougher. You start to feel every bump in the road. Does your vehicle bounce more than once or twice when you hit a bump? Let it go on too long, and you’ll feel like you could lose control.
Whenever you notice leaking fluid, it’s a sign to bring the car in for inspection. Leaking fluid near the exterior of the shocks and struts is a sign they’ve been compromised and they no longer have enough hydraulic fluid to do their job. If you aren’t sure if the fluid is coming from the shock absorber, wipe it down and check it again in a few miles.
Uneven tread wear
Take a look at your tire tread from time to time. It can tell you a lot about performance. If you notice wavy dips on the tread, it’s a sign you have worn shocks and struts. This is caused when the tires don’t stay firmly on the road as you drive. Instead, they bounce up from time to time, which creates uneven wear marks. This will compromise your tires faster, and decrease your stopping power.
A classic sign of worn out brakes and struts includes a nosedive when you hit the brakes, or swaying as you make a turn. Because the shocks and struts aren’t able to handle the changes in your vehicle’s weight distribution effectively, your car will decrease in performance.
Today’s vehicles are designed with a variety of safety systems built into the structure. Anti-lock brakes and stability control systems all rely on the various components to keep your car safe. If any piece isn’t functioning properly, it puts the entire structure at risk. Response is everything in an emergency.
The best way to know when it’s time to replace your shocks and struts is to let a technician evaluate your suspension from time to time. If you notice a sign, book your appointment sooner rather than later. Also consider creating inspection appointments at the change of seasons. This is a great way to ensure your vehicle is ready for the ice and snow of winter, and the heat of the summer.
After any suspension work, it’s a good idea for a full alignment too. This ensures your car is balanced and ready for all the driving you’ll do in the coming weeks and months.
When was the last time you had your suspension system checked? Shocks and struts need to be replaced in pairs, especially when you notice problems. If you suspect an issue, give us a call today.