There’s a joke that circulates every year about this time all across the Front Range.
There are four seasons: fall, winter, spring, and road repair.
You’re nodding your head right now, because while it’s meant to be humorous, it’s kind of true. Some of the potholes around town can do severe damage if you hit them full force. They are no longer potholes, some seem like sinkholes ready to swallow you up.
If you’ve ever hit one, you might duck and cringe from the impact. What is it doing to your car? Good question.
The answer is: the damage might be worse than you thought.
Every time you hit a pothole, the impact jolts through the tires, wheels, shocks, and struts, vibrating throughout the different systems of your car.
While it’s pretty obvious if it does enough damage to blow a tire or bend a wheel, internal damage is harder to see. So it wears over time. And if you don’t fix it soon, the damage continues to mount, taking the cost of your repair bill right along with it.
Before we get into whether you need new shocks and struts, let’s look at what they do for your vehicle.
What shocks and struts do
A shock absorber does one thing: it keeps your vehicle from bouncing when you drive.
Struts are built into the structure of your suspension system. They are made from many different parts, including the coil spring and shock absorber, and affect your vehicle’s steering and alignment.
When people talk about a vehicle’s suspension, then often use the phrase “shocks and struts.” It’s important to note that not all cars have both. Shocks are part of the overall suspension, whereas a strut is a complete assembly. Every wheel will have one or the other, not both.
However, your car might have different assemblies on the front and back wheels – struts on the front, and shocks on the back, for example. To find out what you have, you can check your owner’s manual, or learn more about it the next time you bring your vehicle in for a check up.
Signs you might need new shocks and struts
No matter what assembly you have on your vehicle, ensuring your shocks and struts are in good working condition is crucial. How do you know if you need new shocks and struts?
Performance decreases – you start noticing little things as you drive. Your vehicle seems more bouncy. It seems rough even when you’re on a smooth road. It tends to roll on every turn you make.
Nose dives – nose diving happens when you apply the brakes and the front end of your car bounces low to the ground. If you don’t fix it right away, it can escalate to having momentary loss of steering, or need an extended amount of time for braking. This comes from the shocks or struts not having enough power to handle the weight of your vehicle.
Noises – if your vehicle starts reminding you of an old bed mattress, squeaking through bumps and potholes, or with every movement you make getting in and out of your vehicle, it might be your shocks or struts.
Body roll – this is a term used to describe the feeling a vehicle has going into a turn. Even with the slightest turn, the vehicle leans into it, sometimes causing control issues.
Squats – when you take off from a stop sign or traffic light, the momentum of the vehicle falls to the back wheels, causing the front end to lurch up. It causes hesitation in the forward movement of your vehicle.
Visible damage – like every part on your vehicle, it’s important to do a visual inspection from time to time to ensure your vehicle is in good working condition. Do you notice a problem with the wheels – some shocks or struts are visible in the wheel well. Do you notice a pool of liquid near the tire – hydraulic fluid can leak from a damaged shock or strut.
It might not be the shocks and struts at all
Potholes can do a lot of damage to your suspension system. Sometimes it doesn’t impact your shocks and struts, but instead affects wheel alignment. How can you tell the difference?
The tires aren’t wearing evenly – do a visible inspection of your tire tread from time to time. If you see a portion of the tread that is wearing faster than other areas, it’s most likely your wheels are out of alignment. You may also have a worn or bent suspension or steering part, which can put everything out of balance.
The vehicle pulls to one side or another while driving – if you’ve ever felt the car pull one way or another while driving on a straight road, that’s a sign of a wheel alignment problem. You’ll have to fight to keep the steering wheel in one position, or it will drift from side to side.
The front end shakes – sometimes you notice a vibration as you’re driving. If you notice your front end shaking, it may be a whole host of problems, including an issue with wheel alignment. Getting your car checked as soon as possible is your best bet.
Your steering wheel is crooked – when you’re driving on a straight stretch of road, your steering wheel should point forward and be pointing straight ahead. If it’s crooked while you’re moving straight, it’s a dead giveaway that you have a problem with wheel alignment.
This is a safety issue
When your vehicle isn’t working as it should, it’s a safety issue. That means you’re putting you, your passengers, and others around you at risk.
If you noticed any of the above when you last took your car out for a drive, don’t delay. Even one small pothole can cause enough damage to impact the safety of your car.
Schedule your appointment today, and we’ll find the root of the problem, and get you back on the road in no time.