Have an older car? Want to keep it in the best shape possible?
It’s time to purchase new shocks and struts if your original shocks and struts are worn out, damaged or leaking. Leaking is easy enough to see – just look for oil or wetness on the outside of the shock or strut. Damage is also fairly easy to see – look for a broken mount, badly dented housing, etc. But wear is often more of a subjective thing to judge. There are also instances where the original equipment shocks may not be worn, damaged or leaking, but may not be adequate for the job they’re being asked to do. In such cases, upgrading the suspension with stronger, stiffer or some type of special shock and strut may be recommended to improve handling (for trailer towing, hauling overloads or other special uses).
Shocks and struts do not require replacing at specific mileage intervals like filters or spark plugs, but they do wear out and eventually have to be replaced. How long a set of original equipment shocks and struts will last depends on many factors. Some original equipment shocks may be getting weak after only 30,000 or 40,000 miles. Struts usually last upwards of 50,000 or 60,000 miles.
Because the damping characteristics of shocks and struts deteriorate gradually over time, the decline in ride control often passes unnoticed. If you begin to notice the need for shocks and struts, it’s usually way past the point when they should have been replaced.
One way to evaluate your need for new shocks or struts is to consider how your vehicle has been handling and riding. Does it bounce excessively when driving on rough roads or after hitting a bump? Does the nose dip when braking? Does the body roll or sway excessively when cornering or driving in crosswinds? Does the suspension bottom out when backing out of the driveway or when hauling extra passengers or weight?
A “bounce test” is still a valid means of checking the dampening ability of shocks and struts. If the suspension continues to gyrate more than one or two times after rocking and releasing the bumper or body, your shocks or struts are showing their age and need to be replaced.