Every car, truck, SUV, or crossover has a suspension system. It’s the parts of a car that hold your vehicle off the ground, protects passengers and cargo, and gives the vehicle its ability to make turns as you drive around.
The suspension system contains parts you are very aware of – your tires and wheels. It also contains things you probably don’t pay much attention to – springs, shocks and struts.
Every part on your car starts wearing out the moment you drive it off the showroom floor. And as this wear happens, your car won’t perform the way it once did. You might notice it doesn’t turn as sharp as it once did. You might feel as if your vehicle is a little more squirmy on rainy roads.
That’s your car warning you that something is wrong. And if you don’t act quickly, a bigger problem is about to materialize.
What is a car strut?
Your car’s suspension system wouldn’t exist without struts. Stuts are the part that hold your vehicle off the ground. Without them, it would fall to the pavement.
Sturts lock together many different parts of the suspension system. They connect to the coil spring and shock absorber. They connect to the steering mechanism. They provide support to help shock absorbers support the weight of the vehicle and give it the smooth ride you expect.
You’ll often find the terms “shocks and struts” used interchangeably. But there are subtle differences. The only job a shock has is to stabilize the car. It keeps it from bouncing around. The car would still be able to drive if the shocks went out.
Is it safe to drive a car with bad struts?
When your struts wear down, they do more than give you an uncomfortable ride. They also present safety risks that can increase your chances of an accident. Worn struts can increase the amount of time it takes to stop your vehicle, especially in adverse weather conditions. If the streets are wet from snow or rain, you’ll need more distance for stopping with a worn out strut.
Struts also help stabilize the car. Every time you make a turn, your car’s struts are there to provide stability for the action. While that might not seem that important when you’re making a right hand turn into your neighborhood, increase the speed, and try a hairpin turn at highway speeds. That puts you, your riders, and the other vehicles around you at increased risk.
Of course, struts aren’t something that wear out quickly. You don’t have to replace them on a regular schedule like you do an oil change or new wiper blades. It depends on several things, including the model and make of your car, plus the amount of wear and tear you put on your car every day. Someone who drives up and down the mountain for work and play every day is going to be different from someone who drives two minutes to work and back.
Under normal conditions, you might be able to get 75,000 to 100,000 miles before you notice a change. With heavier use, you might start noticing problems at 50,000. Like most parts on your vehicle, the answer to “when I should replace it” is “it depends.”
What are the symptoms of bad struts?
Struts won’t wear out overnight. Instead, it’s a gradual process over time. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to how your car drives, especially as it ages.
Every time you hit a bump in the road, or hit a pothole that makes you cringe from the jarring effect, your struts wear down a little at a time. And eventually, they start talking back.
Here are a few warning signs that your struts need replacing.
The nose of the car dips when braking. Have you ever punched on the brakes when someone cuts you off, only to feel the nose of the car dips down more than it should? That’s a problem with the struts.
Highway speeds are a little more intimidating. Do you feel that shimmy when you reach certain speeds? Have you pressed your car from 60 to 70, only to bring it back down because of the shake? That’s your struts talking. They aren’t providing the same stability they once did.
The tires wear unevenly. When the struts are going out, they’ll apply different amounts of pressure to the tires. You’ll see the tread wearing away in unique ways, giving each tire an uneven wear pattern.
The tires bounce with every dip in the road. Every time you hit a bump, it will feel as if the car is bouncing to recover. You might also hear a clunking noise along with it.
You’ll notice a pull when you take turns, especially at higher speeds. The car will feel wobbly going into the turn and recovering back to driving straight.
You may also notice fluid leaks. When this happens, it’s a sign that the seal has broken and the fluids that make your suspension system work is escaping. The more the system operates without proper fluid levels, the more damage may be done to your suspension system.
How do I buy new struts?
If you’re not sure if your struts need replacing, the best place to start is by taking your car in for servicing. Our goal is to ensure your car is safe to drive. We’ll give you all of your options and help you make the right decision for your vehicle.
Like everything in life, you get what you pay for. Adding new struts to your vehicle isn’t a DIY project.
Ensure you purchase quality, brand name struts. You have choices, depending on how you drive. Some will be a little stiffer for better performance, something that may be important if you like feeling the curves of the road. Others are better for comfort, and will ensure you enjoy the ride.
It’s also important to discuss other parts of the suspension system while making a decision about your struts. The struts are just one piece of the suspension system. If your struts are worn out, there’s a good chance other parts are as well, like the bearing mounts or the shock boots.
Whatever you do, don’t neglect your struts. Stop by as soon as you have questions about their safety. It can help give you a better ride, and get you back on the road, enjoying the experience once again.