Driving with worn shocks or struts can result in more than just a bad ride—there are safety implications to consider. “Most drivers don’t realize that driving with bad shocks or struts can actually increase your stopping distances, especially on wet or slippery roads,” says Jill Trotta, Senior Director at RepairPal.
But recognizing when it’s time to replace shocks or struts isn’t always easy. “You get used to the way the car drives because the changes are gradual,” says Richard Reina, Product Training Director at CARiD. “You’re not aware of the wear and tear that’s going on with the suspension over the thousands of miles and years that you own the vehicle.” It’s like that favorite pair of shoes that feel fine until, one day, you discover the soles are worn out.
How Shocks And Struts Work
Shocks and struts help stabilize your vehicle’s movements, enhancing control when you turn, brake, accelerate or encounter uneven road surfaces. Today’s vehicles use shocks, struts or a combination of the two.
The basic difference is that a shock is an independent component, while the strut combines the shock and other features in a single structural unit. Both help to stabilize the vehicle and keep the tires in contact with the pavement. Without shocks, your vehicle would bounce down the road.
How long can you expect your shocks or struts to last? That depends. “Driving on rough or unpaved roads, towing a trailer or carrying heavy loads, can shorten their functional life,” says Reina. “With heavy use, you could be looking to replace them at 40,000 or 50,000 miles or sooner. Under normal conditions, 75,000 to 90,000 miles might be reasonable.”
The Warning Signs Of Worn Shocks And Struts
While many variables determine the life of your shocks or struts (hello, potholes), Reina says experiencing any of these seven symptoms means it’s time for replacements.
- Instability at highway speeds. Your vehicle never feels completely stable on the highway and is constantly moving up and down. The movement may be slight, but you notice it.
- Vehicle “tips” to one side in turns. When taking a sharp turn or an off-ramp, your vehicle leans or “tips” to the outside of the turn and feels wobbly.
- The front end dives more than expected during hard braking. You may not notice this until you have to jump hard on the brakes.
- Rear-end squat during acceleration. You’ll notice the front end of your vehicle rising while the rear “squats” during hard acceleration.
- Tires bouncing excessively. After hitting a bump, you can feel a tire (or tires) reacting or “bouncing” for a time. You may also hear a clunking noise.
- Unusual tire wear. Because the tire isn’t being held firmly to the road, the tread wears in a wavy manner instead of evenly.
- Leaking fluid on the exterior of shocks or struts. This is a sign that the seals have broken and the internal fluids essential to proper function are escaping.
How To Buy Replacement Shocks And Struts
“Make sure you buy quality, brand-name shocks or struts,” recommends Trotta. “And remember that you’ve got choices. Some may be a little stiffer for better cornering, while others may offer better ride comfort. Discuss your preferences with your auto professional before deciding.”
It’s also important to ask about replacing all of the worn parts connected to the struts. “Don’t be penny wise and dollar foolish,” cautions Reina. He recommends replacing other worn items associated with the struts, like bearing mounts, rubber bump stops and shock boots.
Whatever you do, don’t neglect your shocks or struts. Just like with that comfortable pair of shoes, you won’t fully appreciate the difference they make until you get fitted for new ones and hit the pavement.
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Read More: You may also be hurting your car in these surprising ways.
By Fred Stafford
I have a 2000 Gt Mustang that when I turn to the right I hear a clung sound do you know if that can be me right strut ?
I ran over a lifted pothole which impacted my driver front tire area. When I turn left now a vibrating sound happens when I reverse as well. Could this be the issue? Collison center says it’s the struts on both sides.
Carol Guiter says,
I have a Dodge 1500 2WD. When I am driving highway and go over any dips it sways in rear. I have put new tires, ball joints, steering rod ends, shocks and struts. I recently bought a travel trailer with sway bar. I can’t get over 55 because when I go over a dip the trailer whips. What should I try next?
Okwethu Auto Solutions says,
Great post and thanks for sharing this educative and informative article with us. Keep up the good job.
Sarah strangman says,
How dangerous is it to drive with a bad front shock
I’m told that there is a leak from my left front strut on my 2014 Mazda 5 sport. I hope to set this leak sealed as I cannot afford a whole new strut. What do you think?
Paul Jordan says,
Once it leaks once, it no longer can function.
Victor Leroy Broad says,
I have a squeaky sound coming from drivers side when i go over bumps and turn the wheel ..could it be a shock
Paul mccarron says,
My 2002 Chrysler Sebring rides hard what is wrong?
Sounds more like a ball bearing or joint or maybe even rubbing leaf springs
David M.Miller Jr. says,
When you here squeaky sounds does there are something wrong with your shocks?
Raymond Rayos says,
Thanks for this advise !I really do appreciate it!!!
My bmw f10 steering wheel is not going back to centre if I turn.if I turn to right a little,the car going to the right. If turn to left a little it follows to left.is that a shock problems?
Paul Jordan says,
No, steering issue.
My rear tyres are getting worn unevenly. I want to know what’s the cause and when am turning the car is making a clunky noise
Your balljoints may need replacing.
chudi igwe says,
I have replaced the back shocks of a 2008 Toyota highlander 3days sgo and all the budhing and arms but the noise persists. what could be the problem?
Jeanne Lovizio says,
My 2003 jeep liberty has a bouncy ride. Has always had some bouncing but seems worse recently
Paul Jordan says,
Raymond Rayos says,
This is what is happening with my vehicle!
Bill powers says,
Should you replace both struts at the same time or is it okay to replace one at a time day the front strutts
What causes your car to squeal while going downhill without accelerating or braking?
LeConte Lewis says,
Are they expensive shocks and struts
John Gourley says,
If you paid 1400 for just the rod ends, which would also include an alignment, you got ripped off. I would not recommend taking it to a dealership. Find a local reputable garage/mechanic and take your vehicle there . I do my own auto work but don’t have an alignment rack.
David W. Wilkins says,
Had struts put on a Honda’s civic hybrid, 8000miles later,need new ones. Warranty 1 year 12000miles. Had it done 11/17. Is there a manufacturer warrant on those? Had it done at Honda Dealership? Also had 1400$ worth of tie/Rods etc. 2005 Honda, 153,000 miles