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Everything You Need to Know About Shocks and Struts

If you feel more like you are in a bobsled than an automobile as you are driving down the street, or if you feel like you are sitting in a broken massage chair, there may be something wrong with your shocks and struts.


Driving with shocks or struts that are worn down is actually dangerous. If you are driving on wet or slippery roads, bad struts and shocks can affect your stopping distance.“

It is hard to know exactly when to replace shocks and struts because they become worn down over time. You may not notice the bumpy ride if you are eased into it day by day.” The suspension of your car wears away little by little as you drive it over many miles. It may be years before you give your shocks or struts a second thought let alone replace them. It is helpful to know how they function and the sign that they need to be replaced.

What Shocks and Struts do in a Car

Shocks and struts stabilize a car’s movements. This intensifies the control a driver has when they turn or brake. It also helps when you accelerate or travel over bumpy roads. Your car may have shocks, struts, or both. 

When they are in the proper condition they can help your vehicle handle things like debris, shortstops, potholes, high winds, and sharp turns. They regulate the side-to-side, front-to-back, and up-and-down shifts that a car makes as well. 

Shocks or struts go through millions of cycles while you are driving. They work with many different components of the car such as brakes, steering, suspension, and tires. They make your car safer when they do their job. They make your ride much more comfortable and they help your tires last longer.

When shocks or struts are worn out, they make more work for the springs and the rest of the suspension system. 

 

Cars nowadays have sophisticated safety systems.  Everything works together to keep tires in proper contact with the road. This helps to maintain the vehicle’s stability.

If your car makes a  hard stop or swerve, the automobile’s crash avoidance systems transmits a signal to the brakes. When ride control components such as shocks and struts wear down, they may not read those signals properly.

When the crash prevention system fails, you have less control behind the wheel. It will take you longer to stop and brakes and tires wear down faster. 

What is the difference between shocks and struts?

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.

A shock absorber simply stops a car from bouncing up and down. Whereas a strut is a bit more of an elaborate affair. A strut has a shock as well as other features in one unit. 

Higher quality cars tend to have struts. Struts are an intrinsic part of the suspension system. You will find them mounted to the chassis of your car. A strut will have a place to mount a coil spring. That spring is what keeps the vehicle stable at a certain height.  Basically, shocks and struts make sure that your car stays in contact with the ground.

 

When Should I Replace my Shocks and Struts?

How long struts and shocks last may depend on the kind of terrain to which your car is exposed. 

If you drive on unpaved roads, your shock and struts will wear down considerably faster than if you drive on smooth roads. If you drive with weighty loads, it will be very hard on the chassis of the car. 

There is not a set amount of miles where your car struts and shocks will need to be replaced. The owner’s manual will rarely have a recommendation for when you should replace them.

If you load down your car or ride on rugged terrain you may have to replace them at around 40,000 miles. If you drive your car on smooth roads and you do not carry heavy loads, you will not have to replace them for about 75,000 to 90,000 miles.

It would cost an awful lot of money to have a mechanic take apart the car to find out if the shocks are shot. Instead, bad shocks and struts are determined by observation.

Symptoms of Worn Out Struts

There are many different factors that can determine how long you will be able to use shocks or struts. There are a few things that are indicative of bad struts and shocks.

Wobbling When You are Driving Down the Highway

If your vehicle feels unstable when you drive over 45 miles an hour, it is a good indicator that there is a problem. If you feel like you are moving up and down, you may have bad struts. 

Hard Breaking Almost Gives You Whiplash

You may notice that the front end of the car dips more than it normally would when you slam on the brakes. The front end will always dip a bit in this situation, but you may notice that it is suddenly rather extreme. 

 

If the steering wheel feels loose when you turn it, or if it simply handles poorly, your struts may well have gone bad.

Instability While Turning

If you feel like your vehicle is tipping when you make a sharp turn, the shocks may need to be replaced. You may also notice the same sensation when you are driving on the off-ramp.

The Tires Wear Down in an Uneven Manner

All tires wear down over time, however as they are round and press against the road when they rotate, they normally wear out evenly. If tires do not hold down to the road when they drive they will wear down unevenly. 

 

The Rear End Squats

If your car squats like a runner before a race every time you accelerate, it may be because your shocks or struts have gone bad. You will notice the front end of the car dipping down when this happens.

 

There is Fluid Leaking from the Car

Fluid leaks can be caused by many things. When it leaks on the surface of the shocks or struts. When this happens, the seals of the shocks may have broken and the fluids that are necessary for them to work correctly are coming out.

 

Every Bump is the Gift that Keeps on Giving

Bad shocks can cause your tires to bounce after you go over a bump. you may also hear a kerthunk after you roll over a small bump. 

 

Your Car Moves With the Wind

If the struts are bad, a strong wind may make the vehicle sway back and forth. 

 

Your Car Actually Hits the Ground

Your vehicle’s body will hit the ground as you go up a parking garage ramp or when you are backing out of a driveway.

What to Look for in New Struts

You should never skimp on quality when you buy shocks and struts. “Some struts will offer a more comfortable ride and there are others that may feel rather stiff, but will perform better when you go around a corner.

When your struts ware out you may be looking at more money than you originally thought. Bad struts will cause other parts of the car to wear down. You may have to replace bearing mounts, shock boots and rubber bump stops.

How much do new shocks or struts cost?

The average total cost to replace a pair of shocks will run about $250 to $580. New struts will cost between $725 and $750. You will have a couple of options as to where to get the work done on your car.

Go to an Auto Body Shop

Most people prefer to have their cars repaired in an autobody shop. They cost less than dealership mechanics and you can talk to the mechanic directly. You can find a good mechanic in your area on the AAA website. Be sure to ask the mechanic for references and check their online reviews to make sure they are legit.

 

Have the Dealership Work on Your Car

Dealerships may charge you a lot, but they will be well versed in working on your type of car. The mechanic will be certified in your model of car and they will have any necessary parts on hand. Finding the proper shocks and struts for your car can be difficult if the vehicle is older or if it is a rare make and model. 

 

The dealership will charge you by the job instead of the hour. You will not be surprised by the bill.

 

Go to an Independent Mechanic

You can always find an independent mechanic working out of their garage. They are likely to charge you much less than a dealership or auto body shop. This is probably going to be your most economical option. Just remember to get plenty of references and a guarantee in writing if you go this route.

Trade-In

If you are buying a car from a dealership, they will offer you a trade-in amount. Most of the time, they will offer you an allowance that is far less than what you should get. They may think you will take less to avoid the time it will take to sell your car independently.

Car dealerships may also offer you what seems like a fair trade-in price on your car, making you think that you are getting a good deal.  However, unethical salespeople will often tag the entire amount of the trade-in allowance into the final cost of the vehicle. Be sure to read your final offer line by line.

 

When you go into a dealership do not tell them about your trade-in. Let them give you a final price and then let them know about your old car.

Selling Your Car Online

The internet offers many websites where you can list a used car. You can sell your vehicle or  part it out. These sites will charge you a monthly fee. You will compete with many other sellers if you list your car this way.

 

If you sell your car on the internet, you may have to meet with many potential buyers before you get rid of it. You may end up having the vehicle in your driveway for a long time and it will ultimately have to be towed away.

 

 

Selling your car online can actually be very dangerous. Remember that you will have people that you do not know coming over to your home. There have been more than a few crimes associated with online bulletin boards.

 

You can advertise on store bulletin boards and in shoppers. However, the chance of a serious potential buyer seeing the ad is very slim.

 

Sell Your Car to Us

 

Cash Cars Buyers is the best option for selling an old car. All you have to do is fill out a form. The form will ask you for your contact information. We will need the make, model, and year of your car as well as the VIN number and mileage.

 

When we get your information, we will call you and make you an offer. We can pay $500 for used autos. If you take our offer, we will arrange for a time to come and get your car. We can often buy your car without the title.

 

Our team member will arrive at the appointed time to pick up your car. They will perform a quick inspection of your vehicle, give you cash, and tow it away. It is as simple as that.