It doesn't cost a lot to buy yourself a new shock absorber. If you head to AutoZone you will see that new shocks can be in the neighbourhood of $30 to $100 each. But you do need to take into consideration that these things work in pairs. You wouldn't replace one shock and leave the one on the other side of your car unreplaced because they wouldn't be properly balanced any longer. So, when replacing either front or back shocks you're going to do them two at a time. A mechanic is likely going to charge you between $250 and $600 to have your shocks replaced.
If you've been researching this repair you've probably seen shocks and struts mentioned in conjunction all the time. Even AutoZone sells shocks and struts under the same category. When it comes to your vehicle suspension you have one or the other but not both at the same end of your car. Sometimes people get confused and think that shocks and struts are simply two parts of the vehicle that work together and that maybe they need to be replaced together, but that is not the case. They both do the same job, but struts have a more complicated relationship as they are the main suspension of your vehicle and function slightly differently. Many vehicles will often have struts in the front and shocks in the rear.
If anyone tries to convince you that you need struts and shocks at the same time, they are probably pulling a fast one on you. It's almost always one or the other but rarely both. It's possible for your shocks and struts to fail at the same time but highly unlikely unless you've been in a serious accident.
As you can see, the cost of just the part is significantly lower than the cost of the labor and installation that a mechanic is going to charge you. That's standard in any kind of car repair, however. The expertise and know-how are what you're paying for much more than the individual part itself.
As with any repair, it's in your best interest to go with a mechanic that you know and trust to get the job done reliably and affordably for you. If you don't currently have a mechanic that you consider yours, like if you’re a new car owner or you're in a new town for instance, then the internet can often be your best friend.
Always check reviews when researching mechanics to see what other people have to say about their experiences. One or two bad reviews can always be taken with a grain of salt, but if a mechanic has a few hundred reviews it's never a bad idea to trust how everything averaged out.
It's always a good idea to do some comparison shopping before agreeing to anything. Get estimates from a couple of mechanics so you have a good idea of the range of costs in your area. While we've given you a bit of a national average for the cost of this repair, you can obviously vary greatly from state to state and from mechanic to mechanic. And of course, the make, model, and year of your vehicle will also factor into the cost for both the parts and the repair.
What Do Shocks Do on a Car?
Shock absorbers do what their name suggests they do. They absorb shocks that have been experienced by the car. When functioning properly there are a number of benefits to having shocks in your car as they are a key part to your vehicle suspension.
- Properly functioning shocks assist you in taking sharp turns that prevent the car from rolling.
- Your car is better able to handle the road when your suspension is working properly. Everything from speed bumps to potholes to an uneven gradient are easier to manage thanks to your suspension.
- Braking is also easier and smoother when you have a properly functioning suspension in your vehicle.
- The ride in your car is more comfortable when you have adequate shocks and suspension. It prevents bumps and vibration that can become annoying and uncomfortable.
Though they may not look complicated, shock absorbers use some interesting science to get their job done. They are able to convert kinetic energy, which is the bouncing and vibration that your wheels experience as they go along a road and convert it into heat energy. As the shocks move up and down with the uneven motion of your vehicle that motion creates friction which is dissipated by the hydraulic fluid or other liquid that is inside of your shock absorbers.
Symptoms of Bad Shocks
If your shocks are starting to go bad in your car there are a number of signs that you could be on the lookout for that something is wrong. Because the shocks are part of here vehicles suspension and affects the performers and feel of your ride as you're driving, there are a number of other problems that could have similar symptoms. As with any issues that pop-up with your car there's no guarantee that if you experienced these it is your shots causing it, but it's a good place to look to start with just in case.
- A Bumpy Ride: In the simplest terms your shock absorbers absorber shocks. That's a given. When they're not working properly, then they're not able to absorb those bumps in the road. You'll notice if your shocks have failed because even roads that seem to smooth before will cause excessive vibration and movement that you aren't used to. When you come to a significant bump or pothole in the road, when your shocks are no longer working it could almost feel like you're about to lose control of the vehicle.
- Braking Problems: If you have an issue with your shocks, when you hit the brakes in your vehicle you may experience a lurching sensation or some wobbling like your car is not stable any longer. It will also take longer to come to a complete stop.
- Problem with Steering: When your shots are no longer working your steering may become stiff when you're driving. When you turn, it can start to feel like the car is almost drunk and listing heavily to one side or the other as you do so.
- Leaks: Your shock absorbers will be full of hydraulic fluid or other liquids that can leak out if there has been damage to the shock. This will be different from other leaks as it won't be centralized under the engine of your car like you would experience with an oil leak. Used to be located at the corners by the wheels.
- Tread Wear: When your shocks are failed, it misaligns your suspension and you can end up putting extra stress on one side of your vehicle. This will wear down the tire at an odd angle so you will see part of your tire’s tread will be worn down more than the rest. Because the tires are not on the road and bounce more, losing contact, the part that stays on the road is going to wear down much more than the rest of the wheel.
- Time: No part of your car is really meant to last forever. With enough wear and tear everything can fail, and obviously the whole purpose of a shock is to experience wear and tear. After A certain amount of time, typically anywhere from 50,000 miles to 100,000 miles, your shocks are going to start giving out on you and will need to be looked at by a mechanic.
Can I Replace My Own Shocks?
Replacing your own shocks is not an impossible task. In fact, as DIY repairs go we would consider this one of intermediate difficulty. If you've done a few simple car repairs already, then you may be comfortable enough to try to pull this job off.
You do need to be aware of a few things ahead of time before you try to take this task on. The first is knowing exactly what you're replacing. You need to make sure it is the shocks and not the struts that need to be replaced, and then what kind of shocks are going to work best on your vehicle. Not only do you need to find the right kind of shocks for your make and model, there will be a number of different options available that could still fit so check with your manual to find out what will work best for you.
You need to be sure how to replace the shocks before you do this job. That sounds silly and obvious, but you may require something called a spring compressor to get the job done. In some vehicles, but not all, you're going to need to use a spring compressor to remove the shocks. This is a very specialized tool that you probably don't already own, and certainly wouldn't want to buy because it's just for this job. You can rent them from mechanics, but you have to know how to use one.
If you don't remove and replace the springs correctly, they can bounce off later on and cause serious damage. When it comes to do-it-yourself shock replacement, this is the one task that is most likely to make you want to take your car to a mechanic to get it done for you.
If you have never replaced shocks on a car before we highly recommend looking up both a how to guide on the internet as well as some videos. YouTube has a lot of really great videos that can walk you through step-by-step the entire process of replacing your shocks. Many of these are done by professional mechanics who not only have years of experience doing this themselves, but they've developed a great following on YouTube because of the easy and clear way they both show and explain the process.
Even though there are lots of written guides online, and those can be good to refer back to, there's no substitute for seeing someone else do the job that you're trying to do so you can tell exactly what goes where and how. A picture is worth a thousand words as they say. If this is your first time replacing the shocks on your car, we definitely recommend this approach.
The Bottom Line
Your car suspension is something that you need to take seriously. It's important not just for the comfort of your ride but your safety. Not every system in your vehicle that has that twofold importance, which makes it all the more important to want to get this done.
When it's just a minor issue the inconvenience caused by an uncomfortable ride is something that no one wants to experience. When it becomes a serious problem then you're putting yourself and others at risk and that's absolutely not something you want to be doing. With millions of cars on the road every year, you don't want to be the one that other people are referring to when they talk about bad drivers. You need to keep yourself safe, and you need to keep others safe on the road. That's the responsibility you take on every time you get behind the wheel of your car.
Overall, the cost of replacing shocks is fairly cheap compared to the cost of what you'll have to take care of in repairs if something goes wrong with your vehicle suspension and you end up getting in an accident. The wear and tear on your vehicle, and the issues with steering and braking that could result from not getting your shocks repaired in time can all add up to a much higher repair bill than the few hundred dollars is going to take you to get this issue taken care of now when you notice one of the symptoms that we've listed for bad shock absorbers.
Bottom line is that this is a relatively quick and easy repair that is much cheaper than the damage that can be caused by not getting it done. Either take your car into a professional mechanic to get your shocks repaired, or if you have the confidence you can even get it done on your own and save yourself a few hundred dollars. Whatever the case, don't sit on this repair, get it done as soon as you can.