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How To Know When Shocks and Struts Start To Go Bad?

No one likes to drive on a bumpy road, it’s just plain uncomfortable. Now, try to imagine driving every day on a bumpy road. Ouch. Thankfully, the rough feeling is greatly diminished, and any jarring is minimal, with the implementation of struts and shocks in cars. There’s a common misconception on just how shocks and struts work. Many people believe that they absorb the energy created from traveling over bumps; this is a fair assumption because, well, they’ve been called shock absorbers, however, that is inaccurate. Shocks actually dampen the energy. After the spring is activated, from traveling over a bump, pothole, etc., it bounces past its affixed position and continues to oscillate until the energy is completely dissipated. However, after driving day after day, mile after mile over potholes, speed bumps, and other road imperfections, your struts and shocks can begin to wear.  Below are the most common symptoms of when it’s time to replace shocks and struts:


  • Bumpy Roads Ahead


The primary task of shocks and struts is to reduce movement of the suspension system for a more comfortable ride. Coil springs are made to suppress energy created when traveling over bumps, potholes, and other poor road conditions. Shocks and struts control the movement of springs to prevent wheels from excessive up and down movement. While your car is engineered to tolerate some movement, an increase in bumpiness or shaking while driving is an indication struts and shocks are worn-out. When struts or shocks are damaged or worn-out, the tires lose contact with the road and produce a bumpy and unpleasant car ride.


  • Tough Steering


You might be surprised to know that what causes poor steering may have nothing to do with the power steering system. Your steering system is a part of the suspension system, just as your struts and shocks. When worn, the steering wheel may become stiff making turning a difficult task. In addition to difficulty steering, turning the wheel may also produce unusual noises. Pay close attention to your vehicle during lane changes and turns. Do you notice the vehicle swaying or leaning? When the vehicle’s suspension system is unable to keep the vehicle stable using centrifugal force while turning, your vehicle produces a drifting feeling.  


  • Down In Front


Shocks and struts aid instability while the vehicle is accelerating and braking. Damaged struts can make your vehicle feel unstable as well as cause your vehicle’s front end to dip down or cause the rear to squat down while braking. A lurch forward while braking is a clear sign that your vehicle should be inspected by a technician. These issues occur as these components are struggling to support the weight of the vehicle.


  • Tread Lightly


Unusual tire wear often relates to an issue with the suspension of the vehicle, while it could be that the vehicle’s alignment is off, it could also be caused by failing struts or shocks. Poor suspension can cause tires to wear much faster than usual as they begin cupping on the tread. Tires with uneven tread can be extremely dangerous and may even require replacement, sooner than expected.


  • Mile Marker 


Manufacturers of struts and shocks will recommend replacement around 50,000 miles. Consider how much you’ve driven in 50,000 miles’ time. How many uneven roads, potholes, and speed bumps have you driven over? Too many to count. At 50,000 miles, your shocks have likely oscillated 88 million times! At the very least, once you reach this milestone, it’s important to have the suspension system inspected to ensure everything is operating smoothly. 


  • Spring a Leak


Inside the shocks is a piston inside a tube, filled with oil to assist with the dampening process. Over time the oil breaks down from use or the seals may rupture, causing the oil to leak. Oil found on the shocks is a good indication that replacement is necessary. 

Contrary to popular belief, struts and shocks not only make your ride smoother, they also make the vehicle corner like new again. This helps improve stopping distance, increase control, and gives the driver increased confidence in emergencies.

Don’t wait for problems to be the sign you need to replace your struts or shocks. Shocks and struts help prevent long-term damage to the car. Because everything on the vehicle is connected in some way, a problem with the suspension can grow and lead to problems elsewhere. The dampening abilities of the struts or shocks decline enough to affect ride handling; however, you may not notice as the deterioration occurs gradually. Plan to have the suspension inspected on your vehicle every 50,000 miles. 

You deserve a comfortable ride. By replacing your shocks or struts as needed, it will greatly improve your ride and you’ll immediately feel the difference, like driving a new car again!