Is It Time to Replace Your Shocks or Struts? Here’s How to Tell
Rent a car owners know how hard it can be to tell when it’s time to replace their shocks or struts. Symptoms don’t always appear suddenly, and there is no set time or mileage when replacement parts become due. Fortunately, there are ways to tell when it may be time to have your shocks and struts checked at Les Schwab.
What Do Shocks and Struts Do?
Shocks and struts are key components of any car or truck’s suspension system. They work together to provide help with steering, braking, and maintaining stability as you accelerate, stop, and turn. They also help maintain your tires’ contact with the road, prevent excessive up-and-down movement, and absorb jolts from irregular road surfaces. Plus, with proper control from shocks and struts, your tires will wear more evenly and last longer.
Note that shocks and struts do not typically support your vehicle’s weight or any load your truck or car may be carrying. That’s the job of the springs. However, worn shocks and struts can put more strain on the springs and other suspension parts. Without the control that a full shock or strut provides, those other components will become overworked, resulting in premature tire and suspension wear.
Signs Your Shocks or Struts Are Worn
Good shocks and struts contribute to your safety on the road and help reduce damage to other parts of your vehicle. Look out for these signs that suggest it may be time to have your shocks and struts checked and replaced:
- Unusual tire wear, including cupping. If you spot cupping (as seen in the image below) or other unusual tire wear, you may be dealing with worn shocks or struts, which can throw off your alignment. This can be especially hard to notice if a rotation has been done but abnormal tire wear still occurs. Cupping is patchy tire wear that looks like hollow areas on the tread.
- Rubber shock covers that are cracking, peeling, or off-center. These covers can be seen at the top and bottom of the shock.
- Leaking fluid. If you see clear or light brown fluid along the outside of the shock or strut, it could indicate a broken seal.
- Ride issues. If your car thumps when braking, squeaks when going over speed bumps, the rear-end squats when accelerating, or the vehicle bounces more than usual after going over a bump, it could be a sign of bad shocks or struts.
- Braking issues. You may notice that your vehicle takes longer to stop than normal.
- Swaying. This can be particularly noticeable after taking a turn, changing lanes, or in strong crosswinds.
- Unusual noises. As shocks and struts wear, they can fail to do their job. This can cause many different sounds, including knocking and banging.
See our Shock and Strut Service Repair FAQ.
What Will Happen If I Drive With Worn or Damaged Shocks and Struts?
It’s important to maintain contact with the road, particularly when going over bumps or keeping up with highway traffic. Your vehicle’s suspension system, including shocks and/or struts, is great at that job when all parts are working properly.
Over time, those parts will wear out. You may not even notice as it gradually degrades. When they’re not working properly, it can impair your control and safety. It can also cause additional wear to other parts of your vehicle, including your tires.
Replacing worn parts before they get bad can help keep your vehicle’s electronics and suspension working properly, extend your vehicle’s life — and keep you safe on the road.
Shocks and Struts Aren’t Just About a Smooth Ride
Today’s vehicles have highly engineered electronic safety systems (vehicle stability system, ABS, traction control, collision prevention assist, and automatic braking). These all work together to keep your tires in proper contact with the road and provide the most stability.
When you make an unexpected sharp stop or turn, your vehicle’s crash avoidance system sends immediate electronic signals to the brakes and other critical components. If ride control components like shocks and struts are worn, they may not respond properly. Additionally, stopping distances may increase and brakes and tires could wear more quickly. Plus, there could be added strain on the springs.
How Long Do They Last (When Should I Replace Them)?
That all depends on the amount of wear and tear the shocks and struts get, the type of roads you drive, if you carry heavy loads, and how aggressive you are behind the wheel. That’s why periodic inspections are so important.
Get yours checked annually (or every 12,000 miles) with every oil change, tire rotation, if you feel any ride-control issues, or anytime you get new tires.
Les Schwab Can Help
We’re your suspension inspection experts. Our service professionals know what to look for and how to get your car or truck back to its original control and handling. Stop by or schedule an appointment today.
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