How are your roads this time of year? Winter can do a number on the roads, and spring seems to be prime time for potholes. You might be noticing that the roads are a lot rougher, and your car’s ride might be losing its smoothness too. Potholes are hard on your shocks and struts, after all. This might just be the ideal time to get some new shocks or struts, but how do you know if you need them? Our mechanic Andrew can show you what to look for and how to check. Read on for more info about shocks and struts.
What Do Shocks and Struts Do?
Shocks and struts help keep your car or truck’s ride smooth. Springs support the weight of the vehicle and let the wheels move up and down over the road. That helps soak up all the bumps in the road. You know what happens to a spring when you release the pressure, though: it bounces back. Without some kind of damper to, well, absorb the shock, your car would just keep bouncing long after each bump (like you see at 1:09 in the video). Shock absorbers are filled with gas and hydraulic fluid that help dampen the bounce from the springs.
Struts do the same thing as shocks, but are also integral to the suspension. They connect the wheel to frame and without them the car would collapse. In theory, you could drive without shocks although you wouldn’t want to. Different models may have shocks only, struts only, or shocks in the rear and struts in the front.
What Damages Shocks and Struts?
As I mentioned above, potholes and rough roads are hard on shocks. They can also get corroded, especially if you live in an area that uses a lot of road salt. That’s just one more reason to check your shocks in the spring.
Shocks and struts just wear out with use as well. They usually last between 60,000 and 100,000 miles, but that can depend on the roads you drive and your driving style. Rough roads and hard driving may wear your shocks or struts faster.
What Are Some Symptoms of Bad Shocks and Struts?
The video shows an extreme case of what driving with bad shocks can look like. Without a strong damper, your springs will make your car keep bouncing up and down after hitting a bump. When shocks are just starting to go, then you’ll simply experience a rougher ride overall.
Brake dive or nose dive is another sure sign of bad shocks or struts. Brake dive is when the nose of your vehicle dips down significantly when you hit the brakes. When you hit the brakes, weight shifts to the front of your vehicle due to inertia, but your shocks should be able to balance out that effect and keep brake dive from occurring. The video shows you what brake dive looks like at 0:25.
How Can I Test My Shocks or Struts?
One common test for shocks and struts is called the jounce test or the bounce test. Simply push down on the corner of your car where you think you have a bad shock or strut. The vehicle should bounce back once and then hold steady. If it keeps bouncing, then you need to replace that shock. You can see the jounce test at 0:30 in the video.
You can also visually inspect your shocks or struts. Worn struts will leak fluid, look for oily or sludgy build-up on your shocks. Small drops of fluid are typical and nothing to worry about, but if the oil is really building up, then you should replace your shocks.
Now’s the Time to Replace Your Shocks or Struts!
Spring is a great time to replace your shocks or struts. This is the time of year they’re most likely to be in need, and the weather will finally be nice enough to finally get out in the driveway or garage. On top of all that, there are two great shock and strut rebates going on at 1A through April. You can save up to $100 on shock and strut kits from KYB or Monroe shock and strut kits until the end of the month. This is a great deal, because you should replace your shocks in pairs anyway. If one goes, its partner will likely go soon after, and replacing shocks in pairs helps keep your ride even, left to right. So, even if it seems like you only need to replace one, you may as well do the set and save some cash.