Shocks & Struts
How do I know if my vehicle really needs new shock absorbers?
You need new shocks (and/or struts) if your original shocks (or struts) are worn out, damaged or leaking. Leaking is easy enough to see (just look for oil or wetness on the outside of the shock or strut) as is damage (broken mount, badly dented housing, etc.). But wear is often more of a subjective thing to judge. There are also instances where the original equipment shocks may not be worn, damaged or leaking, but may not be adequate for the job they're being asked to do. In such cases, upgrading the suspension
with stronger, stiffer or some type of special shock (or strut) may be recommended to improve handling, for trailer towing, hauling overloads or other special uses.
Shocks and struts do not require replacing at specific mileage intervals like filters or spark plugs, but they do wear out and eventually have to be replaced. How long a set of original equipment shocks will last is anybody's guess. Some original equipment shocks may be getting weak after only 30,000 or 40,000 miles. Struts usually last upwards of 50,000 or 60,000 miles.
But when exactly a shock or strut needs to be replaced is hard to say. Because the damping characteristics of shocks and struts deteriorate gradually over time, the decline in ride control often passes unnoticed. So by the time you think you need new shocks or struts, it's usually way past the point when they should have been replaced.
One way to evaluate your need for new shocks or struts is to consider how your vehicle has been handling and riding lately. Does it bounce excessively when driving on rough roads or after hitting a bump?
Does the nose dip when braking? Does the body roll or sway excessively when cornering or driving in crosswinds? Does the suspension bottom out when backing out of the driveway or when hauling extra passengers or weight?
A "bounce test" is still a valid means of checking the dampening ability of shocks and struts. If the suspension continues to gyrate more than one or two times after rocking and releasing the bumper or body, your shocks or struts are showing their age and need to be replaced.
Why Replace Them?
Weak shocks and struts won't necessarily create a driving hazards if you continue to drive on them, but there are studies that show worn shocks increase the distance it takes to stop a vehicle on a rough surface. Increased body sway due to weak shocks or struts can also increase the risk of skidding on wet or slick surfaces.
Worn shocks and struts also increase suspension wear (though marginally) but can have an effect on tire wear.
The reason why most people decide to have worn shocks or struts replaced, however, is to improve overall ride quality. If you're sick of bouncing and rocking on rough roads, a new set of shocks or struts will firm up your suspension and restore proper ride control.
If you're interested in performance handling, you can upgrade to premium "gas" charged shocks or struts. These are charged with high pressure nitrogen gas to help minimize foaming in the hydraulic fluid inside the shock. This lessens "fade" on rough roads and helps the vehicle maintain better ride control when cornering.
There are also "heavy-duty" replacement shocks and struts that have larger diameter pistons than stock. These too, provide increases resistance for greater control -- but may be a little too harsh for everyday driving. So some shocks have special valving or adjustable valving that allows the amount of resistance to vary.
Another option to consider if you tow a trailer or haul extra cargo are overload or air-assist shocks. Overload shocks have a coil spring around them to increase the load carrying capacity of the suspension (these also tend to ride stiffer than standard replacement shocks). Air-assist shocks have an adjustable air bladder that acts like a spring to carry extra weight. With this type of shock, air can be added on an "as needed" basis when hauling extra weight.
Shocks and struts are generally replaced in pairs -- though this isn't absolutely necessary if only one shock or strut is leaking or has suffered damage at a low mileage.
Most struts require a fair amount of suspension disassembly as What's more, the wheels must usually be realigned after replacing a strut. For this reason, you're probably better off letting a professional replace your struts.
Should I Replace My Shocks & Struts?
When Bakersfield, CA drivers think about preventive maintenance, what usually comes to mind is oil, fluids and brakes. We don't generally think about our shocks or struts, but these auto parts keep our tires on the road.
Bakersfield drivers don't think about shocks as often as oil changes because shocks and struts last a long time and wear out slowly. They don't need to be checked as often as our brake pads or air filters. By the time your shocks have fifty thousand miles on them, their performance will have noticeable degraded. If you want to restore the handling and ride designed for your vehicle, replacing your shocks and struts.
Of course, if you drive off-road around Bakersfield, carry heavy loads, tow a trailer, or put in a lot of mileage on poor driving surfaces, your shocks or struts will wear out more quickly. You'll need to replace them more often or upgrade to better shocks.
Your suspension system uses springs and shocks to absorb the “shocks” and vibrations of driving over road surfaces. Springs support the vehicle's weight, suspending it above the axles so the body of the vehicle is protected from most of the bumps on the road. Shocks control the bounciness of the springs by moderating rebound. They also push your tires down onto the road's surface, maximizing traction. Without shocks, your wheels would bounce over bumps and lift against curbs and corners. Shocks are important to the safe handling of your vehicle as well as a comfortable ride. Struts are a combination shock and spring in one unit.
Worn shocks result in lowered vehicle handling performance. If your vehicle “squirms” around corners or gets “floaty” over bumps, then you need to check your shocks. If the rear end of your vehicle squats while accelerating, the front end dips while braking, or one corner sags, you probably need new shocks.
If you're unsure whether you need new shocks, or if you're considering upgrading to a higher quality shock, then consult with your friendly and knowledgeable Circle M Auto & Truck Repair service advisor. They can give you auto advice on the condition of your shocks and how to match your driving needs to the quality of your shocks.
At Circle M Auto & Truck Repair we know good car care is essential to the safety, performance and efficiency of your vehicle. It can improve the comfort of your ride as well.