Having issues with your car’s suspension system can dramatically affect the ride quality and handling of your vehicle. Signs that your shocks or struts need replacing include bouncing, swaying, bottoming out, nose-diving, poor handling, vibrations, and uneven tyre wear. This article will discuss when you should get your car’s shocks and struts checked and potentially replaced.
What Are Shocks and Struts?
Shocks and struts are a critical part of your car’s suspension system. They help absorb impacts from the road and keep your tyres in contact with the pavement.
- Shocks are essentially hydraulic pistons that dampen suspension movement. They smooth out the rebound of the springs and control oscillation.
- Struts perform a similar function but also provide structural support for the suspension and steering components. Many modern vehicles use struts in the front suspension.
Shocks and struts contain oil and valves that regulate the oil flow to control spring and suspension movement. This prevents excessive bouncing and swaying. As they wear out, ride quality deteriorates.
When to Get Your Shocks and Struts Inspected
Many mechanics recommend getting your shocks and struts inspected every 50,000 kilometres or 30,000 miles. However, you may need to replace them sooner if you notice any of the following issues:
Bouncing After Hitting Bumps
Excessive bouncing or repeated oscillation after driving over bumps, potholes, or dips usually indicates worn shocks/struts. They are unable to control the springs’ rebound.
Swaying Around Corners
If your vehicle leans heavily or feels loose when cornering, the shocks or struts may not be properly controlling body roll. Worn units allow too much suspension movement.
Bottoming Out Over Bumps
Bottoming out or banging over bumps means the suspension is extending too far and fully compressing. The shocks or struts cannot dampen the springs enough.
Nose-Diving Under Braking
When stopping, worn shocks allow the front end to dip or sink significantly. This causes reduced handling and control under braking.
Poor Handling and Control
You may notice wandering, delayed responsiveness, and just an overall “disconnected” feel. Bad shocks or struts prevent proper tyre contact and reduce handling precision.
Vibrations Through the Chassis
If you feel vibrations through the steering wheel or seats over bumpy roads, it can indicate bad shocks or struts. They are unable to dampen the impacts properly.
Uneven Tyre Wear
Faulty shocks/struts allow the tyres to bounce and lose contact with the road inconsistently. This causes spotty tread wear patterns. Ensure tyre inflation and alignment are also okay.
When to Replace Your Shocks and Struts
If you notice any of the above symptoms, have your mechanic inspect the units for leaks, physical damage, and smooth operation. They can determine if replacement is needed.
Generally, shocks and struts should be replaced in pairs – both fronts or both rears. Mixing old and new can cause handling issues. Labor costs can also be reduced by doing both sides together.
After 50,000 miles, have them checked even if no symptoms appear. The oil and valves may be worn internally before external symptoms arise. Periodic inspections ensure you stay on top of maintenance for ride comfort and safety.
The Importance of Proper Wheel Alignment
When replacing shocks or struts, it’s also a good idea to get a wheel alignment done. Ride height and suspension geometry may change when installing new units.
Alignment helps center the wheels correctly and ensure proper tracking along the road. This reduces uneven tyre wear that can be caused by misalignment after suspension repairs.
Can Worn Shocks and Struts Be Dangerous?
Absolutely. Bad shocks reduce braking control and handling precision. In an emergency situation, this extra fraction of a second difference could be significant. Insufficient dampening also promotes further component wear and tyre irregularities.
Don’t ignore the signs of worn shocks and struts. Replacing them promptly improves safety, extends tyre life, and restores smooth, comfortable riding. Prioritise suspension repairs the same as you would brakes, tyres, and other critical systems.
Monitor for bouncing, swaying, bottoming out, nose-diving, vibrations, and poor handling/control. Periodically have your shocks and struts inspected after 50,000 km or 30,000 miles. Replace worn units in pairs. Always get an alignment with new shocks or struts. Finally, don’t put it off – bad shocks and struts compromise vehicle control and safety.
Consult the friendly mechanics at SNC Automotive in Brendale for quality suspension repairs and expert advice on maintaining your car. Our experienced team has provided top-notch service to the community for over 20 years.
✓How can I tell if my shocks or struts need replacing?
Key signs include excessive bouncing, cornering sway, bottoming out over bumps, nose-diving when braking, vibrations through the car, uneven tyre wear, and compromised handling. Have a mechanic inspect them if you notice these issues.
✓Is it safe to just replace one shock or strut?
No, they should always be replaced in pairs to maintain even braking and handling. Mixing old and new units can cause control problems.
✓Should I get an alignment with new shocks/struts?
Yes, an alignment helps center the tyres and adjusts suspension geometry after new units are installed. This prevents irregular tyre wear.
✓Can I drive with a broken shock or strut?
It’s not recommended. You’ll have very poor handling, braking, and control. Replace it as soon as possible, and avoid high speeds in the meantime.