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Difference Between Shocks and Struts

Strut vs Shock

Although the term "shock" and "strut" are often interchanged amongst amateurs, parts and service professionals know that there is a lot of difference between the two suspension components. They serve the same general purpose, but do it in different ways.

 

The graphic to the right shows the difference visually. The strut on the left incorporates several components into one unit. This all-in-one unit provides all of the structural support for the vehicle's suspension at once. The pictured strut is for the steering system whereas a fixed strut, which looks similar but does not have the "knuckle" connections, would be used on the rear of the vehicle. Struts are most common on passenger cars.

The shock absorber, shown at right in the graphic, is built to handle vibrations and light suspension compressions and is usually supporting a spring, which will be mounted at a separate location. You should clearly see that in a strut, the shock absorber is at center in the incorporated unit.

Strut vs Shock

Strut vs Shock

The primary difference between the two functionally, obviously, is that the strut is made to do all of the vehicle's suspension whereas the shock absorber is just one part of the overall suspension. Shocks are more common on trucks and other larger, heavier-framed vehicles (SUVs, some minivans, and so forth). This is because more than one shock can be used to handle the same portion of suspension and heavier springs can be used to handle deeper shocks or heavier vehicle loads.

Both components have a place in the vehicle, but knowing the difference can save confusion and trips to the parts store when you ask for the wrong item.

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