Auto Repair Q&A



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How Do I Know If I Need New Shocks

Strut vs Shock

Every vehicle, eventually, will need new shock absorbers. If you pay attention to the warning signs, you can plan ahead and schedule replacements rather than suddenly being faced with the need. A competent mechanic can change a set of shocks (they are usually done in twos) in a couple of hours on most vehicles. A shop mechanic can do it in half an hour's billed labor.

Warning Signs Your Shocks Are Failing

Manufacturers generally do not give mileage numbers for shock absorber (or strut, if equipped) replacements. In general, they should be checked at 30,000 mile intervals, but there are a lot of variables going into when your shocks will actually fail - average driving terrain, average weight of vehicle occupants, driving style, quality of the equipment, strength of vehicle springs, etc.

At every maintenance interval, the mechanic should be looking for leaking or cracked shock absorbers, which should be replaced ASAP.

As the driver, you may notice the vehicle becoming less responsive around corners and generally more "springy" in its ride (has a more "floating" feel rather than a solid suspension).

These are signs of weak shocks and should prompt their replacement at the next available opportunity.

When You Know Your Shocks Have Failed

Obviously, leaking or cracked shocks have failed and should be replaced. Other signs include "bottoming out" when you hit a heavy bump. Most vehicles, when traveling at low speeds (under 10mph), should be able to take most bumps that the car's clearance will allow for without anything on the vehicle feeling like it's "whacking" (in a solid way) with anything else.

If your shocks have failed, however, and your suspension is mainly relying on springs only, then not only will out "clunk" in a bottom-out on even the mildest of speed bumps, but your vehicle will wiggle as the springs reset without the compressive aid of the shocks.

These are sure signs that your suspension needs attention and should be fixed immediately. Failure to replace shocks quickly can mean ruining the springs, bushings, and many other components as well.