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Shock Absorber Replacement

Shock replacement

On every vehicle, eventually, the shock absorbers will need to be replaced. On some, of course, there are struts rather than shocks, but on many (especially larger) vehicles, separate shock absorbers are still the rule.

If you aren't sure which your car has, read our article Difference Between Shocks and Struts for more information. Additionally, if you aren't sure whether or not your shocks are ready for replacement, read How Do I Know If I Need New Shocks?.

For the DIY mechanic, though, replacing shock absorbers is one of the easier tasks available and doing them yourself can mean saving $100 or more in repair costs. On most small and mid-sized vehicles, shocks run $20 - $100 each, depending on intended use (off-road heavy-duty shocks are expensive, as are larger shocks for larger trucks and vans). Shocks should always be replaced in pairs (both front or both rear) and some vehicles will have a total of eight, though this is rare except for off-road and heavy trucks.

For most jobs, you will need two or four shocks (depending on whether you're replacing some or all), bearing grease and/or "break free" solution, a strong breaker bar and appropriately-sized socket, an open end or crescent wrench, a thin pry bar or large screwdriver, a jack and stands, a wire brush, and the safety equipment that goes with working underneath your vehicle (glasses, wheel chocks, gloves, etc). For particularly stubborn and rusted bolts and nuts, a butane torch may be a good addition as well.

You'll start by lifting the vehicle off the ground and, in most cases, removing the wheels. Note that on some vehicles, this is not required, but many times it makes the removal and replacement of the shocks easier as it takes weight off of the suspension while you're working.

Once it is safely off the ground and secured, inspect the nuts you'll be removing. There are usually one or perhaps two at top - look at the new replacement shocks, if one end is "forked" to hold two bolts, that is likely the top end. These will be the harder bolts to get to and remove. Using your breaker bar and socket, find the bolt-head. On some vehicles, the receiving nut is welded onto the frame where the shock attaches, so unless you know it's a free-nut, do not attempt to turn that side. If it turns while you're pulling on the breaker bar from the bolt side, then attach the wrench to hold it in place (either by hand or by finding a safe spot to let the wrench handle press against) and loosen the bolt.

Do not remove the bolt yet, but instead begin work on the lower bolt (there are only rarely two here). Once that bolt is loose (but not off), take the top bolt(s) out and then the bottom. Using your pry bar, wedge the between the top of the shock's "eye" where the bolt went through and the frame and pry downwards to compress the shock and push it free. This can be tougher than it looks, so be prepared to "coax it" some. Don't worry about ruining the shock, since it's being replaced anyway.

Once the shock is off, check your replacement to be sure it's the same and to see whether you need to remove any bushings or bolt shaft receivers. If so, press them out using a C-clamp or hammer and pin driver and press them into the new shock. This is becoming rare, however, and often new shocks will come with replacement bolts or receivers. If your parts store offers a bolt replacement kit, it's recommended you spend the few extra dollars and get these, as these heavy bolts can be quite rusted and hard to work with, so putting in a new one will be much easier.

Using a wire brush, clean the frame and axle connections on the car where the shock eyelets go. This will make putting your new shocks in place much easier.

Now put the new shocks in place, top end first, slide in and screw the bolts into place, then tighten the bolts to specification.

Replace the wheels, safely lower the vehicle to the ground, and do a test drive!

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