Written by Teresa Anderson – service writer for Steve’s Auto Repair and Tire
Shocks and struts are not something most people think about wearing out, like they do with tires. They’re not as visible for drivers, and they don’t wear out as fast, or need frequent maintenance, like oil changes.
Shocks and struts are important because they stabilize your vehicle and keep your car from bouncing when you drive over rough road. Think about how many bumps and potholes there are in the road. Think about the rough pavement and rocks that you drive over every single time you get into your car to go somewhere. This is what wears out your shocks and struts, and this is why when a car professional recommends replacing them, you should take them seriously.
To understand the seriousness of replacing shocks and struts, it’s important to understand what can happen if you’re driving around with a set that are worn out.
The job of your shocks and struts is not to keep the car up as most people conceive, it’s to minimize bouncing – which can really damage your car’s tires and suspension. And if your shocks and struts are worn out, and lead to an impaired suspension system in your car – this can have a serious consequence. Bad suspension can also wreak havoc on your brake system. It can lengthen your stopping distance because the car is lunging forward with the weight of the vehicle putting more pressure on your brakes, causing them to wear out faster. And this could also lead you to get into an accident because of impaired handling and brake time.
Can you visibly see worn shocks and struts? Well…sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t. And for many drivers , it can be a challenge to determine when it’s time to commit to replacing your shocks and struts
Most manufacturers recommend replacement every 50,000 miles. Consider manufacturer’s recommendations, because after 50,000 miles they have definitely carried a lot of weight, gone quite a distance and are no longer performing as that should be, but a technician will be able to tell you for sure.
Looking for an easy way to determine if your shocks and struts are wearing out? The best way to tell if they are not performing the way they should is to do the bounce test. Push down on the trunk of the car and the front of the car and see how quickly it bounces back. If it’s bouncy, the shocks are wearing out, if it returns slowly, they are most likely fine.
It should just bounce about 1 and ½ times and that should be it. If you are getting more than than that, the suspension is failing. Mileage – including the 50,000 mile recommendation – doesn’t always mean that you have to replace them. I’ve seen certain vehicles that are notorious for needing them replaced as early as 40,000 miles! I know that may not be what you want to hear, especially since it means it will cost you money, but it’s necessary to keep your car running safely on the road.
The first thing a auto technician would do is inspect the condition of the suspension. If they can see the fluid seeping out of the shocks, then they are weak because the fluid is coming out and it’s definitely time to consider replacement.
Even though they may not be leaking, it still may be time to replace them. A technician can tell by looking at a few different things, and they will be able to guide you on what to do to get your vehicle working safely.