Shocks and struts do far more than just give you a comfortable ride. Shocks and struts provide your vehicle with stability, handling, better stopping distance, and safety. However, shocks and struts are some of the most overlooked maintenance items.
10 Signs of Bad Shocks and Struts
Wear and damage on shocks and struts usually happen gradually and people tend to adjust their driving without realizing they’re compensating for the loss of control. When shocks and struts fail, the signs are not as visible as a failed blinking light or a flat tire. So how can you know when your shocks and struts have failed? Here are 10 signs of bad shocks and struts:
1. Over 50,000 miles
One of the easiest ways to determine whether you need to replace your shocks or struts is to take a quick glance down at your odometer.
For maximum driver safety, performance, and comfort expert mechanics recommend replacing your shocks and struts at 50,000-mile intervals.
Routine maintenance and replacement with high-quality shocks or struts may also save you money in the long run as unidentified shock and strut problems can easily lead to more costly suspension issues.
2. Nose-diving when braking
Have you ever been in a situation that required you to quickly slam on the brakes because there was maybe a driver in front of you, you stopped short, or something darted in front of your vehicle?
Stopping hard and fast with warn shocks or struts forces your vehicle to nose-dive because the sudden transfer of weight forward naturally causes the rear of the vehicle to rise and reduces the rear braking performance.
Poor traction is a recipe for an accident. Many drivers take for granted the importance shocks and struts have on a vehicle’s ability to stop safely and effectively.
Did you know that driving with worn shocks and struts at a speed of 70 miles per hour can increase your stopping distance by more than 22 feet? Those extra feet could be the difference between a close call and a collision.
Don’t take chances with your safety. If you notice your vehicle is nose-diving, get your shocks or struts checked by a certified technician and ask for high-quality products if they need replacement.
3. Excessive bounce on rough surfaces
When you drive over a bump or rough surface, it’s actually the springs in your car that absorb the impact, not the shock absorber. One of the main functions of shocks and struts is to keep the bouncing sprint under control and thus keeping your tires glued to the road when you hit a bump.
Your vehicle should rise and fall quickly then stabilize after one or two rebounds. If you notice that your vehicle is continuing to rock up and down after hitting a bump, or if the suspension routinely bottoms out when going over potholes, it’s a sign that you need to have your shocks or struts checked and replaced.
4. Vehicle veers in crosswinds
When you drive past a large truck does your vehicle rock back and forth? Do strong gusty crosswinds turn driving into a white-knuckle experience? If so, there’s a good chance your shocks or struts aren’t functioning properly.
When shocks and struts lose their damping ability, your vehicle is less stable in windy conditions. This is even more noticeable and dangerous for light trucks, SUVs, or vehicles towing heavy loads. This is an important sign that you have to replace your shocks and struts.
5. Excessive lean or sway in turns
Rock and roll music is great on your radio but not when it comes to your suspension. Much like veering and crosswinds, excessive rocking body roll lean or sway is often caused by shocks or struts that have lost their damping ability over time.
This impacts their capacity to smoothly and quickly respond to weight transfer in corners. The result is a loss in driver control and it’s a serious safety issue, one that I recommend you have checked sooner rather than later.
6. Steering wheel vibrates
You know that feeling you’re driving along on perfectly smooth pavement and hit 60 miles per hour and suddenly your steering wheel starts to shake and vibrate.
You probably suspect that the cause for this must be unbalanced front tires, faulty steering, or a bad alignment. That’s most likely the case. But, if those parts are worn or faulty, they may have affected the condition of your shocks and struts and caused premature wear or damage which means they may be in need of replacement.
If you experience any steering wheel vibration be sure to have a qualified technician inspect your suspension to identify whether your shocks or struts, as well as other components, need to be replaced.
7. Uneven or premature tire wear
Another indicator that your shocks and struts might be worn or damaged is to check your tires for any uneven or premature tread wear.
Premature wear of the tires can be a clear sign of a worn shock or strut especially if it only occurs on one side. You can also check for cupping or scuffing of the tires. Both of these are caused by the shock or struts’ inability to control the suspension which causes the tire to bounce and wear unevenly while you drive.
There are many other factors that can cause premature or uneven tire wear, so if you notice them it is recommended that you have your vehicle inspected by a professional installer to see whether worn shocks or struts are the cause.
8. Noticeable fluid leakage
If you drive on harsh country roads, periodically check for fluid leaking from your shocks or struts. Ice, snow, grit, and debris can easily scratch or damage the piston rod, allowing grit and dirt to harm the piston seal.
When the seal is compromised, fluid can leak and impair the shock or struts’ ability to control the vehicle. If your shock or strut is leaking, you’ll likely see a thick solid coat of grime, grit, and dirt built up on the leaked oil.
An undamaged shock or strut might have some road dirt, but it won’t be as extensive. Remember to occasionally inspect your shocks or struts. Look for any discoloration or excessive grime and dirt on the body of the shock or strut. It’s a serious safety risk and a sure sign that your shocks or struts may need to be replaced.
9. Dented or damaged housing
Other visible signs that your shocks or struts might need to be replaced are dents or cracks in the shock or struts housing. You or your professional installer can also look for broken and worn mounts or worn bushings.
If your shocks or struts are dented or damaged, there’s a good chance it’s also affecting other suspension parts or causing them to work harder which may lead to premature wear. These might include the spring seats which might have rusted out the upper area of the strut tube which might have corrosion that rusted through or accessory brackets attached to the strut.
Be sure to check the condition of the boot and bumper. If you see cracks or dents on the shocks or struts, have them replaced immediately with high-quality parts.
10. When your installer raises concerns
You can’t put a price on your safety or the safety of others. It’s one of the key things your installer considers when making a recommendation about the repairs to your vehicle.
If your professional installer does raise concerns about the condition of your shocks or struts and you’ve noticed any of the other warning signs, it’s vital that you have your shocks or struts repaired, replaced, or upgraded with high-quality products.
Driving with worn shocks or struts may not be as noticeable as a blown tire or squeaky brakes. But it’s just as dangerous. You’ve got a lot riding on the condition of your shocks and struts. Don’t take the risk and remember to keep an eye out for the ten warning signs. Get your shocks and struts checked every 12 months or 12,000 miles.