Maintenance Tips, Tricks And Hacks For Your Vehicle

How Long Can You Drive With Bad Shocks and Struts?




Shocks and struts are a part of the suspension system and have a function to ensure stable and safe driving. They are the most overlooked part of the suspension system.

All car parts have an expiration date. Some sooner, some later.

There are some parts that have to be changed immediately after they fail, and there are some that you can still drive your car, even when they fail.

So, once your shocks and struts fail, how long can you drive with bad struts?

Key Takeaway

  • You can drive no more than 500 miles with bad shocks and struts, but it is generally recommended to have them repaired as soon as possible for safety reasons.
  • To diagnose a bad strut or shock, look out for signs such as excessive bouncing, uneven tire wear, a bumpy or harsh ride, and leaking fluid.
  • Signs of bad struts and shocks include excessive bouncing, uneven tire wear, a bumpy ride, increased body roll, longer stopping distances, leaking fluid, suspension noise, and uneven ride height.

How Long Can You Drive With Bad Shocks and Struts?

How Long Can You Drive With Bad Shocks and Struts

You can drive your car for another 200 to 500 miles before the struts blow out all the oil, but it is recommended to have them fixed as soon as possible for safety reasons.

If your shocks and struts go bad, you shouldn’t drive your car for long.

Driving with bad shocks and struts is a safety risk because the stability of your vehicle is compromised. You will experience poor handling, excessive body roll, a wobbly steering wheel, and poor traction.

If your shocks and struts go bad, you should take your vehicle to the repair shop. If towing your car is not an option, you should drive your car carefully to the repair shop and have to shocks and struts replaced.

Driving with bad shocks and struts is a safety issue. Once they go bad, you can expect your car to be bouncy after you hit a bump on the road. Usually, a car with properly working shocks and struts bounces a couple of times and then stabilizes. A car with bad shocks and struts will bounce a lot of times before it stabilizes.

The biggest safety risk of driving with a bad strut or shock is the increased braking distance. When the struts and shocks are bad, the weight of the car shifts upfront when you press the brakes.

Basically, your car nose-dives, leaving the back of the car ”up in the air”. The back brakes will engage, but the tires won’t be glued to the ground and you will not have the needed friction for an immediate stop if needed.

How To Diagnose a Bad Strut or Shock

Here is how to diagnose a bad strut or shock:

1. Visually inspect the tires for wear

Why Is My Front Tire Wearing On The Inside

Start off with a good visual inspection of the tires. If you have bad shocks or struts, you could have uneven wear on your tires. In many cases, the uneven tire wear is due to a different component that has failed.

One good tell-tale sign that you have bad shocks or struts is that if you run your hand on your tire, especially around the edges, you will feel that your fingers are gonna start catching every tread on the tire.

If that’s what you’re feeling when you run your fingers around the edges, that’s due to a shock or strut that’s failing and deforming your tires due to excessive bouncing.

2. Leaking oil on and our the shocks and struts

You want to reach where the shocks and struts are located and inspect and make sure you don’t have an oil leak. Check the area where the piston goes through because there’s a sealer there. If the sealer around the piston fails, it’s going to allow the oil that’s inside your shock absorber to leak out.

If that happens you can lose the dampening effect of your strut assembly. Also, if you have a leak there, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the fault of a seal.

It could also simply mean that the internal parts of your strut or shock assembly are failing and causing too much friction and heat. That excessive heat is making the oil expand and leak out where the seal is.

3. Perform a bouncing test

The classic bounce test is when you put your hands on the front fender or on the side where you suspect you have bad struts or shocks and you bounce the car. If the car goes down and moves back up and stabilizes, generally speaking, you have a good strut and shock.

However, this is not a perfect test because most of the car weight is upfront and your 200 pounds of force won’t compress the springs a lot more. But, it is still a good test that you can combine with other signs and diagnose a bad strut or shock.

4. Wobbly steering wheel when you drive

If your steering wheels wobble back and forth a little when you drive down the road and hit a bump, your shocks and struts might be failing or have already failed.

That’s because when you hit that bump, your spring is moving up really quickly and rapidly moving your suspension. As a result, you’re entering out of tie rods around causing your steering wheel to wobble back and forth.

5. Excessive body roll-around turns

Excessive body roll-around turns can also be a sign of bad shocks and struts. When you are turning the car it is normal to body roll in the direction you are turning.

But, if you feel that the body roll is excessive as you turn your car, that is a clear sign of failed shocks and struts. This happens because the shocks and struts are not dampening the effect of the springs. They are not compressing on the left side and decompressing on the right side quickly enough.

Signs of Bad Struts and Shocks

  • Excessive bouncing or rebounding of the vehicle after going over bumps or uneven surfaces.
  • Uneven tire wear, such as bald spots or cupping, indicating improper suspension alignment.
  • A bumpy or harsh ride, with the vehicle feeling every imperfection on the road.
  • Increased body roll and instability when cornering or making sharp turns.
  • Longer stopping distances, as worn struts and shocks can negatively impact braking performance.
  • Leaking fluid from the shock absorbers, visible as wetness or stains around the seals.
  • Suspension noise, such as clunking, squeaking, or rattling sounds when driving over bumps or dips in the road.
  • Uneven ride height, with one corner of the vehicle appearing lower or higher than the others.

What Causes Struts and Shocks To Go Bad

  • Friction, age, high temperatures, weight load stress, and exposure to salt and oil can cause bushings to crack and wear, leading to the deterioration of struts and shocks.
  • Poor road conditions and aggressive driving can contribute to the degradation of struts and shocks.
  • Leaking fluid is a sign of broken seals, indicating that the internal fluids necessary for proper function are escaping.
  • Worn-out struts and shocks can affect ride and comfort, control over bumps and dips, braking performance, steering control, and increase wear on other components.
  • Driving with bad shocks and struts can potentially lead to accidents if necessary actions are not taken.
  • Other signs of worn shocks and struts include unusual tire wear, cracked or peeling rubber shock covers, and vibrating, clunking, or bumping noises says Monroe.

What Happens When Struts Go Bad?

How Long Can You Drive With Bad Shocks and Struts

When struts go bad, it can affect the handling, stability, and braking performance of a vehicle, potentially leading to increased stopping distances and a more uncomfortable ride.

As you’re driving and your car goes over a bump, the springs in your car quickly compress and as you drive over it they quickly decompress. If you don’t have a strut or a shock absorber to dampen that quick compression and decompression of the spring, you’re in for a very bouncy ride.

Your car is just going to be bouncing non-stop going down the road. So, as your spring compresses, your strut will decompress with it as well slowly and in a controlled fashion.

Then there is the increased braking distance. If your shocks and struts are bad, when you press the brakes, the body weight of the car is going to shift on the front side and there will be not enough weight on the back of the car to ensure traction.

Basically, the back brakes on the car will be engaged but the tires will not have enough traction to manifest the braking.


Q: What are shocks and struts?

A: Shocks and struts are integral parts of your vehicle’s suspension system. They help to absorb the impact from bumps and potholes, providing a smoother and more comfortable ride. Shocks are typically used in vehicles with a separate spring and suspension system, whereas struts combine the spring and shock absorber into one unit.

Q: How do shocks and struts work?

A: Shocks and struts work by dissipating the kinetic energy generated when your vehicle hits bumps or uneven surfaces. They use hydraulic or gas-filled chambers to absorb and control the movement of the suspension. This prevents excessive bouncing, improves handling, and ensures proper tire contact with the road.

Q: What are the warning signs of bad shocks and struts?

A: The warning signs of bad shocks and struts include excessive bouncing, uneven tire wear, longer braking distance, nose diving during braking, increased body roll during turns, and a rough or uncomfortable ride. If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to get your shocks and struts inspected and potentially replaced.

Q: Can you drive with bad shocks or struts?

A: While it is technically possible to drive with bad shocks or struts, it is not recommended. Bad shocks and struts can significantly affect your vehicle’s handling, braking, and overall stability. It can also lead to increased wear and tear on other suspension components and tires, compromising your safety on the road.

Q: How does driving with bad shocks or struts affect the steering and braking?

A: Driving with bad shocks or struts can negatively impact your steering and braking abilities. The worn-out shocks or struts can cause your vehicle to have an unstable and imprecise steering response, as well as longer braking distances. This can make it more difficult to control your vehicle and increase the risk of accidents.

Q: Can bad shocks and struts cause tire wear?

A: Yes, bad shocks and struts can cause uneven tire wear. When the shocks and struts are not functioning properly, they are unable to effectively control the movement of the suspension. This can lead to uneven weight distribution on the tires, causing them to wear out more quickly and unevenly.

Q: When should I replace my shocks and struts?

A: The lifespan of shocks and struts can vary depending on factors such as driving conditions, vehicle make and model, and maintenance. As a general guideline, it is recommended to have your shocks and struts inspected by a qualified mechanic every 50,000 miles or whenever you notice any signs of wear or performance issues.

Q: Can I replace shocks and struts myself?

A: While it is possible to replace shocks and struts yourself if you have the necessary tools and knowledge, it is generally recommended to have this job done by a professional mechanic. Replacing shocks and struts requires specialized equipment and expertise to ensure proper installation and alignment, guaranteeing optimal performance and safety.

Q: Is it dangerous to drive with bad shocks and struts?

A: Driving with bad shocks and struts can be dangerous as it can impact your vehicle’s stability, handling, and braking. It can lead to reduced control, increased risk of accidents, and further damage to other suspension components. Therefore, it is crucial to address the issue as soon as possible to ensure your safety on the road.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, bad shocks and struts can have a devastating effect on your car’s performance.

Without properly maintained suspension components, the ride quality of your vehicle will suffer greatly.

Furthermore, failing shocks and struts can cause damage to other parts of the car, such as tires and brakes.



Vide Polowenski, Senior Mechanic

The information in this article is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest mechanic SOPs.

Please take the time to leave a comment if this article has helped you in any way, you need additional help, or you have a suggestion.

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