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 a 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?


How Long Can You Drive With Bad Shocks and Struts?

How Long Can You Drive With Bad Shocks and Struts?

How long can you drive with bad shocks and struts? 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.

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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

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 real 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.

What Happens When Struts Go Bad?

How Long Can You Drive With Bad Shocks and Struts

What happens when struts and shockers go bad? When struts and shockers go bad and you are driving around with a bad strut or shock absorber on your car you will experience poor handling, excessive body roll, poor steering, and poor traction (longer than normal stopping distance).

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 bodyweight 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.

Igor Iwanowski

I am a certified Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanic since 2018. I specialize in Brake systems, dashboard warning lights, EGRs, general engine problems, EVAP and Emissions issues.

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