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When to replace shocks and struts?

When to replace shocks and struts?

Essential for steering, stopping, and stability, shocks and struts are one of your vehicle's most important safety features.  A car's shocks and struts absorb bumps, potholes, and other irregularities in the road. They also stabilize your car when you turn, brake, and accelerate. Suspension is a key part of a car, providing road holding, comfort and safety. But like all wearing parts, it deteriorates over time until it needs to be replaced.

Most people realize that shock or strut failure can negatively affect comfort, but many don't realize that it can also affect your vehicle's steering, handling and braking. Regular inspection of these safety-critical parts will help you maintain control of your vehicle and keep your passengers safe.

When should you replace your car's shocks?

The ride is bumpy

Since the main purpose of struts and shocks is to prevent the amount of suspension movement, the most telling sign that you need to have them checked is if you're experiencing a bumpy ride. Your car is designed to comfortably withstand a certain amount of movement, so if you're experiencing a bumpy ride, your shocks and struts are most likely to blame.

You're having steering problems

One of the first signs that people notice when their car needs new shocks is poor steering response. The steering wheel often becomes stiff and difficult to turn, and there may be unusual noises when the wheel is turned. In addition to these problems, you may notice that your car pitches or leans when cornering or changing lanes.

Braking problems

When the struts are worn or damaged, the vehicle often compensates in other ways. You may notice a "nose dive" sensation and instability when braking. If you feel the car lurch forward when braking, you should have your struts and shocks checked by an auto mechanic.

You can see damage

Although strut damage is often felt rather than seen, you may notice visibly dented or damaged struts or shocks. In addition to physical damage, fluid leaks between struts and shocks are common when they need to be replaced. Brackets and bushings can also become corroded, damaged or worn over time.

Uneven tire wear

If your tires show unusual wear, it may be time to replace your shocks and struts. Damage to the suspension can cause tire pitting, where scalloped pits or indentations develop around the edge of the tread. A flat tire can be incredibly dangerous, so it's important to rotate or replace your tires at the same time you replace your shocks.

80,000 mile recommendation

Experts recommend that you have your vehicle's shocks and struts inspected every 20,000 kilometers and replaced every 80,000* kilometers. It's relatively easy to tell when your tires, brakes and windshield wipers are worn. However, shocks and struts are not so easy to inspect, even though these safety-critical components are very sensitive to daily wear and tear.

Shocks and struts should be inspected by your local service center every 20,000 miles or whenever your vehicle is brought in for a tire, brake or alignment check.

How can I tell if my shocks are good or worn?

Signs that your shocks are worn or damaged include:

  • Unusual noise: popping or growling when turning, causing vibration in the passenger compartment.
  • The car bounces a lot more at every speed bump or pothole.
  • Loss of ride quality and poor road holding
  • Less shock absorption
  • Loss of vehicle control as the rear of the car swerves in tight corners.
  • Longer or less effective stopping distances
  • Premature tire wear
  • Visible oil dripping onto the shocks (this is a sign that your shocks are completely dead).

It's important to remember that driving is the main cause of wear and tear on your shocks.

Here are some driving tips to avoid this:

  • Brake to pass speed bumps
  • Avoid holes and cracks in the road
  • Avoid overloading your car
  • Practice a smooth driving style

Shock and strut wear factors

While the components of your vehicle wear out as a result of daily driving, other factors can also affect the integrity of these parts. Your driving habits and the environment in which you drive can have a significant impact on the life of your shocks and struts.

For example, if you regularly tow heavy loads, your shocks and struts may wear out more quickly. Consider your driving habits and the conditions you drive in - you may need to have your shocks and struts inspected more often than recommended.

  • The shocks and struts may show no visible signs of wear, but the internal components may have exceeded their useful life, which could affect your steering, braking, and stability.
  • Typical shocks and struts have an average life of 21 million cycles for 19,300 kilometers.
  • Shocks and struts are susceptible to increased wear due to heavy use and harsh road/environmental conditions.
  • Suspension components interact with - and depend on - other critical steering and suspension parts. Failure of these other parts can affect your shocks and struts.

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