How Are Struts Different From Shocks?

Struts are part of a car's suspension system.

Struts make a car’s ride smoother, absorbing bumps and affecting alignment and steering.

Struts are part of a car’s suspension system. They are mounted to the top of the car’s chassis, and coil springs are mounted on top of the struts. The struts and springs hold your car above the ground.

People sometimes confuse struts with shocks, or use the terms interchangeably. Both struts and shocks make your car’s ride smoother. Absorbing bumps in the road is the only purpose of a shock absorber, while struts also affect a car’s alignment and steering.

Some cars have struts on the front and shocks on the back. If shocks were removed, your car would still drive, though the ride would be bouncy. Without struts, a car can’t be driven.

What Happens When the Struts Wear Out?

Struts affect the handling of a car. If your vehicle’s struts are wearing out, you should replace them as soon as possible. Here are some of the warning signs that your struts are wearing out.

  • Leaks: Hydraulic oil may leak from failing struts. When a strut leaks, your mechanic will see oil on top and down the side of the strut. Leaks are often only found during an inspection.
  • Bouncing: If your car bounces more than usual after driving over a bump, it means the struts are worn out. Struts can be checked by pushing down on the front of the car. If the struts are working properly, the car will return to the starting position without bouncing.
  • Bottoming out: If the car touches the ground or gets close to the ground, that’s a sign that the springs and struts may be worn out.
  • Uneven tire wear: Worn struts lead to uneven wear on tires. Check your tires for high and low wear. Cupped tires can be caused by old struts. Cupped tires look scalloped. They are often noisy and may rumble.  Uneven wear on your tires can be dangerous since worn tires cause poor handling.

When Should Struts Be Replaced?

When your struts are worn, they need to be replaced. Some mechanics recommend replacing struts as part of routine maintenance. If you replace struts before they’re worn, you can avoid problems associated with failing struts. Some manufacturers estimate that struts will last between 50,000 to 100,000 miles. Replacing struts in sets improves your car’s ride, steering and stability.

The experience mechanics at Grease Monkey can help you determine if it’s time for new struts. You don’t need an appointment, so stop by today!