Symptoms of Bad Shocks and Struts on Your Car

Struts are structural support for the suspension designed to absorb vibrations. They are attached to the car’s wheels and are instrumental in cushioning and supporting the steering and brake system.

A damaged strut is plagued with numerous symptoms that impact drivability and pose a danger while driving. Often, you will notice that the vehicle bounces more or becomes unstable. The strut is no longer available to give the suspension that damping effect.

Other symptoms you should pay attention to include hydraulic fluid leaks, uneven tire wear, vibrating steering wheel, etc. The symptoms could also lead to a more serious issue with the suspension system. More parts of the suspension will begin to fail.

This article will help you identify symptoms of a bad strut, identify differences between a shock and strut, and provide answers to some of the questions you may face.

Bad Shocks and Struts

What are the Symptoms of Bad Shock and Strut?

The shock and strut are different in many ways; however, they still have a lot of similarities in their function. One major similarity is their ability to absorb shocks and vibration, providing a cushion effect for the suspension.

Furthermore, their similarities often mean bad shock symptoms and bad strut symptoms are identical.

Below are some of the symptoms of a bad shock and strut.

1. Uneven tire wears

Uneven tire wear is more of a symptom of bad strut mount, housing, or any other parts of the strut that affect the suspension’s structure. Also, the shocks can cause the tire to wear unevenly because the shock provides a damping force to control the suspension movement. Once bad, the car will bounce a lot, causing accelerated wear in the tires.

In addition, when the strut is damaged, it affects the structure of the suspension. When this happens, it could affect the alignment of the wheels causing uneven tire wear.

2. Unusual noises

Once the strut or shocks are worn out, there will be obvious clunking sounds when driving. It could result from the metal parts of the suspension making contact due to damage to the struts or shocks.

3. Vibration in the steering wheel

You can expect a little vibration, especially when driving on rough roads. However, when the steering still vibrates while driving on a good, there could be a problem with the strut or shock.

Once the strut or shock is worn out, it cannot properly absorb the motion and vibration of the suspension. It will lead to a bouncy or vibrating wheel which will also affect the steering system.

You must understand that the steering system is connected to the wheels, and anything that affects the wheel movement will also affect the steering function.

4. Nose dive when braking

A major sign of driving with bad struts is that the vehicle will continually nose dive whenever the brake is applied while driving. Due to worn-out or damaged parts, the strut can no longer hold the vehicle’s weight. The car swings more than usual, even on a smooth road. 

5. Bouncing when driving

When driving with bad shocks or struts, you will experience a bouncy ride because there is nothing available to absorb the impacts of soft bumps on the road. When the tires hit a soft bump, they will continue to bounce as the vehicle is driven.

6. Vehicle sways during cornering

Once the strut and shocks get worn out, it becomes harder for the suspension to handle the vehicle’s weight. It then becomes harder for the amount of weight transferred to the ground to be controlled. It makes it easy for cars to be thrown off balance when cornering.

7. Leaking fluid

Leaking hydraulic fluid is an example of a bad front shock symptom and could be a sign of a bad front strut. The fluid will leak when the upper seals wear. It allows the fluid to escape through the space created by the top seal.

The seals will gradually become brittle using the strut and shock, making it more difficult to hold on to fluids.

Also read: 10 Best Strut Brands to Trust in 2023

Bad Shocks and Struts Symptoms

What are the differences between Shock and struts?

Shocks and struts are different components that are easily mistaken for each other. It is because they are both part of the suspension system. However, they both differ in functionality and components.

Although they both help in aiding the vehicle’s handling and ride, one major difference between them is that shock is the sole part of the suspension, while struts are a structural part of the suspension and chassis.

What is the function of a Shock?

The basic function of the shock absorber is to control the movement or bounce of the suspension system. It can achieve this by converting the kinetic movement created by the suspension into thermal energy or heat, which is then collected by the hydraulic fluid.

Many people have the wrong understanding of what shock does. One misunderstanding of shocks is that it supports the vehicle’s weight.

The shock works by creating resistance determined by the speed of the suspension and the tiny orifices in the piston. In addition, the faster the shock suspension moves, the more resistance the shock can create. It makes the shock a velocity-sensitive hydraulic damping component.

Furthermore, the absorber is responsible for reducing the extent of bounce in the suspension, brake dive, and acceleration squat.

Components of the shock

One of the ways to identify the difference between shock and strut is through its components. The shock components include the following.

Mount: The mount is the shock part connected to the vehicle’s body and the suspension. It contains the upper and lower mount of the same design used to hold the shock.

Bushing: The bushing is the part of the shock that absorbs vibrations. It comprises rubber or urethane parts and can be seen on the mounting.

Piston rod: The piston rod has openings that will ensure concentricity between the moving and stationary parts as the moving part slides up and down. 

Cylinder: It is the actual body of the shock absorber and houses the compression oil and a piston that moves within the cylinder.

Coil spring: The coil spring only sometimes comes with a shock absorber, as it is majorly a part of the strut.

What is the function of  Strut?

The strut is a suspension damper used in most modern independent suspension in front-wheel drive vehicles and can also be seen in some rear-wheel drive vehicles.

Struts have the responsibility of performing damping functions similar to the shock absorber. The strut makes use of a piston which is attached to the end of the piston rod. It then uses the piston to work against the hydraulic fluid, creating control over the spring and suspension movement.

The difference between the shock and strut is in the strut’s second function. The strut provides structural support for the vehicle suspension. It supports the spring and also holds the tire at an aligned angle.

In addition, the strut also bears a large part of the load placed on the suspension by the vehicle’s body. It is one aspect the shock does not do; it does not support the vehicle’s weight.

Components of the strut

Strut housing: The strut housing provides a structure, support for the strut assembly, and the damping units, which control the spring movements.

Coil spring: The coil spring supports the vehicle’s weight and absorbs the vibration of the suspension system.

Bump Stop and Boot: The stop bump provides a cushioning effect in the suspension and absorbs shocks. It also protects the metal suspension from rubbing together.

Spring seat: The spring seat provides support for the spring assembly. The spring seat cushions the energy created from bumps and spring recoil.

symptoms of bad shocks and struts

Is it OK to drive with bad Shock or struts?

If you look at the symptoms of driving with bad shocks or struts, you realize that driving in such conditions could be dangerous. The first thing that could be noticed is that the vehicle no longer has good handling; it sways and bounces more, reducing its handling. It also reduces the driving experience.

Furthermore, as mentioned previously, the steering system is linked to the vehicle’s wheels. The vehicle’s wheels are connected to the suspension system, which contains the strut and the shock. If something is wrong with the suspension system due to shock or struts, it affects the steering system.

It becomes extremely difficult to control the vehicle as the strut or shocks worsen. The bounciness of the car will increase, so will the vehicle keep losing control when cornering. Eventually, other parts of the suspension system will be affected, leading to a failed suspension.

The wheels connect and carry the vehicle’s weight without the proper suspension. The car cannot move in a straight line but rather wander around. The steering system will also fail to work properly.

Once you notice that the struts or shocks are faulty, it is best to have them fixed immediately before it causes further damage to the suspension.

How do you know Bad Shock or Bad Strut?

You can know if the shock or strut is bad by observing the vehicle for the signs of a bad shock or bad strut listed above. Also, the strut or shock can be physically inspected if you suspect an issue with them.

How to tell if struts are bad by looking at them?

To do this, you need to observe the wheels. Check the tire for uneven wear. Do that by comparing the tread of the tire to the wear bar on the tire. The wear bar is between the treads. Your tire is worn out if the tread is on the same level as the wear bar. However, this does not show uneven wear.

When the tire edges feel smoother than the rest of the tire tread, there is uneven wear. In most cases, it could be caused by a bad strut or shock.

If unsatisfied, observe the wheels for leaks, especially from the front wheels. The leaks will come from the top of the suspension. You can check the leak by touching the suspension’s top part. If you feel hydraulic fluid, the strut or shock must be bad.

Also, you could observe other symptoms listed previously, like clunking sounds from the suspension, bouncing when driving, nose-diving when braking, and more. If you are still looking for more, take out the tires and physically inspect the struts or shocks.

What will happen if you drive with Bad Shock or Struts?

If you continue driving with a bad strut or shock, the vehicle will have a completely damaged suspension. The car will not be able to move on a straight part, and it will cost more to fix.

Driving with a bad shock or struts means driving a vehicle with less handling and steering control. This situation is very dangerous as the car can easily lose control or tumble during cornering.

The vehicle will be more bouncy even when driving on a smooth road. In more extreme cases, the steering will be affected. There will be a gradual loss of steering command, and you will notice a vibration in the steering wheel when driving.

Once the problem remains unattended, you will face a more serious issue: suspension issues. As the vehicle bounces around, it causes other parts of the suspension system to experience fast wear, leading to a complete suspension failure.

How long can you drive with bad struts?

It is possible to drive with bad struts or shock for a while. However, it is not advisable. It is uncomfortable to drive in such conditions, and it can also damage the suspension further.

How much does it cost to replace Shocks and Struts?

It will cost between $200 and $600 to replace each pair of shocks depending on the model year and brand of the vehicle. On the other hand, it will cost between $400 and $1000 to replace the car’s struts, depending on its model.

Final Words

The strut and the shock are completely different components with a similar function; however, the struts take it further by providing structural support. Vehicles come with either the strut or shock; some might come with both. As a result, when the strut or shock is damaged, they might have similar symptoms because they are both part of the suspension and have the same responsibility.

Akindayini Temiloluwa

I am passionate about everything automotive. Right from when I got my first toy car as a kid, I developed an interest in the inner workings of vehicles. As I grew up, my love for mechanical stuff became more substantial enough for me to pursue a career in it. My goal as an automotive content writer is to simplify the most challenging concepts for my readers, help them self-diagnose what may be wrong with their vehicles and offer real value for their time.

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