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When to replace shocks and struts

  • Story Highlights
  • Not all vehicles have both shocks and struts
  • If your vehicle "bottoms out" on bumps, you may need new shocks and struts
  • Checkups are the key to preventing the effects of worn shocks and/or struts
  • Properly functioning shocks and struts make for safer driving
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By Tom Torbjornsen
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(AOL Autos) -- I'm sure you've probably heard this before. "Your shocks and (or) struts are blown and need replacing." You are quoted some astronomical price and you immediately ask yourself, "How important are these things ... do I really need to replace them?" These are good questions that deserve our attention.

First of all, it is important to note that not all vehicles have both shocks and struts. Some have just struts and some vehicles have only shocks. Shocks are part of the overall suspension, and a strut is a complete suspension assembly.

The shocks and/or struts in your car perform two functions. They dampen spring oscillation, and secondly, they aid in ride control. Let's look at these two jobs in more detail.

The springs in your car actually absorb road shocks (not the shock absorbers). Surprised? The shock absorber's function is to dampen the bouncing spring. If you did not have shock absorbers to dampen the spring oscillations from road shock, your car would turn into a "bucking bronco" every time you hit a bump in the road, making it very difficult to handle and dangerous. AOL Autos: Car repair horror stories

The shock absorbers in your car aid in ride control by keeping the car manageable during regular driving. They do this by keeping the tires down on the road and not allowing them to bounce after hitting a bump. This allows for ease of cornering and handling. AOL Autos: How to make your old car seem new

Here are the signs that you may need new shocks and/or struts:

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• Vehicle rolls or sways on turns

• Front end dives when braking

• Rear end squats when accelerating

• Vehicle bounces or slides sideways on a winding, rough road

• Vehicle "bottoms out" (with a thump) on bumps

In addition, worn shocks and/or struts can accelerate the wear of your tires and suspension parts ... the ball joints, steering linkage, springs and C.V. joints. AOL Autos: How often do you really need to change your oil?

Preventative checkups are the key to side-stepping the effects of worn shocks and/or struts. Have your technician check them every time you have an oil change. AOL Autos: Insider advice on selecting a mechanic

Things to look for:

• Leaks on the housing

• Dents on the shock or strut body

• Worn rubber mounting bushings

• Pitted piston rods

• Crushed rubber bumpers from "bottoming out"

• Abnormal wear on tires (high and low spots)

Don't "cut corners" when it comes to your shocks/struts. Proper functioning of these parts is essential to the handling and cornering of your vehicle, making for safer driving conditions. AOL Autos: Is buying a new car worth it?

Tom Torbjornsen is a veteran of 37 years in the auto service industry, an automotive journalist registered with IMPA.

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