All vehicles are designed with either shocks or struts. While there are some differences, both consist of coil springs and shock absorbers that help your car stop quickly, while also improving vehicle stability and control. Shocks and struts are not replaced at regular intervals, so it is very important to recognize the warning signs that they may be wearing out. If you notice any of these symptoms, have your vehicle checked out as soon as possible, as the shocks or struts will continue to worsen and could eventually fail altogether.
Whenever you drive over a bump in the road, the springs that are part of the shocks or struts absorb the movement, minimizing and quickly stopping the bounce in your car. As the systems wears out, though, these springs are no longer able to absorb the bounce. If you start to notice continued bouncing after driving over a rough patch or a bump, you likely need to have the shocks or struts replaced.
Shocks and struts help to stabilize the vehicle during maneuvering, such as accelerating, braking, and turning. When they start to wear out, the car will start to behave differently during these maneuvers. Nose dives occur during braking, when the front end of the car drops down. Rear end squats happen when the back of the car drops down during acceleration. Side dips happen during turning, when the side of the vehicle drops into the turn. If you notice any of these symptoms, have your shocks or struts checked out.
Even if you don’t yet feel the bouncing caused by worn shocks or struts, it will often show up on the tires as an irregular tread pattern. The tires will bounce constantly during driving, scraping away bits of rubber. The small holes left behind are then smoothed out as you drive. Consequently, the tires will show a “cupping” or “scalloping” treadwear pattern, in which there is normal tread, then a smooth area, then normal tread, then another smooth area. Regularly checking your tires can help you catch this soon after it begins.
Every shock or strut contains a piston with hydraulic fluid. As the shock or strut compresses on a bump, it pushes the piston into the hydraulic fluid, absorbing the force. Consequently, it is normal for a little bit of the fluid to leak out, leaving a small wet spot on the shock or strut. As shocks and struts wear out, though, more hydraulic fluid can leak. If the majority of a shock or strut looks oily or wet, it is probably time to replace it.
Shocks and struts are absolutely crucial to safe vehicle handling and braking, and are not replaced at regular intervals. Therefore, it is important to recognize the signs of wear. If you notice any of the above symptoms, have your car checked out as soon as possible.
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