The shocks and struts of a car absorb all the inconsistencies on the road such as uneven roads and potholes. They also stabilize your car when you turn, brake and, accelerate.
Not all cars use shocks, some use struts while others use a combination of both.
To make everything clear, in addition to the replacement cost, the difference between struts and shocks will be discussed as well.
Let’s get started with the basics so you’re sure what you’re dealing with!
Table of ContentsShow
Shocks Or Struts?
Shocks and struts are incorrectly used interchangeably sometimes. The reason for this is that their function is the same.
If your shocks are bad, you cannot replace them with struts and vice versa. On some cars, shocks are used on one axle while struts are used on another.
The greatest difference is that a strut is integrated with the suspension system, while shock absorbers are not. Because of this, struts have a few more functions than shocks.
Besides reducing the bounce, roll, and stabilizing the car, as shock absorbers do, struts also provide structural support for the suspension and hold the tire in an aligned position.
When doing a wheel alignment, the camber and caster angles are adjusted by adjusting the struts directly.
This also means that you in most cases must do a wheel alignment when changing struts, while that is not the case with shocks.
When Should Shocks And Struts Be Replaced?
Now that you know what shocks are and how they differ from struts, it is valuable to know when they should be replaced.
There are a few symptoms that may show if your shocks and struts are in need to be replaced. Following symptoms may show:
If you notice that your car is tilted on one side or the other, it might be a sign of bad shocks and struts. You might also notice the car moving back forth when it is windy outside.
Uneven Tire Wear
If your shocks and struts are not working properly, the wheels of the car might bounce resulting in ineffective tire-to-road contact, consequently, the tire will wear out unevenly.
The tires may also be prone to scalloping/cupping which are patches producing high and low spots due to accelerated tear.
Shakes And Rattles
If you notice that your car is shaking even though the surface is relatively flat, it is a sign that something may be bad with your suspension, struts or shocks.
Also, vibrations in the steering wheel are also a potential sign of worn shocks and struts, this applies if it vibrates on a smooth road surface.
Swerving During Braking
A very serious sign is swerving during braking. Usually, if this occurs, the front of the car dips excessively.
If this occurs, it is very important to fix the problem as soon as possible as it may potentially have disastrous consequences during emergency braking.
This problem is especially dangerous in the wet.
It generally also takes a longer time to stop the car, but this might be hard to notice as the change is gradual.
How To Test Shock Absorbers
If you suspect that your shocks are bad or just want to test them, there is a simple way to test them.
To test your shocks, simply push the front of your car in an up and down motion and stop abruptly. If the shocks are in a good condition, the car will stop the motion.
If the car continuous to go up and down, your shocks are most probably bad and need a replacement.
There are also other ways to test your shock absorbers, wikiHow has a concise guide on how to test your shock absorbers in several ways.
Note that this test does not apply to struts, only shock absorbers.
How To Test Struts
Because the struts are different in terms of location and function, the test for shock absorbers explained above does not work.
The only way to test the struts is by doing a road test and paying attention if any signs of bad struts such as shakes, rattles, nosedive appears.
Make sure you test the car in an controlled environment following all traffic laws in your area
Cost Of Replacing Shocks And Struts
Shocks and struts usually hold for 50 000 to 100 000 miles, but this number is only an estimate and the reality be more but also less.
When replacing shocks struts, it is recommended to replace both the shocks on the same axle.
As shock absorbers do not affect the steering, camber, and caster angle, they are easier and cheaper to replace compared to struts and generally do not need a wheel alignment.
To replace the shocks of the same axle, on average, it will cost you around $250 and $600 in parts while labor costs will land you around $150 and $350.
When it comes to struts, they are slightly more expensive. To replace a pair of struts, the total cost on average is between $400 and $1000, including wheel alignment.
An individual strut assembly costs approximately $150 to $350, while the labor cost is $100 to $300 for a pair.
You can opt to only change the struts (instead of the strut assembly) to lower the cost for about $40 to $80, however you do get great value and results by changing the whole strut assembly when changing struts.
Shock absorbers and struts play a key role in making your car drive smoothly and absorb all the shocks from uneven asphalt and potholes.
While many people use shocks and struts interchangeably, it is important to distinguish them as they differ in cost and function.
Struts have the same function as shocks, but they also play a role in steering and provide structural support to the suspension.
Because of this, strut replacement usually needs a wheel alignment while shock replacement generally does not.
If your car starts behaving strangely by vibrating, swerving while braking, or tilting after a gush of wind, your shocks or struts may be bad and should be checked.
You can do a quick test for shocks by pushing up and down the front or back of the car, if the car continues to “bounce” after you let go of the car, your shocks are probably bad.
To test struts, a road test in a controlled environment is the only way to test them.