Damaged Strut Boot? Should You Repair Or Replace?
When To Replace Strut Boots?
Dust boots might be overlooked as a small and unimportant component, but in fact, they serve a crucial function in every strut and shock absorber assembly. Make sure to keep every suspension and steering component in perfect working order to ensure the long-lasting and reliable performance of the system.
In this article:
What Are Strut Boots?
Strut or shock absorber boots, also known as dust boots, bellows, or bumpers are protective accessories to your shock absorber. They help keep the contaminants from entering and harming the piston shaft which helps prevent corrosion and premature shock failure. If there is no boot or if it is torn, the shock piston shaft is exposed to dust, grime, moisture road salts, and other hazards. Dirt or debris particles can scratch the polished piston shaft and penetrate the seal that sits between the shaft and the housing which will lead to leaks and eventual shock failure. Their air bellow-type construction allows them to move with the shock as it expands or compresses. Therefore if the installation is incorrect, the strut can get damaged.
This is why shock boots need to be regularly inspected for tears and replaced when necessary to ensure the strut or shock absorber does not fail prematurely.
Can You Repair Strut Boots?
Strut boots are made from rubber or synthetic polymers which means they cannot be mended if torn and require replacement. Do not try to fix them using sealants or adhesives as that can cause more damage instead of fixing the issue. These dust boots are important for efficient strut operation which is why they need to be installed correctly to seal the piston shaft within the strut and prevent contamination.
Although it is possible to drive without the boot installed, it is not recommended. It is possible that your strut might not be affected by the lack of a strut boot and may last for long, but this depends on the build quality of the strut as well. Most people are not aware of this component in their cars and so do not notice them when worn or lost. But this can stem issues in the long term and reduce strut lifespan. Boots are intended by the manufacturer as an extra precautionary step to avoid failure of the underlying components and so it is important to follow such measures for maximum longevity.
When To Replace Strut Boots?
Damaged strut boots should be replaced whenever you see signs of failure. A visual inspection can be done to do determine the condition of the boots. Any signs of wear and tear or visible cracks can indicate the boots have failed. If the strut is in a very bad state then it can mean the strut or shock may have also failed. If you notice these signs of shock absorber failure, it means the shock or strut absorber has also failed. In such cases, it is imperative to replace the strut or shock along with the boots.
Most strut boots can last a fairly long time before needing replacement, however, depending on your driving and road condition you may need an earlier replacement. Off-roading vehicles often encounter premature wear of the strut boots as they undergo heavy mud and water exposure which can clog the boot with contaminants. If you do a lot of off-roading and mudding, then you should clean the boot and the shaft regularly to avoid undue failure. If you drive on unpaved or barren roads, then the boots may be susceptible to punctures that are caused by road debris and rocks. To prevent early struts and shock absorbers failure or drivability issues, worn strut boots should be replaced immediately.
How To Replace Strut Boots?
Strut boot replacement is quite complicated as it requires the removal of the strut or shock absorber along with the spring and many suspension components as well as dismantling the strut itself to access the boot. This is why many users differ from replacing the strut boot altogether. Removing the strut or shock absorber is not recommended especially if you are not a skilled mechanic or professional. Strut or shock replacement is beyond the scope of average DIYers and should be left to the pros to avoid injuries and safety hazards.
So if you need to replace your strut boot, then a good idea is to replace the strut assembly itself as this will save you a lot in labor charges and future proof your suspension. However, if you only need to replace the strut boot or if your strut is fairly new then you should have your strut boot replaced by a mechanic. Luckily, strut boots do not cost a ton and you can find plenty of affordable options from many reputed brands. Once you do replace the boots, make sure you maintain the suspension system components by regularly servicing them to prolong the life of all parts, using this guide.