Your Shocks & Struts Guide
What Are Shocks & Struts?
A strut principal structural component of a suspension. The strut is positioned on the upper control arm and upper ball joint which is a part of the standard suspensions. A strut is engineered in a way so as to be lighter and can be fit in and take up less space as compared to the shock absorbers in standard suspension systems. A strut has two major functions. The first involves a damping function, in a way similar to shock absorbers. The internal structure of a strut has a piston which is connected to the end of the piston rod and works to regulate spring and suspension movement, by working against hydraulic fluid, which is similar to the structure of a shock absorber.
The major components of struts include a coil spring which is capable of supporting the vehicle’s weight, a strut housing to ensure firm structural support for the assembly, and within this strut housing, a damping unit is fixed to regulate spring and suspension movement. The lower part of the strut body is connected to the steering knuckle. The steering knuckle is attached to a lower control arm through a lower ball joint.
Shocks Vs Struts
Know the difference between shocks and struts? The shocks and struts are different auto parts but they perform similar functions that are generic in nature. These functions include that of damping the movement of the spring and the halting of oscillation and bounce. Note that both these parts are irreplaceable and can’t be switched for one another. Well, although, a vehicle has only have one of these present at one wheel, so don’t think of modifying the vehicle’s suspension to use the other. Each and every vehicle is distinctly designed with either shocks or struts and the major difference between both is that a strut is a structural part of the vehicle’s suspension system whereas shock isn’t. Although, a strut is also essential for the vehicle’s steering system as it affects the alignment angles. You can adjust the camber and caster angles right on the strut itself. A strut is a primal point for the steering system and it also has a coil spring. It is due to this; an alignment is required for replacing a strut. This is why struts are more expensive than shocks.
We advise you to arm yourself with enough knowledge before getting into the installation and removal of the shocks and struts as these are often confused with one another. You might end up wasting your time as a number of vehicles contain struts on the front axle and shocks are there on the rear side.
Important Features of Shocks & Struts
Here we have listed a few important features of shocks and struts that should be known by you:
- The twin tube design provides a well restored ride quality and handling.
- It should be noted that the multi-shim valve system tends to be ‘vehicle specific’ for superior-handling ride control. It comforts as opposed to the cheaper ‘on-off’ valve used by a large number of shock companies.
- The piston rod is hard, micro-polished and is doubly chrome-plated for enhanced durability
- Also, the twin tube design offers an outer tube that helps in protecting the functional parts from damage. These tubes are composed of cold drawn extruded steel.
How Do Shocks & Struts Works?
Well, these struts mainly perform two basic tasks that includes a shock damping function like shock absorbers. A strut (internally) holds responsibility to a shock absorber. There is a piston connected to the end of the piston rod that functions against hydraulic fluid in order to control the spring and suspension movement. Similar to the shock absorbers, the valving produces resistance to pumping forces. This is done by the up and down motions of the suspension. A strut is velocity sensitive exactly like the shock absorbers. This means that is actually a valve and helps the amount of resistance to increase and decrease, depending on the speed of the suspensions. The second task undertaken by the struts is that of providing structural support to the vehicle’s suspension thus resulting in affecting the riding comfort and handling along with the vehicle control, braking, steering, wheel alignment and damage on other suspension components, including the tires.
Frequent Problems with Shocks & Struts
There are a lot of problems that occur with the shocks and struts. Generally, people depend on their senses for getting service done while there are a lot of parts that give certain warnings. That is the reason why performing frequent test drives is the best way to confirm the customer’ specific ride control complaints. Here listed are a few common symptoms that should be taken as a warning sign for problems related to the shocks and struts:
- The vehicle starts bouncing - The coil springs perform the task of dampening the transfer of energy when a vehicle drives over bumps, potholes and rough roads. It is the vehicle’s shocks and struts that help in controlling the movement of the springs so that the wheels so there isn’t any excess movement. When these Autoparts are stuck, impaired or loose, the tires tend to lose contact with the road while driving, therefore resulting in a bouncy and uncomfortable ride. Often, the customers aren’t aware of the recovery, compression or the gas charged twin tube shocks. All the blame is the shocks and struts for the uncomfortable ride. We advise you to properly identify the problem before jumping on a certain solution.
- The front-end dives and/or the rear squats - During acceleration and braking, it is the shocks and struts that help in keeping the vehicle stable. So, when they are damaged, there are a lot of chances of the front end diving upon braking while the rear end squatting during acceleration. It is a result of weaker components failing to handle the weight of the vehicle. New shocks and struts not only make the ride smoother but also have other benefits as well like enhancing the operation of the brakes.
- The vehicle is likely to show signs of body roll - A car’s stability may be jeopardized at the time of cornering, similar to the situation where a car can dip and squat as the brakes or accelerators are applied. Any fault with the shocks will affect the body in a way that it would feel as if it is bending towards the turn, even on the turns which are not as extreme. However, these problems call for immediate solutions as they can affect the braking and steering operation and lead to a safety issue. One of the most important things which should be kept in mind is that the problem should be fixed as soon as possible because the loss of efficiency takes place gradually and the dampening potential of a shock or strut will deteriorate to an extent where it can affect ride and handling, which could be unobtrusive to the driver. A test drive is essential to the inspection procedure as a driver may not notice the signs of body lean and eventually become used to this, and a test drive may reveal issues and subtleties that are invisible to the driver.
- You hear unusual noises - Are you hearing strange noises? Well, this is one of the most common signs. When the shocks and bushings get damaged, they lose their tendency to properly support strut, thus resulting in further damage. At times, when the strut bottoms out, knocking sounds are caused by the metal to metal contact from the front or rear wheels. Suspension related noises are also heard due to tire cupping or scalloping. When the shock absorbers wear out, the tires recoil faster causing patterns of damage that change like a series of peaks and valleys. These changes in the tire tread lead to bouncing sounds that can only be detected while a test drive is performed.
Symptoms of Bad Shocks & Struts
Here we have listed a few common symptoms of damaged shocks and struts:
- Improperly cupped tires, tires shaking, wheel shimmy or sensing vibrations after hitting a bump.
- You are likely to notice the suspension bottoming on uneven roads or while withdrawing on a driveway.
- A bouncy drive.
- Body swaying or rocking while cornering or driving during crosswinds.
- Nose diving while braking hard.
- Fluid leakages from a strut or shock.
Tools Needed for Shocks & Struts
o you like repairing your car on your own? Thinking of opening up your own car body shop? It is a great business opportunity if you love cars and possess a good work ethic. Now if you want your shop to be successful, then you will require a combination of effort as well as car mechanic training. And of course, the correct equipment which would upgrade your speed as well as make your repair work easy. If you have the right tools, then you can easily meet the demands of today's car body structures. Here are some of the most essential tools which you might need to repair your shocks & struts:
- Car jack
- Jack Stands
- Wheel chock
- Torque Wrench
- Shocks and/or struts *Note: replace in pairs only.
- Backup wrench
- New rubber bushings (always install new shocks with new rubber bushings)
- Coil spring compressors
- New rubber mounts for struts (always install new struts with new rubber mounts)
- 6-inch C-clamp
- Allen wrench
- Pry bar
- Ratcheting box-end wrench
- Backing wrench
Top Brands for Shocks & Struts
If customers trust a brand, then it would make them loyal, and if they are loyal, then they will surely buy more. We are well aware that customers want comfort, cheerfulness as well as satisfaction in their lives and that’s the reason why we offer top quality auto parts brands to our customers. We make sure to provide a positive experience to our consumers from the brands which we are offering so that they can form an opinion that a particular auto parts brand is trustworthy and would give them peace of mind while they are purchasing it for their car. Here we have listed out some top brands for shocks & struts:
Total Costs & Repair Times, Effort for Shocks & Struts?
Failure in shocks & struts comes in a lot of forms. But take note that it is not an inexpensive repair. Sometimes in the end you might find out that there is a need of complete Shocks & Struts replacement. There is no fast and hard number as to how much would a Shocks & Struts* replacement would cost as it depends upon a lot of factors like the brand, make, model as well as the mechanic who is going to repair/replace it. Replacement of a pair of struts costs around somewhere between $450 to $900. Individually strut assemblies’ cost can be estimated around $150 to $300. Parts alone can cost around $300 to $600 while the labour costs can be estimated around $150 to $300.
How to Change Struts & Shock?
Follow the instructions if you are willing to change or mend the struts and shocks:
The vehicle should be parked on an even levelled surface. Next, you gotta open the hood and place the transmission in park (automatic) or in gear (manual) and put the emergency brakes. Turn off the air suspension switch, before jacking the vehicle, if your vehicle has automatic ride control (ARC). Next, loosen the wheel lug nuts on the side with the shock absorber in case you want to replace them. Then, lift the tires off the ground with a floor jack with safe support with a jack stand. Finally, remove the wheel lugs and tires.
- Strut Replacement - Remove the three upper mounting nuts that hold the strut assembly to the body, while working from the engine compartment. On a number of vehicles, you will be required to disconnect the tie-rod end from the lower part of the strut-steering knuckle assembly. A puller might be needed for this procedure. While some models may require you to disconnect the brake calliper, brake disc and even the hub assembly, even before proceeding to the strut assembly. Disconnect all the electrical connectors, airline and sensor from the assembly if the car has an ARC system. All the harness, line or component linked to the strut assembly should be disconnected. We advise you to take help from the vehicle repair manual if required. Apply penetrating oil to the threads, if the mounting bolts are rusted. Loosen the nuts on the two lower mounting bolts that hold the strut to the steering knuckle, until the nuts come to the level of the lower end of the bots. Push the mounting bolts out using a hammer. Then remove the nuts off the mounting bolts and finish removing the bolts. Next, pull the strut assembly flange off the steering knuckle. If you aren’t able to separate the strut mounting flange from the steering knuckle, then make use of a rubber mallet or wood block to tap on the steering knuckle for separating it. Be careful as a number of models might require you to use a pry bar for separating the parts, after spreading the steering knuckle and strut joint. Disconnect the strut from the steering knuckle by using a piece of wire as this will secure the steering knuckle to the suspension in order to keep the knuckle from swinging. Now finally, remove the strut assembly off the vehicle.
- Shock Replacements - Same procedure should be performed if you want to remove the shocks. It should be noted that if the rod in the shock turns while you are trying to remove the upper mount nut, try to hold the rod in place using a pair of vise grip pliers from under the vehicle. Then using a floor jack support the lower part of the shock absorber (generally, the control armor axle). Use penetrating oil to the bolts or parts, if they are rusted. Then loosen and disconnect the mounting bolts that hold the shock absorber in the place. Finally, disconnect the upper mounting bolt and then slowly proceed to lowering the floor jack a few inches, if required, to work the shock out of the vehicle. Lastly, leave the jack in place for supporting the axle or control arm.