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The difference between shocks and struts, and when do we need to replace them?

Shocks and struts: putting an end to all the confusion once and for all.

Shock and Strut | TL Motors

The smooth feel of the vehicle is due in large part to two integral components: shock absorbers and struts.

However, while both shocks and struts are integral to the safety and comfort of the vehicle, they are in fact two distinct parts

What are shocks?
As far as shocks, also referred to as the shock absorbers, are a key component of the suspension system. They control the impact and rebound movement of your vehicle’s springs and suspension, they ensure that the vehicle’s tires remain in contact with the road surface at all times .ultimately, they absorb energy. Without shocks, the wheels on the car or truck will actually bounce off of the road surface, and vibrate erratically down rough roads.

The key components of the shock absorber are a piston, a coil, and hydraulic fluid. When the car wheel dips down, for example into a pothole or crevice, the shock initiates a compression cycle, and a piston exerts pressure on hydraulic fluid in the upper chamber of the device. The fluid serves to slow down the coil as it relaxes back into place, and this helps prevent an excessively bumpy feel to the ride.

What are struts?
Struts are the structural part of the suspension system and they are used on the front end of nearly every front-wheel –drive vehicle. A strut integrates numerous different suspension parts into one compact assembly. The latter include:

  • The Coil Spring
  • The Spring Seats
  • The Shock Absorbers
  • The Strut Bearing
  • The Steering Knuckle

The shock absorber portion of the strut is the most commonly serviced part of the strut assembly.

The coil spring can support the weight of the vehicle and adjust to road irregularities like bumps, hills and valleys. Specifically, the struts connect the upper bearing to the lower ball joint so that the entire assembly can pivot when the vehicle is turned in any direction. Struts serve multiple purpose : the internal shock absorber will dampen the movement of the spring as it compresses and rebounds itself while the vehicle is travelling and with its spring it will support the weight of the vehicle while it is moving so that it can adapt to road irregularities In sum, while the shocks simply absorb impact, the struts also function to support and control the vehicle in motion.

When to replace them?

  1. Visual signs such as :
    • Noticeable fluid leak
    • Shocks and/or struts look dented or damaged
    • Tires show unusual wear patterns
  2. Vehicle handling:
    • If you experience a bumpy or shaky ride, have poor steering response, stiffness or noise when steering or instability when braking.
  3. Mileage:
    • At 50k miles, they may be worn to the point of needing replacing (depending on vehicle and driving conditions).
    • 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.

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.

If you think you may need to replace your shocks and /or struts, stop by TLMOTORS or simply give us a call at (626)331-3511 to schedule an appointment, we will be more than happy to inspect them for you.