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Top 5 Signs Your Car Needs Shocks or Struts NOW!

April 19, 2019

Has this happened to you? You go to your regular place for a simple oil change and the mechanic says, “By the way, you could use some new shocks and/or struts.”Your first thought is probably, "Really? I wonder what that will cost!" Your second thought may be, "How do I know if I really DO need new shocks/struts?" This is a great question because most of us have no idea how long shocks or struts should last.

How Long Do Shocks/Struts Last?

This depends on many factors. You can think of shocks or struts like tennis shoes. If you only wear them on the weekends to go to the mall, they will last far longer than someone who wears them daily, rides a skateboard, and uses their shoes as brakes fairly frequently!This means that your shocks or struts will last longer if you drive fewer miles, drive on nice smooth roads, don't drive like Speed Racer, and don’t carry a lot of weight in your vehicle.On average, if your car has been “babied,” you can expect your shocks/struts to last about 10 years. If you have really used your car like a workhorse, 5 years is probably all you can expect. This means that for the average driver, 7 or 8 years is the maximum life expectancy of most shocks and struts.

How Do I Know If My Car Has Shocks or Struts?

The majority of cars and SUVs on the road today have struts on the front wheels and shocks in the back. It’s possible that your vehicle has 4-wheel struts or, if it’s a very old vehicle, it could have four shocks, but this isn’t as common.You can always check your owner’s manual, which should tell you what your vehicle is equipped with, or you can get down on your knees and take a peek. Shock absorbers, or shocks for short, look similar to the shocks you see on the front wheels of bicycles. Struts are encased inside a coil spring and are much more complicated designs. This is because struts are an integral part of the front suspension.If you still aren't sure which you have, bring your vehicle over to Auto Lab and we will give you the answer you're looking for.

5 Sure-Fire Signs You Need Shocks or Struts

Some people never replace their shocks or struts because they honestly don’t realize that they are worn out. How can you tell for certain? The following are 5 sure-fire signs.

Dipping Front End or Droopy Bottom

When you go over a speed bump or if you hit the brakes a bit harder than normal, does the front end of your car dip down like a curtsy before the queen? That’s a typical sign of worn out struts in the front.Alternately, when you back out of a driveway and the rear wheel hits the dip at the curb, does the rear of the car bottom out? Does it scrape the pavement? These are signs the rear shocks have met the end of their useful life.


If you get a flashlight, you can take a look at your shocks and struts. Do you see fluid (usually brown in color) leaking down onto the bottom part of the shock or strut? While you might have a leak elsewhere that is splashing on the shock, this has a different look to it. This fluid leak should come straight down and not have a splash of fluid on one side only.Be careful about unscrupulous mechanics that squirt some oil around your shocks or struts then bring you over to show you the “leaking” part. Ask them to clean it off with a rag and drive home. If it is leaking, you will see it again within a few miles.

A Bouncy Ride

This is perhaps the most common of all signs, however, it’s easy to miss because most people become accustomed to how their car rides over time.One way to check is to push or stand on the bumper and bounce up and down a few times, then hop off (be careful not to fall!). The car should bounce once more then stop. If it continues two or more times, it’s time for new shocks or new struts.

A Loss of Control

Another tell-tale sign is when you take a turn or hit a pothole you didn’t see. If you feel the vehicle sway or if it feels as if it just isn’t stable, chances are that the struts are bad.An old-fashioned way to check for this is for you or someone else to drive the vehicle while you follow behind. When shocks and struts are very worn out, you can see the car bouncing along or swaying from side to side very easily.

Tire Wear and Vibrations

While a vibration felt in the steering wheel is sometimes due to unbalanced wheels, it can also mean worn out struts.Your tires will also help to tell about the condition of your front struts. Tires that have what is called “cupping” (which look like round cup marks that are bald) frequently get this way from very worn out struts. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen as often with rear shocks, but if you have never changed your struts, chances are that the rear shocks are worn out as well.

How Can You Know for Certain?

For those of you who are very inexperienced in this area and want to know for certain that your vehicle needs these important parts, you can always trust the pros at Auto Lab.We'll be happy to evaluate the condition of your shocks and struts and then explain to you what we're seeing and what we recommend and why. You can trust the team at Auto Lab for all your car care needs, whether it’s an oil change or new struts.

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