Your car’s suspension system is made up of various components that work together to keep the vehicle from bouncing around when driving over bumpy roads—and one such component is the shock absorber. These are usually located on both the front and rear wheels, but modern car models usually only have rear shock absorbers, with struts at the front.
Designed to take most of the hit when you’re on uneven terrain, your shocks are constantly subjected to a lot of stress that may make them more likely to wear out faster.
Now the question is, how long are they meant to last and when should you replace them?
How Many Miles do Shocks Last?
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer as to how long your shocks will last. Service life depends on several factors, including what type of vehicle you have; where you drive and your driving habits. The initial quality of the shocks also plays a role.
As a general rule of thumb, most experts estimate the service life of shocks to be between 50,000 and 100,000 miles. But keep in mind that reaching the 50,000 or 100,000-mile mark doesn’t necessarily mean that your shocks need to be replaced. If you’ve taken good care of your vehicle over the years, you may find that your shocks won’t need to be replaced just yet. Nonetheless, even if your suspension system isn’t exhibiting issues, it’s a good idea to have it inspected once you reach the 50,000-mile mark.
5 Factors That Affect the Longevity of Your Shocks
As previously mentioned, there are several factors that can affect the lifespan of your shock absorbers. If you want to ensure that they last a long time, here are some things you may want to avoid:
Fewer bumps on the road equals more miles on your shocks.
Driving over potholes, rough roads, and uneven terrain can cause a lot of added strain on your suspension system. Of course, you can’t always choose where you drive—poor road conditions can’t be helped. So if you have no choice but to drive on bumpy roads, try to minimize the damage by driving more slowly than you normally would.
Also, be conscious of potholes—if you see one in your path, try to avoid it as much as you can.
Your vehicle’s suspension system has a maximum load capacity, which refers to the total weight it can carry safely when on the road. When you go past this limit, whether by having too many passengers onboard or carrying excessive cargo, you are overloading—a dangerous practice that can wreak havoc on your shocks.
Heavy loads can cause the springs in your suspension to distort or even crack from the strain, so make sure to find out what your suspension system’s load capacity is to avoid overloading your vehicle.
This type of driving is often unavoidable in the hustle and bustle of city streets and highways, especially during rush hour. Nobody wants to be in stop-and-go traffic, but if you can avoid it, your shocks can last much longer.
This type of driving is also typical of tailgaters, who often have to engage their brakes more frequently to avoid narrowly hitting the car in front of them. So if you like to tailgate people, you may want to stop doing that—not just for the longevity of your shocks, but for everyone’s safety, too.
While all the other things mentioned on this list are avoidable, you can’t avoid the weather. If you live in a particularly wet climate that sees a lot of snow and, as a consequence, road salt, your shocks may wear out faster due to corrosion.
You may be able to counter this by cleaning your suspension system every once in a while to get ahead of the rust.
Modifying your car’s suspension, either by lifting or lowering it, can put additional strain on your shocks. The reason being, you’re either compressing or extending the shock beyond the manufacturer’s design.
When Should You Replace Your Shocks?
If you’ve started noticing issues with your vehicle’s suspension system even before you reach the 50,000-mile mark, then it may be time to replace your shocks.
Here are some of the symptoms you may experience if you have faulty shock absorbers:
- Rough or bumpy ride
- Your vehicle “bottoms out” while going over bumps
- Clunking or banging noises from the undercarriage
- Poor handling and/or braking performance
- Your tire tread exhibits a “cupped” wear pattern
Should you come across any or all of these signs, that may be your cue to replace your shock absorbers. However, always remember that a car has a lot of moving parts—this means that the presence of these issues may not necessarily mean that your shocks are bad. It could point to something else entirely.
To be sure, visit your mechanic and have your vehicle inspected.