Shop Parts keyboard_double_arrow_right
Need car parts? Select your vehicle
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Summary
  • Struts are similar to shock absorbers, as they both dampen oscillations from the car’s suspension springs.
  • The difference between a loaded and an unloaded strut is the former comes as an assembly with everything pre-installed, while the latter only has the strut itself.
  • The choice between a loaded or unloaded strut is up to you, but a set of loaded struts could prove to be the cheaper option.

The time has come for you to purchase a new set of struts for your car. As you’re shopping around, you notice that there are so-called “loaded” struts available alongside traditional, unloaded struts.

What’s the difference between these two options—and which is the best choice for your vehicle? Let’s find out.

What is a Strut?

Before you can understand the difference between loaded and unloaded struts, it helps to understand struts in general. Struts are very similar to traditional shock absorbers in that they dampen oscillations from the car’s suspension springs. There is one shock absorber or strut at each corner of the vehicle.

The primary difference is that, unlike shocks, struts also act as a structural part of the suspension system. Front struts provide a pivot point for the car’s steering system, as well.

parts of a strut
The most common type of strut assembly is called a MacPherson strut.

What’s more, most struts are housed together with a coil spring as a single assembly. The most common type of strut assembly is called a MacPherson strut. A typical MacPherson strut assembly includes the following components:

  • Strut
  • Coil spring
  • Upper and lower spring insulators
  • Bump stop
  • Mount
  • Dust cover
  • Bearing (front struts only)
See also  How Long Do Shocks Last?

There is also another, rather uncommon, type of strut assembly called a modified strut. Modified struts do not incorporate a coil spring. Instead, the coil spring typically mounts to the car’s lower control arm.

Loaded vs. Unloaded Strut

Chances are, you’ll need to choose between either a loaded or unloaded strut when shopping for a replacement. What’s the difference between these two options? The answer is pretty straightforward:

  • A loaded strut (also known as a quick strut) comes as an assembly with everything pre-installed, including the coil spring, mount, etc.
  • An unloaded strut does not come as an assembly—all you get is the strut itself.

Loaded struts have several benefits, one of which is that they’re relatively easy to install. Unlike unloaded struts, which require disassembly with a special spring compressor tool, loaded struts come pre-assembled and ready to install.

Another benefit of loaded struts is that you get all-new parts (i.e., coil spring, mount, etc.) along with the strut itself. That means all parts of the assembly that are worn-out get replaced at the same time.

The downside is that loaded struts cost more than unloaded struts. But if you’re paying a professional to replace the struts for you, the price difference between the two options is often negligible since loaded struts require less labor to install.

loaded strut
A loaded strut (also known as a quick strut) comes as an assembly with everything pre-installed.

Should You Choose a Loaded or Unloaded Strut?

Now that you know the difference between a loaded and unloaded strut, you may be wondering which option is best for you. To answer that question, you’ll want to consider the following:

  • Loaded struts are easier to install than unloaded struts
  • Only loaded struts come with all new parts (i.e., spring, mount, etc.)
  • Unloaded struts cost less than loaded struts
  • Usually, only unloaded struts require a dedicated spring compressor tool to install
See also  Shocks and Struts Replacement Cost
unloaded strut
An unloaded strut does not come as an assembly—all you get is the strut itself.

But wait—what if you’re having a professional replace the struts for you? Ask them for an estimate for both loaded and unloaded options. When factoring in the cost of labor, you may find out that going with a set of loaded struts is the most affordable option.

Get Replacement Struts that Fit Your Vehicle

Loaded or unloaded, struts are an essential part of your vehicle’s suspension system. Replacing defective ones is important if you want to keep the system’s structural integrity intact and, of course, if you want a smooth ride while driving. Not replacing damaged struts can easily spell disaster. If the damaged struts fail while on the road, your vehicle might continue to drive forward even while braking, bounce uncontrollably while driving over uneven surfaces, and have bad steering response. Thankfully, CarParts.com offers a wide variety of quality aftermarket struts.

You can order with confidence using the CarParts.com built-in vehicle selector. This allows you to find struts that are guaranteed to fit your ride. Our parts are sourced from only the best manufacturers in the industry to ensure high quality. We also allow for returns for up to 60 days in case the part doesn’t fit your vehicle.

See also  Best Shocks for Lifted Trucks

Don’t take any risks with faulty struts. Order new struts at CarParts.com today.

Shop this Project

Arnott® – SK-2954 Front, Driver or Passenger Side Loaded Strut – Sold individually
, Loaded vs. Unloaded Strut: What’s the Difference?
$265.38 Price and rating may change from the time content is published.
Bilstein® – 22-246578 Rear, Passenger Side Strut – Sold individually
, Loaded vs. Unloaded Strut: What’s the Difference?
$116.00 Price and rating may change from the time content is published.
Monroe® – 139105 Front, Driver or Passenger Side Loaded Strut – Sold individually
, Loaded vs. Unloaded Strut: What’s the Difference?
$115.99 Price and rating may change from the time content is published.
Rancho® – RS55836 Front, Driver or Passenger Side Strut – Sold individually
, Loaded vs. Unloaded Strut: What’s the Difference?
$140.69 Price and rating may change from the time content is published.
KYB® – 335079 Rear, Driver Side Strut – Sold individually
, Loaded vs. Unloaded Strut: What’s the Difference?
$69.99 Price and rating may change from the time content is published.
About The Author
Written By Automotive Subject Matter Expert at CarParts.com

Mia Bevacqua has over 14 years of experience in the auto industry and holds a bachelor’s degree in Advanced Automotive Systems. Certifications include ASE Master Automobile Technician, Master Medium/Heavy Truck Technician, L1, L2, L3, and L4 Advanced Level Specialist. Mia loves fixer-upper oddballs, like her 1987 Cavalier Z-24 and 1998 Astro Van AWD.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

File Under : Suspension , DIY Tagged With :
NTMS Star
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

View all Questions & Answers

expand_more
CarParts.com Answers BE PART OF OUR COMMUNITY: Share your knowledge & help fellow drivers Join Now
The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.