DIY

Shocks vs. Struts: The Basics

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We get a lot of questions from our readers about the differences between shock absorbers and struts. How are these two suspension components any different?

front shock absorber
Shock absorbers reduce the rate of roll or say, bounce, brake dive, and acceleration squat thanks to the extension and compression cycle.

Structure is the main difference between shocks and struts. Shock absorbers reduce the rate of roll or say, bounce, brake dive, and acceleration squat thanks to the extension and compression cycle. Shock absorbers are stand-alone components. They can be paired with a torsion bar, a coil, or leaf springs. These vehicle suspension parts are also simpler and less expensive than struts.

Meanwhile, struts act as a structural part of the suspension system. They take the place of the upper ball joint and upper control arm in conventional suspensions. Each strut is integrated into an assembly with one of the suspension coil springs. The strut’s purpose is to support the vehicle’s weight thanks to a coil spring. Front strut assemblies typically contain a bearing that serves as a pivot point for the steering knuckle.

What are the advantages of using either? For shock absorbers, you get better handling. As for struts, you get a lower initial cost on your vehicle.

front strut assembly
The strut’s purpose is to support the vehicle’s weight thanks to a coil spring.

If you want to check these components, you should do so on a regular basis. You can check your shocks and struts a couple of ways. First, you can bounce the vehicle up and down over each wheel. Remember to take note of how the vehicle sits at its regular state. As you bounce the vehicle on all four sides, observe how the vehicle bounces above and below that normal state of rest. Once you let go of the side in the down position, it should come right back up to the center and stop. If it continues to move, the shock or strut on that corner may be bad. You can replace them in pairs: two in the front or two at the rear.

Second, you can raise the vehicle and look for any signs of oil leaking out of the shocks or struts. If there are visible leaks, you’ll need to replace them in pairs.

, Shocks vs. Struts: The Basics
Anytime you replace strut and shock mounts, you want to do it in pairs – left and right because these endure the same road conditions and number of miles.

If you want to replace the shocks yourself, you can do that easily. Just follow the directions that come with the shock absorber, or you can follow the procedures in your vehicle-specific repair manual. For struts, it’s a different problem altogether. The spring on the strut can be very dangerous and if you go un-bolting parts all of a sudden, you can get into trouble as the spring suddenly takes off. To fix your struts, you’ll need spring compressors, which will compress the spring and let you handle them easily. Though even if you have this piece of equipment, you still have to be careful. Otherwise, you should be able to change the struts yourself.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic.

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