Like most safety-critical chassis components, shocks and struts wear out so gradually over the course of normal operation that the negative effects - reduced steering precision, stopping performance and/or vehicle stability - might not be easily recognized in normal driving conditions. The rate of wear depends on a wide range of variables, such as road and environmental conditions, your driving style and vehicle load. Read on to learn the signs of worn shocks & struts.
Signs of Worn Shocks and Struts
While shocks and struts wear out gradually, your vehicle may give you some signs that there is something wrong with its ride control components. Worn shocks and struts can have a detrimental effect on steering, stopping and the stability of your vehicle. If your vehicle is displaying any of these symptoms, it’s time to make an appointment with your service provider for a Safety Triangle Inspection of your suspension system.
- Nose dive when braking – Does it feel like the front end of your car dips quickly toward the ground when you hit your brakes? This is called nose dive and can indicate worn shocks and struts. It is dangerous because it can cause an increase in stopping distance.
- Bouncy ride – Excessive bouncing when you hit a bump can be a signal that your shocks and struts aren’t working effectively. Your vehicle should settle after hitting a bump and not continue to bounce. Worn shocks and struts aren’t able to effectively absorb road impacts and soften the bump.
- Vehicle rolls or sways when cornering – Feeling like your vehicle is swaying or rolling when making a turn is not only annoying, it is unsettling because you can feel like you aren’t in control of your car. As shocks wear, they can lose their ability to control the rate of weight transfer when going around corners; this may also result in increased steering input to navigate turns.
- Uneven tire wear - When your vehicle’s shocks and struts are worn out, the car can bounce, causing a reduction in road holding force. This bouncing can also cause accelerated tire wear including cupping or scalloping of the tires (when pieces of rubber are gouged out of the tire).
- Rear squat during acceleration – Properly functioning shocks and struts stabilize suspension movement when accelerating. When your shocks and struts are going bad, the rear of your vehicle can squat excessively when you hit the gas pedal. The vehicle’s momentum is transferred to the rear which causes the front end to rise, a factor in passenger motion sickness and unnecessarily high loading of the rear suspension components.
- Vibration in steering wheel – It is natural to experience a little vibration in your steering wheel when driving over a bumpy road. If you experience similar vibrations on smooth roads, your shocks, struts, or steering stabilizer may be worn.
- Unusual noises – When shocks and struts are worn out you may hear a clunking or knocking sound. This sound is caused by metal-to-metal contact when the shock or strut bottoms out when hitting a bump. In addition, these noises could be a result in worn shock or strut mounting components.
- Leaking fluid on exterior of shocks/struts – If you notice excessive hydraulic fluid leaking from your shocks or struts, it can be a sign they’re wearing out. If the seals fail, then the fluid that is essential to the proper function of your shocks and struts is escaping.
Effects of worn shock absorbers on road safety
The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.
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