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Technicians examining underbody of vehicle

How to Conduct a Shock or Strut Inspection

Why to Replace Shocks and Struts

For most drivers, it can be easy to overlook the gradual degradation of steering, stopping and stability, caused over time by worn ride control components. When a customer brings their vehicle to you with a possible steering or suspension issue, the first step is to perform a thorough inspection. Read on to learn the vital steps you should take when evaluating a vehicle to make a proper diagnosis.

Vehicle Operation

Discuss with the customer the vehicle’s repair history, the way the vehicle handles, and its intended use. Here are some key questions to ask:

  • Have the shocks or struts been in service for 50,000 miles/80,000 kilometers or more?
  • Does the vehicle require repeated replacement of front brakes, suspension components or tires?
  • Has the ride quality changed over time?
  • Is the vehicle used in any of the following ways:
    • Towing
    • Off-road use
    • Consistently loaded
    • Agricultural use
    • Commercial use
    • Upgraded with performance enhancements
    • Consistently driven on unpaved roads

Ride Evaluation

The next step is to take the vehicle for a test drive to determine whether the vehicle’s steering, stopping and stability are compromised. During the test drive, pay attention to the following:

  • Do small or large road indents (or potholes) seem unusually harsh?
  • Does the vehicle bounce or float excessively?
  • Is the vehicle difficult or stressful to control at highway speeds, during windy conditions or when loaded?
  • Does the vehicle dive, squat, roll or sway rapidly during steering or handling maneuvers?
  • Does the vehicle lack directional stability on rough roads?
  • Does the suspension top or bottom out abruptly?
  • Any excessive or unusual noises from the suspension?

Physical Evaluation

Once you’re back at the shop, it’s time to do a physical examination for symptoms of wear which may indicate new shocks or struts are required.

Technician with clipboard inspecting under vehicle

While assessing the vehicle, look for the following:

  • Are there any signs of physical damage which could compromise the ride control unit’s ability to function as intended?
  • Is the rod bent, rusted, loose or scratched?
  • Is fluid leaking down the side or on the bottom of the unit?
  • Has corrosion compromised the integrity of any components which make up the shock or strut?
  • Are non-replaceable bushings damaged or missing?
  • Do the vehicle’s tires display cupped, uneven or accelerated tire wear?
  • Does the air shock have a torn or leaking air boot?
  • Is the electronic unit producing a diagnostic code indicating failure?
    NOTE: This may require additional electronic circuit diagnostics

Making Repair Recommendations

Once your assessment of the vehicle is complete, you’re ready to make repair recommendations to the customer. When presenting repair options, it helps to explain it in an easy-to-understand manner using plain language. Tell them which repairs are critical to the safe operation of their vehicle and which repairs could be postponed until a later date. Simply present the facts to the customer to help them make an informed decision about how to proceed.

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.