What's the Difference Between Shocks and Struts?

  • Mar 25,2020
Close up of a vehicle suspension system Close up of a vehicle suspension system

You might not pay much attention to your shocks and struts. But when you drive over a pothole or bump in the road, you will be glad you have them! Even when the road seems level, no road surface is truly smooth, which is why shocks and struts are important for maintaining control and a smooth ride.

While the terms “shocks” and “struts” are often used interchangeably, they are separate components with different functions. Learn the differences between shocks and struts and when it might be time to get them serviced.

Are Shocks and Struts the Same Thing?

Shocks and struts are both parts of your vehicle's suspension system. However, each one has a very specific job.

Shock absorbers are hydraulic components that help minimize movement generated by the vehicle’s springs. These springs absorb some of the jolts you might feel from uneven or damaged roads. By softening the impact from rough roads and rocky terrain, shocks can help you maintain better control over your vehicle, resulting in a smoother, more comfortable driving experience.

Struts are structural components of certain vehicles’ steering and suspension systems. They usually consist of a spring and a shock absorber. Struts are designed to be much stronger than shocks since they are weight-bearing components. Additionally, they help dampen vehicle jolts and improve your vehicle’s steering and alignment.

Do All Vehicles Have Struts?

Many vehicles will have shocks on one axle and struts on the other. However, not all vehicles have struts. Depending on its design, your vehicle might use separate springs and shocks in place of struts. If you’re not sure whether your vehicle has shocks or struts, there are a few ways you can find out.

Look underneath your vehicle.

If your vehicle has shocks, you will likely find them mounted vertically behind the tires. In many cases, shocks will look like a spring or pump. Struts, on the other hand, are usually mounted horizontally and will appear as an extension of the wheel. It's important to check both front and rear wheels as you might have both shocks and struts.

Let a technician take a look.

While most struts feature the spring and pump mechanism design, not all struts have springs. If you are unsure whether your vehicle has struts or shocks, ride over to your local Tires Plus and let one of our technicians take a look.

Does Your Vehicle Need New Shocks or Struts?

Shocks and struts can wear out, especially if you do a lot of off-roading or drive on uneven or rough roads. It is recommended that you have your shocks and struts inspected after 50,000 miles or according to your vehicle manufacturer's maintenance schedule. But if you're unsure of the last time you had them inspected, here are a few signs to watch for to know whether it's time to get them looked at:

  • Your vehicle sways noticeably when going around turns or changing lanes, making it hard to steer.
  • The front end of your car dips down when braking or the rear end dips down when accelerating.
  • Your tires wear or show abnormally flat areas (cupping)
  • Excessive vehicle bounce
  • Steering response is poor or you hear a noise when turning
  • Lack of control at high speed

How shocks affect braking infographic

While there are several telltale signs of shock and strut issues, some can be difficult to identify with confidence. For example, some signs of uneven tread wear can lead you to believe there is an issue with your shocks or struts, but these same symptoms can also point to wheel alignment issues, inflation problems, or a myriad of other conditions. That’s why it’s important to get a professional opinion before “self-diagnosing” your car.

Replacing old or worn out shocks and struts isn't just beneficial for your vehicle, it can also protect your investment in your tires by reducing unnecessary wear so you can get more life from them.

So, if you're looking for peace of mind for the road ahead, then it's time to schedule an appointment at your local Tires Plus. We’ll inspect your shocks, struts, wheels, and more to diagnose and troubleshoot any issues. Your suspension system will thank you later!

Drive Safely with New Shocks and Struts

Driving on bad shocks or struts isn't just uncomfortable for you in the driver's seat. It can also be dangerous! Geico reports that, among other things, compromised shocks and/or struts can lead to decreased control when driving around corners, diminished braking capacity, and instability following changes in acceleration.

It's best to have your shocks and struts inspected after 50,000 miles or according to your vehicle's maintenance schedule. Download the Tires Plus app to keep up with your vehicle's routine maintenance and easily book your next appointment at your local Tires Plus.

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