REPAIRING MY CAR > Worn Shock Absorbers

Worn Shock Absorbers

2013-12-02 14.05.53

I’m not a mechanic, but I am a car fanatic. I’m here to share some common sense advice on car repairs.

Is your car feeling a little rough and bouncy going over those railroad tracks? Does the ride just seem too soft and mushy? It could be time for new shocks. In this post I am going to share some information on getting your vehicle’s shocks replaced – and when it needs to be done. I will also go over the importance of getting two to three estimates and getting some reviews on the shops you are considering. So jump in and enjoy the bumpy ride.

Symptoms of Worn and Bad Shock Absorbers

There is one particularly effective way to tell if your car needs new shock. And it’s kind of fun. Simply have someone ride in the backseat and try to work on a computer. If they can’t type a legible sentence, it could mean your shocks are shot. Some of the more traditional signs are a rough and increasingly bumpy ride, uneven tire wear, and loud noises coming from under the vehicle when you hit a bump.

More Obvious Symptoms of Bad Shocks:

1. Excessive body-roll when turning.

2. Nose dive. The car pitches forward when brakes are applied. This can cause the rear tires to lose traction and the rear brakes to lose effectiveness.

3. Acceleration squat. The rear of the vehicle squats down during acceleration. This can cause loss of front-wheel traction and is especially noticeable on front-wheel drive vehicles.

4. Harshness. A noticeably rough ride indicates poor shocks.

5. Traction loss. Weak and worn shocks can cause individual wheels to lose traction and proper contact with the road – leading to a dangerous driving situation.

6. Premature tire wear.

Doing Some Important Research on Shock Absorbers

You need to do some serious homework for this type of repair. It is one of the more important systems in your car – and it isn’t always a cheap to fix. Start gathering your information online. Search for repair shops in your area. I like to start with companies that sell tires because they generally have the parts, tools and experience to do a properly fix your car’s suspension. But don’t discount local independent shops. After you have checked out some shops, be sure to check out their online reviews. Learn from any mistakes others have made in choosing a particular repair shop. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau. If a shop has a good deal of complaints and unresolved issues, I would run the other way. I mean run – don’t walk.

I like to pick the top three shops and call them for pricing. You are dialing for dollars here. I don’t always go with the cheapest one. You need to ask each shop exactly what they are going to do. Not only does the suspension need to be fixed, but the vehicle should also have a four-way alignment done to the wheels. If this is not done when the shocks are put on, you could get uneven tire wear. Also, the car may not track straight and the steering wheel could be off center. It is hard enough trying to driving straight on todays’ rotten roads.

Choosing the Type of Shocks You Need

When it comes to choosing the type or brand of shocks, you have some choices. You can go with the original equipment style or with harder, heavy-duty units. I don’t like to have my teeth shaken out of my skull, so I generally go with the style the manufacturer used. Your choice can depend on the type of driving you generally do and how you use the vehicle.

How Long Do Shock Absorbers Last?

How long should an original set of shocks last, and when should they be replaced? This depends on a lot of variables. Total mileage is a big factor, as is the type of use the car gets. If you are driving a heavy SUV and regularly travel potholed gravel roads, you are giving your shocks an extra-hard workout. Also, if you carry a great deal of extra weight (think truck here) you can wear out your shocks and struts quite a bit faster. In my experience, I generally get between 60,000 to 80,000 miles out of a set. You may get more miles out of them, but be sure to notice how the car is riding.

Do I Have to Replace All of My Shocks at the Same Time?

The short answer is no. Quite often either the fronts or rears will wear out at any given time. On several occasions I have replaced just the worn ones. However, if you are really into maintenance, it can be nice to do all four at the same time. This way you are insuring that the whole system is set up to factory specifications. Always have your shocks inspected by a qualified mechanic who can determine the best and safest course of action.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace Bad Shock Absorbers?

The replacement cost of shocks and struts varies greatly depending on the type of car you are driving. Labor costs depend on how much time the technician needs to get the job done. Also, the price of the parts can be very different between shops. It all depends on their markup. So, take your three estimates, compare the repairs apples to apples, and pick your mechanic. One last thing to also consider is what type of warranty comes with the shocks and from the repair shop for their workmanship.

Don’t ignore the symptoms of bad shocks. They are a very important system in your car and help control the safe handling of your vehicle. And who doesn’t want a nice smooth ride?

2 comments on “Worn Shock Absorbers

  1. It’s crazy to think that a rough ride can actually be a sign of bad shock absorbers. My dad owns a car that always throws everybody around in the cab, and he was telling me that it was normal! I wouldn’t want something to go wrong because of those and get him hurt!

    • Hi Shad, worn out shocks can really lead to poor ride quality. However, there are some other things that could lead to such a rough ride. Has your dad modified his car by altering the suspension ride height? Raising or lowering a car improperly can really lead to poor ride quality. If everything is in stock form it just may be that the shocks or struts are shot. The best way to get this sorted out is to take the car to a professional. Worn suspension parts can really downgrade the performance and safety of the vehicle. We do not want anyone to get hurt. I would gently suggest to your dad that he have the car checked out for safety reasons. Best of luck, Bradley.

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