Since I was a young boy, I’ve had a love affair with cars. I’d spend hours reading books and magazines about cars and how they work. My favorite, an illustrated humor magazine called CARtoons, was a mixture of Mad and Hot Rod. Not only did it provide entertainment, but it also offered practical information about cars. I consider that magazine to be my introduction to car culture. Through it, I learned about engines, car design, and car repair.
Many years later, CARtoons has ceased publication, but I’m still a car fanatic. However, there is one mystery that has nagged me for decades – What the heck is a strut?
Thankfully Bill Butler, from Sears Auto Center, was able to provide some insight.
“Struts are major structural components of a vehicle’s chassis and suspension systems,” he said. “Struts bear the weight of the vehicle.”
Um, what does that mean?
“Struts are a part of your car’s suspension system and they work with your car’s shocks to keep your tires firmly planted on the ground,” he continued. “If your tires are planted on the road, you will have more stability and comfort because you will be relatively isolated from road noise and bumps.”
With that cleared that up, I had another question about shocks.
I’ve been taught that the best way to check your car’s shocks it to push down on the bumper to see how much it bounces when you release it. Is this an accurate test?
Butler chuckled and proceeded to push down on my car’s bumper. He gave me an approving nod before delving into a detailed explanation.
“I think everyone uses that test,” he said. “It can work as an initial indicator, but you should really look at your tires to get a better idea of the condition of your shocks. If your tires have dips and uneven spots, you probably need to replace your shocks.”
If you are worried about the condition of your car’s suspension system, here are four symptoms of worn shocks and struts you should look for:
Excessive nose dive when braking or sway while driving
Shocks help your vehicle stop up to 10 feet sooner at 60 mph, plus they help stabilize your vehicle by helping tires maintain contact with the road. If you notice your vehicle’s nose dropping excessively when braking, or excessive sway while driving, it may be time to have your shocks and struts checked.
Poor steering response
Struts are an integral structural support component for your vehicle’s suspension. As such, they bear much of the side-load placed on the vehicle’s suspension system, affecting riding comfort and handling. If you notice poor steering response, it may be time to have your struts examined.
Excessive bounce after road impact
Shocks and struts both act as an energy absorber by creating resistance to forces generated by the up and down motion of your vehicle’s suspension. If you notice your vehicle bounces excessively after hitting a bump in the road, it may be time to have your shocks and struts checked out.
If hydraulic fluid is leaking from your shocks or struts, it’s time to get them checked out.
Butler recommends having your shocks and struts checked regularly, as well as a complete chassis examination every 12,000 miles.
“It’s important for parents to keep their vehicles well-maintained,” Butler said. “Something as simple as suspension system inspection can protect your family safe and keep your car in good shape.”
Join the conversation: have you ever had any serious problem with your shocks, struts, or suspension?
Disclosure: I’m a paid member of the Sears Rules of the Road & Road Warrior program. All opinions are my own.