The Top 9 Symptoms Of Bad Or Worn Shocks And Struts | Drive Cave (2023)

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Your car’s shocks and struts are designed to work in tandem with the other parts of your car’s suspension to provide you with a smooth ride as you drive your car around. When your shocks and struts become worn small bumps and potholes can upset the handling of your car and it may seem like your car’s suspension can no longer absorb impacts.

So how can you tell if your car has worn shocks and struts? The easiest way to tell if your shocks and struts are worn is by going for a drive and monitoring how your car handles bumps and potholes. Your car should go over bumps in the road without upsetting how the car handles or making noises. Your shocks and struts should absorb most of the impact of potholes and not allow the impact to transmit through the car.

But these aren’t the only symptoms of worn shocks and struts, some signs of worn shocks absorbers aren’t as easy to spot. If you plan on replacing your shocks and struts should you replace all of them at once? Keep reading to learn more.

How Do Shock Absorbers Work?

Before going into the signs that your shock absorbers need to be replaced it’s important to understand how they work with your car’s suspension to absorb impacts to keep them from being sent into the car.

If you already understand how shock absorbers work you can skip this section and go right into the symptoms of worn or back shocks and struts. But if you want to learn more about how shock absorbers and struts work check out the video below.

Symptoms of Worn or Bad Shocks and Struts

Below you can read in detail the individual symptoms of bad or worn shocks and struts to determine if you need to have your shocks and struts replaced.

1. Noises When Driving Over Bumps

Another way you can tell that your shock absorbers are worn is by noises when driving over bumps or potholes. When you hit a large bump or pothole your shocks should absorb the impact without making noises.

If you are hearing noises when driving over large bumps this is also a symptom of a bad or worn shock absorber. You may hear noises coming from one shock absorber but not others.

Typically the first shock absorber to fail will be the front ones because your engine is located over them and will be the heaviest part of your vehicle. I cover if you should replace all four shocks or struts at once in a later section of this article.

3. Your Car Bounces Up and Down When Driving

One way to tell that your shocks and struts are worn out is that your car will bounce up and down when driving. Your car should move smoothly down the road absorbing most of the impacts and road imperfections as you drive.

While it’s not possible for all impacts to be suppressed by your shock absorbers you shouldn’t really feel small bumps and cracks in the road in most cars.

The Top 9 Symptoms Of Bad Or Worn Shocks And Struts | Drive Cave (1)

The thickness of your tires will also have an impact on how well your car’s suspension is able to absorb road imperfections. Cars with low profile tires will ride rougher than an SUV with thick tire sidewalls.

4. Shock Absorber Is Leaking

One of the more obvious ways to tell that your shocks need to be replaced is that they are leaking hydraulic fluid. Shock and struts have hydraulic fluid inside of them that allows them to absorb bumps in the road.

Over time the seals of the shocks can become worn out and crack allowing hydraulic fluid to leak out.If you visually inspect your shocks or struts and they are leaking hydraulic fluid this is a sign that they need to be replaced.

5. Potholes Are More Impactful

Your shocks and struts are designed to absorb the impact of potholes while allowing minimal force to enter the cabin of your car. As shocks and struts get worn down though they won’t be able to absorb the impacts from potholes as well and that force will be transmitted throughout the car.

The Top 9 Symptoms Of Bad Or Worn Shocks And Struts | Drive Cave (2)

If your car is upset by potholes and bumps more than it used to be it’s likely that your shock absorbers are worn and need to be replaced.

6. Your Car Wants to Roll Around Corners

Another sign that your shocks and struts need to be replaced is that your car wants to roll to one side or the other when going around corners. Your car’s shocks and struts are designed to keep your car level when going around corners with minimal body roll.

If you can feel your car wanting to roll to the outside when going around corners this can be another symptom of worn shocks and struts.

7. Squatting In The Front Or Back

When accelerating your car will want to lean back as the force of acceleration causes the back end of the car to squat. The same also applies to the front of the car when braking. Having your car squat a bit in the rear under acceleration and in the front while braking is normal.

But the level that your car squats should be kept under control by your shocks and struts. If you notice that your car is leaning to the front or back more than it used to this is a sign that your shocks and struts are worn.

8. Your Car Doesn’t Ride As Well As It Used To

Over time as your shocks and struts wear out, your car won’t ride as well as it used to when it was brand new. Worn shocks and struts can cause your car to be upset by small bumps and undulations in the road surface and is usually a sign that your shocks are worn out.

This can be tough to spot if you are used to how your car drives and handles but is usually easily spotted by a passenger that is not used to how your car handles.

If you are driving a high mileage car and you don’t know if your shocks and struts have ever been replaced then they may need to be replaced soon. Typically shocks and struts will last anywhere from 70,000 to 100,000 miles before needing to be replaced.

9. Uneven Tire Wear

Another symptom of worn shock absorbers is uneven tire wear. As your shocks become worn they won’t allow your tires to make consistent contact with the road surface which can lead to uneven tire wear or cupping on your tires. Your shocks keep your tires planted to the road.

If the tires are constantly bouncing up and down on the road it can also be unsafe as you won’t be able to bring your car to a stop in as short of a distance as you would normally. To learn more about what uneven tire wear means check out my other article.

How To Test Your Shocks and Struts

The easiest way to check to see if your shocks and struts are worn out is by pressing down on each corner of your car to see how the car behaves. As you push down on the corner of your car the car should go down and return to the previous position without bouncing up and down multiple times.

If your one corner of your car bounces up and down multiple times before coming to rest then your shocks are worn and need to be replaced.

The video from Autozone below shows this process more in detail if you would like to see what bad or worn shocks and struts look like first hand.

Do You Need to Replace All Four Shocks or Struts at Once?

When your shock absorbers do go bad you are stuck with the decision of which shock absorbers to replace. If one shock absorber is failing you could opt to replace just the one shock or strut, or you could replace the shocks in pairs. But should you?

I did some research on the subject and most vehicle manufacturers recommend replacing your shocks or struts in pairs if you don’t plan on replacing them all at once. That way you don’t negatively affect the handling of your vehicle.

If you replace just one shock or strut it’s likely that the other one is worn down and will need to be replaced soon as well.

Really it’s best to replace all of your shocks and struts at the same time that way all of the shocks and struts are equal condition and will perform the same.

Related Questions

Why Does My Car Bounce Up and Down When Braking? Usually, when your car bounces up and down or vibrates when braking this is a sign that there is something wrong with your brakes, not your shock absorbers.

Warped brake rotors can cause your car to vibrate when coming to a stop or when applying the brakes. If your car vibrates when pressing on the brake pedal it’s best to have your brake rotors replaced as they can’t be repaired once they’ve become warped.

If you are interested in learning more about the symptoms of worn brake rotors check out my other article here.

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