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Borgman How To: When Is It Time For New Shocks or Struts?

March 7th, 2018


Shock & Struts Smooth Your Ride and Keep West Michigan Drivers Safe

After the West Michigan winter finally clears, you might be noticing your daily commute is a little bumpier than you remember, or that it’s a little harder to turn the steering wheel. If that’s the case, it could be a sign that you need new shocks or struts, and the Borgman Service Center is here to help!

 What Are Shocks & Struts? What Do They Do?

Depending on which vehicle you drive, it will be equipped with either shock absorbers, struts, or both. It’s worth noting that a single wheel will have one or the other – never both. Shocks and struts are parts of your vehicle’s suspension, and they control how your body interacts with the wheels. This affects your steering, stopping distance, and weight dynamics. They also filter out bumps from the road and smooth out your ride.

While these two parts have similar duties, they are not interchangeable. Here’s the main difference: a strut is an integral, structural part of your suspension, and a shock is not.

Photo of a Ford Motorcraft shock absorberA shock, or shock absorber, is a pair of interleaved metal tubes that extend or shrink at a controlled rate, forcing the wheels to move or “travel” smoothly when going over a bump. It does this by squeezing oil through its own internal valves. Think of it like a bicycle tire pump that you can only go up and down at certain speeds. What this does is make sure that you don’t feel every single bump in the road, and that your wheels are held firmly to the pavement to maintain traction. Without them, you’re in for a very bumpy ride and your steering gets a bit sloppy.

A strut, properly called a strut assembly, consists of a shock absorber (the actual strut) with mounts for the different suspension parts, and a huge spring at the top to hold up the body and chassis. A strut is functionally similar to a shock, except that it’s designed to completely support the vehicle and tie all the suspension parts together. Without them, your vehicle would sit the ground and wouldn’t be able to move.

How Do I Know When It’s Time For New Shocks or Struts?

We don’t really notice our suspension until there’s an issue, but these unsung heroes can travel up and down a million times during their lifespan. If you’re cruising along and you feel like you’re riding in a bowl of jelly or on an old bumpy rollercoaster, it’s definitely time for new shocks or struts. However, sometimes the signs aren’t as obvious. Here are a few things you can check for:

The Bounce Test. Place your hands on the fender directly above the wheel and press the body down. Now let go and watch carefully. Your vehicle should rise back up and stop. If it bounces, your suspension needs to be inspected. This can give you vital clues but isn’t an end-all-be-all test.

How’s Your Steering? If you feel like it’s a little harder to turn the wheel, but your power steering is ok, it could be related to your suspension. Worn out shocks or struts also contribute to that “floaty, loosey-goosey” feeling when turning or going over a bump.

The Brake Test. As we know, objects in motion stay in motion unless acted upon. If you think of your wheels and body as two separate objects, that means if one stops the other needs to be acted on to stop too. That’s a big part of what your suspension does. Go to an empty parking lot, pick up a little speed and brake hard. If you feel like you’re in a nose-dive, or your rear end bounces a bit, there’s a suspension issue that needs to be addressed.

Check Your Tires. Uneven tread wear or bald spots on your tires are a good indicator that there’s something wrong with your suspension. It could be that worn shocks or struts are allowing the tires to wander around, but it could also mean you just need an alignment.

For the mechanically inclined: Strut replacement should be done by a professional, and the biggest reason for this is safety. Without the proper tools or knowledge, removing the coil spring from the strut is extremely dangerous, and it could happen by accident. The second reason is that you might need an alignment afterward. While it’s not impossible to do yourself, we have the know-how and equipment to do it quickly and accurately.

What’s The Benefit to Having Shocks or Struts Inspected Regularly?

The big thing about having your suspension parts inspected is safety. With a well-maintained system, your input on the steering wheel is much tighter and your stopping distance shortens dramatically. You traction in bumpy or slippery conditions is much better too. This helps you keep control of the vehicle if you need to stop suddenly.

If shocks or struts are neglected, they can cause other serious problems in the long run. If your wheels aren’t being held in place very well, your tires and the bushings in your suspension parts feel it the most. You might notice some bald spots on your tires from bouncing around or worse, the coil can rub against the tire and slice the inside sidewall. Bushings are little rubber donuts that help reduce vibration where suspension arms link together. Lots of movement will wear these down faster, and without them, the suspension parts will start to damage each other.


Visit Borgman Ford in Grand Rapids for Shock or Strut Inspection or Repair

If you think it’s time for some new shocks or struts on your vehicle, or if something just doesn’t feel right anymore, bring it into the Borgman Ford Service Center. Our highly-trained service technicians inspect your shocks or struts for leaking, dents, bends, or other more subtle signs of wear. You can easily Schedule an Appointment online or Contact Us to set one up or if you have any questions. Come see why Borgman is the Best in the West!


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