Does your car ride more like an old jalopy than a high-tech modern automobile? If you cringe every time you hit a pothole, it may be time for new shocks and struts.
Here’s what you need to know about shocks, struts and wheel alignments:
- What Do Shocks and Struts Do?
- Where Does a Wheel Alignment Fit In?
- Signs You Need to Replace Struts or Shocks
- Signs You Need a Wheel Alignment
- Why Choose Auto Lab for Shocks and Struts?
What Do Shocks and Struts Do?
Your car, truck, SUV or minivan has either a strut or a shock absorber at each wheel, and they’re mounted with or next to a spring, which keeps the vehicle from “sagging.” Many new vehicles have four struts and no shocks.
While many of us believe our shocks and struts ensure a smooth ride as we sail over potholes and uneven patches of pavement, that’s only part of the story.
Yes, the primary role of your shock absorber is to stop the car from bouncing. Struts do this, too, and so much more. They play a serious role in the car’s safety because they provide structural support for the suspension and the spring, hold the tire in its aligned position and keep the tires planted firmly on the pavement. Struts affect your ride comfort, as well as braking, steering and more.
Where Does a Wheel Alignment Fit In?
A wheel alignment adjusts the angles of your car’s suspension system, not the tires or wheels themselves. This ensures the tires are contacting the pavement the way they should be. If your vehicle is out of alignment, it will wear the tires faster and often unevenly, it can be hard to handle on the highway and it can take longer to stop. A crooked steering wheel often means a vehicle needs to be aligned, and while that’s not a safety item per se, we all know how annoying it can be.
Signs You Need to Replace Struts or Shocks
There’s no set rule for when shocks or struts need to be replaced. It varies by vehicle, road conditions and driving habits. Because the ride quality deteriorates slowly over time, it can be difficult for you, as the regular driver, to know when the shocks or struts are past their prime. Here are some signs to watch for:
- There’s visible damage to a shock or strut, including dents, cuts or leaks. Each shock or strut is a piston-like design that has an internal reservoir of hydraulic fluid that helps stabilize and control the vehicle body and your wheels. Evidence of a damaged or leaking shock or strut is an easy clue that it’s probably time for some suspension work.
- Your vehicle squeaks. Bumps, potholes, getting in and out of the vehicle and braking can cause your suspension to protest loudly. In addition to the shocks and struts, the squeaking also can be caused by worn ball joints or bushings.
- Your ride quality is poor. If you are starting to feel that your vehicle is more bouncy or rough or tends to “roll” on turns, it’s time to get your vehicle’s suspension inspected.
- Your vehicle nose dives when braking. Nose diving is caused when you apply your brakes, and the front of the vehicle starts to point toward the ground. In severe cases, there can be longer braking times and a momentary loss of steering. This is because your shocks or struts are not strong enough to handle the weight of the vehicle.
- Your vehicle has “body roll.” This is a term used to describe how the body of a vehicle feels based on the overall movement. If the shocks of your car or truck are starting to go bad, even on the slightest turns, the body will have a leaning feel. Again, this can be a safety issue, so have your vehicle inspected.
- Your vehicle “squats” when accelerating from a dead stop. If your shocks and struts are bad, when you hit the gas pedal, the momentum of the vehicle will be transferred to the rear end, which will cause the front end to rise slightly into the air and resemble a boat on the water.
Signs You Need a Wheel Alignment
We recommend having your wheel alignment checked at least once per year or every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. But bring it in sooner if you hit a large pothole, strike a curb or have some other jarring “incident” with your vehicle! A vehicle that’s knocked out of alignment can wear the tires unevenly and prematurely. We don’t want to see you buying tires any sooner than necessary.
- The front end shakes. If you notice your front end shaking, there probably are other issues, along with the car being out of alignment. Definitely call us to have the vehicle checked out as soon as possible. The vibration is no fun to deal with while driving, and it could be wearing away at your tire tread.
- The steering wheel is crooked while the vehicle is going straight ahead. This one’s a dead giveaway that you need your car or truck aligned.
- The tires are not wearing evenly. If you see that any portion of your tire tread is wearing more than another, your car most likely is out of alignment. You may also have a bent or worn suspension or steering part, and that’s something we would identify as part of the pre-alignment inspection at Auto Lab. (The inspection is important because you can’t properly align a vehicle if there’s a bad tie-rod, for example.)
- The vehicle pulls to one side while driving. In extreme cases, the vehicle will try to turn to one side or the other and you’ll have to fight with the steering wheel. If the misalignment is less severe, it will drift to one side, but it will be easier to control.
Why Choose Auto Lab for Shocks, Struts or a Wheel Alignment?
Performing a wheel alignment on a newer vehicle with low mileage tends to be straightforward and can typically be handled by an entry-level or apprentice technician.
But when it comes to an older, higher-mileage vehicle that has rust buildup from several winters, you benefit from having a seasoned automotive technician align the wheels. The veteran professionals here at Auto Lab offer:
- Competence: Our certified ASE-Master Automotive Technicians are among the best of the best. They are an amazing powerhouse of skill who expertly manage every auto repair or diagnostic challenge we send their way. In fact, some of the local car dealers even ask us to troubleshoot their “problem cars.”
- Peace of Mind: We stand behind all of our repairs with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty.
- Time Savings: We offer free loaner cars and a free shuttle service.
- Accuracy: The final bill will never be more than what we quoted you.