Your car’s suspension takes a beating every day. You might not think about your shocks and struts very often because they’re hidden underneath the car where most drivers don’t look.
Those shocks and struts, though, actually have a major impact on your overall driving experience. At best, worn-out shocks will make your car’s ride less comfortable. At worst, they can pose a serious safety problem.
That’s why it’s important to replace your shocks or struts on a regular basis. It will keep your car driving comfortably and safely, all while keeping the car’s handling as close to original as possible.
Some drivers use a “bounce test” to see when it’s time to replace the shocks. They will push down on the front or back bumpers and see how many times the car bounces before settling down.
This is an old fashioned way of testing your suspension, though, and it can be very misleading because it tells you nothing about how the car is supposed to handle in real-world conditions. And some cars simply come with suspension designs that are set up to bounce more than others.
By the time a worn-out suspension shows up as an overly bouncy car, it’s usually far past time to change the shocks or struts.
A much better way to decide when to replace suspension components is by following the maintenance plan in your owner’s manual.
The owner’s manual contains recommended intervals for replacing certain parts, including the shocks and struts. While this can vary some based on how you drive it — jackrabbit starts and lots of potholes may wear out your suspension faster, for example — the owner’s manual will give a good idea of when the parts ought to be replaced under normal use.
It’s good information, and it could also void your car’s warranty if you don’t follow it.
If you don’t have an owner’s manual, consider buying one from an online auction, looking up your car’s maintenance needs online, or checking with a certified repair center that can tell you exactly what the factory recommends for your car’s age and mileage.
DO AN INSPECTION
Even before the planned maintenance, it’s a good idea to check the conditions of your shocks and struts regularly. You can peek under your car to look for any obvious signs of leaks or damage, such as oil that has dripped out of the shock or bent parts that could have been cause by debris in the roadway.