How do I know if my vehicle really needs new shock absorbers?
You need new shocks (and/or struts) if your original shocks (or struts)
are worn out, damaged or leaking. Leaking is easy enough to see (just look
for oil or wetness on the outside of the shock or strut) as is damage
(broken mount, badly dented housing, etc.). But wear is often more of a
subjective thing to judge.
There are also instances where the original
equipment shocks may not be worn, damaged or leaking, but may not be
adequate for the job they're being asked to do. In such cases, upgrading
the suspension with stronger, stiffer or some type of special shock (or
strut) may be recommended to improve handling, for trailer towing, hauling
overloads or other special uses.
Shocks and struts do not require replacing at specific mileage intervals
like filters or spark plugs, but they do wear out and eventually have to
be replaced. How long a set of original equipment shocks will last is
anybody's guess. Some original equipment shocks may be getting weak after
only 30,000 or 40,000 miles. Struts usually last upwards of 50,000 or
But when exactly a shock or strut needs to be replaced is hard to say.
Because the damping characteristics of shocks and struts deteriorate
gradually over time, the decline in ride control often passes unnoticed.
So by the time you think you need new shocks or struts, it's usually way
past the point when they should have been replaced.
One way to evaluate your need for new shocks or struts is to consider how
your vehicle has been handling and riding lately. Does it bounce
excessively when driving on rough roads or after hitting a bump? Does the
nose dip when braking? Does the body roll or sway excessively when
cornering or driving in crosswinds? Does the suspension bottom out when
backing out of the driveway or when hauling extra passengers or weight?
A "bounce test" is still a valid means of checking the dampening ability
of shocks and struts. If the suspension continues to gyrate more than one
or two times after rocking and releasing the bumper or body, your shocks
or struts are showing their age and need to be replaced.