Shock and struts, what do they do and what are the differences between them? At All Tune and Lube Tempe we see a lot of cars, many of them need shocks and struts but they can be tough items to sell because most folks don’t know what they’re for. Let me try to enlighten you a little bit.
Most adds for shocks and struts focus on providing a smooth comfortable ride. That’s a great benefit but that’s not their primary purpose. What shocks and struts do is keep your tires in contact with the road. The difference between the two, to simplify a bit, is that a strut actually holds the vehicle up. It’s a structural part of your suspension where a shock isn’t. If you removed a strut, you’re not going anywhere. If you remove a shock, driving would be crazy sketchy but the car would still move.
Prepare yourself for some more simplification and I’m going to use the word “shocks” for both shocks and struts. Picture this: You have an air filled rubber ring about 2-feet in diameter that weights maybe 50 pounds rolling along a smooth surface at a good speed. All at once this rubber ring contacts an obstruction, maybe just a couple of inches tall, and it bounces. Depending on how fast it was moving it could bounce pretty high right? and when it comes back down it’ll bounce again. If it’s important to keep that rubber ring in contact with the surface it’s rolling over, something is needed to dampen the impact (shock) and absorb the energy. That energy doesn’t just go away, it’s turned in to heat that’s dissipated by the shocks. Now every mile of road has hundreds, maybe thousands, of small and not so small dips, cracks and divots. Next time you’re riding along the highway take a look at the wheels of the other cars on the road a notice how often they move up and down to follow the surface of the road. That represents a lot of heat and a lot of mechanical wear on the shocks. Traveling on dirt roads or other rough surfaces will make the shocks so hot you can’t touch them and wears them much faster.
Manufacturers of shocks and struts recommend replacing them every 50-60,000 miles. For many, maybe most, vehicle it’s probably not necessary to replace them that often but by the time your car has 100,000 miles on the clock your shocks and struts have worn out, they’ve done their job and it’s time they retired.