Shock absorbers and struts are suspension parts that are often neglected and overlooked as a replacement sales opportunity. Many vehicle owners don’t realize how much ride control components can deteriorate over time because the change occurs slowly over many miles of driving. Yet, it happens to virtually every type of vehicle on the road today, from small compact hybrids to full-size pickups and SUVs.
The basic purpose of the shocks and struts (which are essentially oversized shocks) is to dampen suspension motions. When a tire hits a bump or dip in the road, the suspension compresses and extends as the tire rolls over the obstacle. This also causes the shock or strut on that wheel to compress and extend, creating resistance that dampens the suspension. If this did not occur, the wheel and tire would continue to bounce uncontrollably after hitting every bump and dip in the road, making the ride very uncomfortable and the vehicle difficult to handle. The up and down oscillations also would cause a lot of scuffing on the tire tread, resulting in a cupped wear pattern (which is one of the symptoms of bad shocks and struts that need to be replaced).
Many people don’t realize how important good shocks and struts are for good handling, a smooth ride and even braking on rough roads. Today’s anti-lock brake systems and stability control systems can correct for a lot of problems, but worn shocks and struts is not one of them.
By the time a vehicle has more than 50,000 miles on the odometer, chances are the shocks and struts are not performing as well as they did when they were new. The changes may be subtle and pass unnoticed because most drivers constantly adjust to the way their car feels and drives. So unless there has been a drastic change that’s impossible to ignore, or the suspension is making rattling, clunking or banging noises while driving, many motorists remain blissfully unaware of their deteriorating dampers.
Worn shocks and struts are often discovered when a vehicle needs a new set of tires and/or an alignment. Shocks do not affect wheel alignment directly, but a bent or misadjusted strut certainly can. And both can accelerate tire wear if they are not doing a good job of controlling suspension motions. This also can increase wear on other suspension components too, such as ball joints and control arm bushings.
High-mileage shocks and struts are always replaced in pairs (both fronts, both rears, or all four). Most do-it-yourselfers and professional installers prefer complete strut assemblies because they are faster and easier to install (no disassembly or spring compressor is required). Upgrade options include high-pressure monotube and twintube gas shocks, adjustable shocks and heavy-duty shocks. A customer also might benefit from installing overload shocks (air or spring assisted) to increase their vehicle’s load carrying capacity.
Another sales opportunity is to replace the expensive air shocks/struts and/or air springs on older luxury cars such as Buicks, Cadillacs and Lincolns with less costly conventional shock/strut spring kits. The air lines, compressors and air bladders in these vehicles deteriorate with age. Leaks can cause the suspension to go flat as well as overwork and burnout the air compressor. The OEM electronic suspension parts are very expensive to replace, and may not even be available for some applications. Replacing these parts with a conventional shock/strut/spring conversion kit can save a customer a lot of money while reducing the complexity of their ride control system. Most of these kits are relatively easy to install and require no other modifications.