Shocks and Struts
Modern vehicles benefit from a myriad of technological and engineering innovations that make them sager and more reliable than ever before. In addition, most modern cars, trucks, and SUVs provide drivers with an extremely smooth and comfortable ride, especially when compared to the clunky, bounce feel of early motor vehicles. The smooth feel of the vehicle is due in large part to two integral components, shocks absorbers and struts. Shocks and struts have several key functions, including maintaining contact between the tires and the road surface, preventing the car from leaning and swaying during turns, and absorbing the jarring impact of a large speed bump or pothole. However while both shocks and struts are integral to the safety and comfort of the vehicle, they are in fact two distinct parts, and conscientious drivers should learn the differences between them. In fact, not every older vehicle has both shocks and struts, but those that do have major advantages in terms of suspension and steering power. In order to comprehend the difference between shocks and struts, drivers should understand the functionality of both parts, the unique features that distinguish them from one another, and the telltale signs that indicate that they need to be replaced.
The shock absorber is the first line of defense against cracked pavement, rocky dirt roads, and any other uneven terrain. Contrary to popular opinion, shocks do not actually support the weight of the vehicle. but they slow down and reduce the vibrations of the road by a process known as dampening. In essence, a shock absorber is like an oil pump located between the frame of the car and the wheels. The key components of the shock absorber are a piston, a coil, and hydraulic fluid. When the car wheel dips down, for example into a pothole or crevice, the shock initiates a compression cycle, and a piston exerts pressure on hydraulic fluid in the upper chamber of the device. The fluid serves to slow down the coil as it relaxes back into place, and this helps prevent an excessively bumpy feel to the ride. Modern shock absorbers are velocity sensitive, that is, the faster the car moves up and down, the more fluid is release to combat the motion of the vehicle.
A strut integrates numerous suspension parts, including a shock absorber, into one assembly. These parts include the coil spring, the spring seats, the strut bearing, and the steering knuckle. Essentially, struts are advanced shock absorbers that have a couple additional functions. For example, the coil spring can support the weight of the vehicle and adjust to road irregularities like bumps, hills and valleys. In this regard, the strut functions as a standard shock absorber. However, the strut also serves as an integral part of the suspension system as well. The strut is mounted directly to the vehicle on one end, and on the other end it is attached to a the vehicle's suspension. Specifically, the struts connect the upper bearing to the lower ball join, so that the entire assembly can pivot when the vehicle is turned in any direction.
In sum, while the shocks simply absorb impact, the struts also function to support and control the vehicle in motion. These two parts differ not only in terms of their specific functions but also their locations in the vehicle. Most cars feature struts on the front and shock absorbers on the rear: heavy duty trucks often have struts on both the front and rear suspensions.
Understanding shocks and struts, in terms of their functions and key differences, can help car, truck and SUV owners maintain and preserve their vehicles. Struts and shocks are similar but have different designs and specific functions. In addition, they both need to be maintained and replaced often, and drivers who understand where these parts are located, how they work, and when they need to be swapped out can service their vehicle in a timely and appropriate manner. Worn down shocks and struts not only make the ride less comfortable but also less safe, so drivers need to be vigilant and attend to the need of their vehicle as soon as possible. At A-1 Auto Repair our ASE certified technicians will secure the right parts and accessories needed for your vehicle. During our LOF and safety inspections we can detect any issues with your shocks and struts before any major problems can arise.