Gearheads, how important is it really to replace bad shocks and struts on a car?

I’ve known that the shocks and struts on my car are bad for a few years now, but the high price of replacing them (been variously quoted $1200 - $3k) on top of the conflicting info I’ve heard from different auto shops has made me put off doing so. Basically, I’ve been told that it’s a must-do issue AND that it’s something that doesn’t need to be addressed until/unless it feels like I’m riding atop a pogo stick while driving.

I bring it up here just because I had some other work done on my vehicle today and this was the only other issue that the technician at the shop indicated I needed to repair. But, again, I’ve known about the issue for a few years now and I still don’t really notice anything unusual while driving.

FWIW, I know it’s something that I will likely have to take care of eventually. My car has well over 100k miles and I want to get at least 200k out of it before I get another car. The tires are still wearing evenly but the shocks/struts are leaking a bit apparently.

Just looking for a straight answer.

EDIT: Title should say “Gearheads” but my device auto-corrected it haha.

It’s a safety issue.
Your tires can’t brake if they are not in contact with the ground. If you it a bump (say, a speed bump), and then a kid runs out into the street, your braking distance might be 2x what you expect, because your front end is bouncing up and down.

I’ll consider answering your question once you stop calling people who know more about this than you “meatheads.”

This. Once, when I was much younger and even more ignorant than I am today, I neglected my car’s suspension. When I went across an expansion joint on a mild highway curve in a mild snowstorm (driving pretty slowly, JFTR), the lag before the front tires got back into contact with the asphalt put me nose-on into the guardrail; totaled the car because I didn’t have the $ for proper maintenance.

Seriously, it’s almost as important as having acceptable tires.

Plus it gives a smoother ride.

If you are gonna keep it for 100K miles more; enjoy the comfort!

Thanks to the OP and/or the mods for fixing that, I could have sworn the appropriate term for auto-maintenance aficionados was “gearheads” and the use of the other word in the thread title was puzzling the heck out of me.

Haven’t you ever seen a car with one wheel a blur and visibly leaving the ground while driving? That’s a bad shock. Or as beck would put it, a bad, bad, bad, bad shock. As previously pointed out, that wheel is not touching the ground all the time. It does take a long time for one to get that bad.


I’ve got an '89 BMW with the suspension componantes so wore out, it is terrifying to drive.

I like the challenge. It’s the most exciting thing in my life now-a-days, after riding motorcycles in traffic.

Oh, Denny? Beck is strictly Tri-bad.

Y’all are sure bandying my name about.:wink:


I’m not sure, but it sounds like they’re saying you’re into …errr, nevermind that right now…

For the op, yes, get the suspension repaired as soon as you can, but definately before it goes totally to crap, before speed bumps and minor paving irregularities cause pogoing.

once they start leaking, their effectiveness as spring dampers goes away pretty fast. it won’t take long before one or more tires are cupped, and when that starts it can lead to tire bounce.

Worn out struts are a bigger problem because the strut is an actual suspension link, and not just a spring damper. In addition to no longer damping suspension motion, a worn out strut can change the suspension geometry in undesired ways, if not just break entirely.

and- not to put too fine a point on it- if you expect to get this car up to 200k miles, deferring maintenance/repairs like this isn’t the way to accomplish that.

There was a guy not too long ago down the road from my work that had a rattle trap I would pass on my way to work and leaving work. It had bad struts on it because I could see the tires bounce on the road. I passed him the other day and, well, his tire came off and his little car dragged the engine and it looked pretty bad. There was a lot of kitty litter involved in the clean up on that thing.

I think there’s a slight tendency with some shops to tell you to replace shocks a little prematurely but that doesn’t sound like the case with you.

Some shops suggest replacing shocks at 60,000 miles even though a lot of cars that are carefully driven on mostly good roads might have the shocks last 80 to 100 thousand miles. The old fashioned shock test is to push down on your front end rhythmically to induce bigger and bigger oscillations. Once you’ve got the front end really moving up and down, stop pushing. It should go up one time and settle back down to it’s normal position. If it continues to oscillate, the shocks need to be replaced immediately.

The other way to tell if shocks need to be replaced is if they are leaking. Yours are leaking and if they aren’t quite at the wobbling point yet, they will be soon. Get it fixed for all the braking and handling related reasons everyone has already explained.

For what it’s worth, on many cars, replacing shocks isn’t too hard. You need a jack and jackstands ($120), a few socket wrenches in the right size ($30), a spring compressor (which you can borrow from Auto Zone with a refundable deposit), some penetrating oil ($8), some rags, and some time. The parts themselves don’t usually cost more than $400 and are often considerably less. Good luck.

Years ago I had a car that wasn’t worth the cost of replacing the rear struts. It was getting scary to drive. I purchased the Haynes Repair book for my car, ordered struts through JC Whitney, and did it myself step-by-step. IANAMechanic by any means, but it worked. When my front ball joints went, I did the same thing.

You can often get a set of the struts with the spring and the whole assembly as a unit, and its not that much more than the strut itself. That makes installation pretty straight forward for the most part. You Tube is your friend here. Shocks are a bolt on and bolt off kind of deal for the most part as well, so those are even easier most of the time.

On my 92 Oldsmobile, the shop wanted $1200 bucks to do it. I got on eBay and got the strut assembly for both the front tires for $120, and then the shocks for the back were $30 bucks in total. A couple hours banging away and I got the ball joints and tie rod ends for $45 dollars replaced as well. So for less than 200 plus the cost of an alignment I got 80,000 miles out of it. They weren’t the best parts as far as quality, but it got me down the road for sure. The car’s brakes were MUCH more impressive when it had a solid front end and suspension.

Plus it can really screw up handling even at low speeds causing some additional safety issues.

I had a m/c with bad shocks. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it, until, after a while, they got so bad there was oil visible on the struts.

I’ve got nothing particular to add to the original question, but that m/c was a lot less worrying to ride at highway speeds after the front shocks had been replaced :slight_smile:

Are shocks and struts better that they used to be? When younger I remember ads on tv for shock absorbers all the time, but I haven’t seen one in years. The last car I had to replace shocks on was my old 71 Valiant. Since then I have had ten cars mostly with well over 100k miles and have never replaced a shock or strut. A big chunk of that time was in PA which has annual safety inspections that check suspension components pretty carefully, so I don’t think they went bad without being noticed.

pretty much everything on cars lasts longer than it used to, yes. my 130k mile Ranger is on its original shocks and only now is one starting to leak. Gotta replace them now.