Niagara Gazette

Columns

February 17, 2014

TOM'S CORNER: Tom dispenses shock and strut wisdom

Niagara Gazette — RON FROM DOVER, DEL: I own a 2003 Toyota Solara. How often should the struts be changed? And are struts a lifetime part?

TOM: Strut life varies with the type of vehicle, how the vehicle is driven, and the environment in which it is driven. Have the struts inspected by a qualified shop to determine if they need replacement. Struts do not last the lifetime of the car. As a matter of fact, as far as the car warranty is concerned, they are considered a wearable item that must be replaced as a part of regular vehicle maintenance and thus, are not covered under the new car warranty. However, in certain cases if the shock or strut is damaged by an item covered under the new car warranty, shock or strut replacement may be covered under the warranty repair. Each case is different and up to the discretion of the warranty.

Ron asks a couple of great questions that a lot of people ask. Let’s take a look at other questions I get related to shocks and struts.

What do shocks and struts do? Shocks and struts are designed to dampen vehicle suspension spring oscillation for safe handing of the vehicle, plus they keep the tire firmly planted on the road surface enabling proper cornering and handling. Some shocks (mostly for trucks and off-road vehicles) are referred to as anti-roll shocks. These are designed to force the suspension downward when the wheel goes down into a road depression. This keeps the vehicle body stable and stops body dipping. Anti-roll shocks originally were developed for ambulances to keep the vehicle body stable when transporting patients laid out on gurneys. Apparently too many patients were rolling onto the floor when the ambulance driver took a turn too fast.

What happens when they go bad? When shocks and/or struts go bad, a few things can happen. Vehicle handling is negatively affected. Instead of firm, safe cornering & handling; the vehicle tends to become a bucking bronco. While driving down the road, if the vehicle hits a bump or pothole, it will bounce one way and then another. The smallest roadway imperfection will cause the vehicle to handle very roughly. Another thing that happens is that the tires tend to display choppy or cupped wear on the outside edges of the tread, it almost looks as if someone scooped out rubber with a spoon all along the edges of the tires. This causes a rough whirring sound as the tires roll, plus they wear out prematurely. Finally, because the suspension spring oscillation is not held in check, excessive wear to other suspension and steering components occurs.

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