Thinking about doing a shock and strut replacement to save on mechanics fees? Many people feel the same way. The average cost for this repair at a shop is over $400.
Fixing one’s suspension can seem intimidating at first, but hopefully, this article helps reduce some of that. Diagnoses, tools required, and safety issues are all covered. Keep reading to get started!
First: Shocks, Struts, or Both?
The first thing to do is check to find out if the vehicle has shocks or struts. Some vehicles may even have struts in the front and shocks in the back. Always replace the fronts together and the same for the rear.
How to Check for Bad Shocks and Struts
Checking for bad shocks or struts is simple. The easiest way to check if the struts or shocks need replacing is to do a bounce test on the vehicle.
One-by-one, push down on the vehicle over each wheel. Do it hard enough that it bounces over and under what the normal resting position is.
Now let go of it. Shocks and struts in good operating condition will go right back to the normal resting position and stop. If it keeps bouncing, that strut or shock is bad.
Also, check for any oil leaks from each part. Oil leaks mean they need replacing.
Tools and Equipment Needed
The tools required will depend on whether one is replacing shocks, struts, or both. Here’s a list of common tools to have on hand for this job.
- Jack Stands
- Socket Wrench
- Torque Wrench (optional)
- Impact Wrench (optional)
- Socket Extension
- Spring Compressor
Unless the bolts are difficult to remove, a torque and impact wrench is not a necessity.
Shocks need checking every 12,000 miles and replaced as necessary. Shocks are responsible for keeping the vehicle from bouncing. They provide better handling when compared to struts.
Symptoms of worn shocks:
- Highway wandering
- Going over bumps feels harsh
- Leaking fluid
- Front end dives when braking hard
- Bottoming out
Shock replacement is simple. Directions come with the new part.
Struts need replacing every 50,000 miles. Unlike shocks, struts are part of the vehicle’s suspension. The top of the strut is mounted to the chassis.
Struts are trickier and more dangerous to replace than shocks. They have a large compressed spring to worry about.
A word of caution: don’t start unbolting the strut without a spring compressor. A compressor tool is necessary to handle the strut. Spring compressors are available to rent at most auto stores.
Even with the compressor tool, be super careful with the springs, as they can pop off. A spring of this size will cause severe damage to anything in its way.
Time Required for a Shock and Strut Replacement
Replacing a pair of struts or shocks takes, on average, about two hours. Afterward, plan on getting an alignment. An alignment prevents uneven tire wear and steering wheel shaking.
Realigning a vehicle requires special equipment. A visit to a mechanic for this part of the repair is almost always required. An alignment should not take more than one hour.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Shock and strut replacement is not too difficult with the right tools and planning. One can reach pro-status in no time. But make sure and be careful handling the compressed springs.
Want more information on DIY auto repairs? Check out these five repairs for aspiring home mechanics.