Automotive Advisers: From shocks to struts, here are tips for maintaining a smooth ride
Seeing a bumpy or hilly road like Johnson Drive and feeling the butterflies in your stomach as you drive over it whether here in Shawnee or out in the rolling Flint Hills of Kansas can be fun.
But when the highway or byway ahead is smooth and you’re still feeling like you’re operating a jackhammer, the problem may lie with your car’s shocks and struts.
Shocks and struts are two separate items that are part of the car’s suspension system.
Their job is to hold the body of the car off the ground, press the tires to the pavement, and prevent you from hitting your head on the car ceiling whenever you come to a bump in the road.
Each wheel of your vehicle has a shock or strut, never both.
Not every car has only shocks or only struts, either.
The most common combination is to have struts on the front wheels and shocks on the back.
Healthy shocks and struts are essential to preventing your car from bouncing all over while traversing rugged terrain or even a newly paved roadway like 435 Highway.
Your car is a machine that generates tremendous force, vibrations and inertia that require structural balance, which is what your suspension system provides.
Worn-out shocks and struts throw off that balance, causing excessive vibrations and noise while driving, alignment problems, unnecessary tie wear and other damage.
A bumpy ride is a telltale sign that you need to have your shocks and struts inspected and potentially replaced.
There are also a few other warning signs to watch for that may nudge you to take your car into the shop.
Nose Dives, Rear End Squats and Dipping: If the front end of your vehicle dives forward when braking or if it feels like it’s squatting as you accelerate to take off, then it’s likely your shocks and struts need to be replaced. Or, if your car dips with the curve in the road when you’re turning on Shawnee Mission Parkway, then, you guessed it, it’s likely your shocks and struts need to be replaced.
Tire Scalloping: When the struts or shocks on your vehicle are bad, the tires will bounce up and down as you drive. The impact of your tires hitting the ground repeatedly can cause bits of rubber to get scraped off, often referred to as scalloping (or cupping). This leads to uneven patches and inconsistent wear patterns on your tire tread, which means it’s time to have a technician look at your car’s shocks and struts.
As with anything, early detection and immediate action can save you time and money down the road.
If you’re unsure of the condition of your shocks or struts, consider having them inspected by a professional.
It’s a good idea to set up an appointment once you hit the 50,000-mile mark—and to consult your owner’s manual for recommendations specific to your car’s make and model.
While you can certainly drive with worn-down shocks and struts, it will eventually feel like you’re riding on an old-school rollercoaster.
Simply visit your trusted repair shop for a shock and strut assessment, and, if needed, a replacement to ensure a smooth and safe ride around town and wherever else life may take you.
-Scott and Tammie Green own Christian Brothers Automotive in Shawnee, 22240 Midland Dr.