The strut assembly of any vehicle is a critical part of the suspension. It affects the vehicle’s drivability and overall safety. Whether you are driving back and forth to work on a rutted, pothole-filled road or you go off-roading on the weekends, the bumps are all part of the drive and your suspension should be able to handle it if it is good shape. You want a smooth ride no matter what the road condition is and keeping your struts maintained gives you just that.
Inside the inner suspension assembly on all wheels is what is called the strut assembly. This assembly is attached to the chassis and wheel assembly both in the back and front of your vehicle. When your struts begin to wear out or completely fail, you’ll know because, well, it’s uncomfortable. Even worse than the discomfort you get in your drive, any strut damage also compromises the rest of the suspension assembly. A suspension assembly that is damaged can lead to unsafe driving which is more critical than just comfort. You may damage:
- Tires – When struts begin to wear out in the front end, the suspension starts to sag. This means that the front tires have to absorb more of the heat on either the inside or outside of the tire causing wear issues and weakness.
- Transmission – If your tires have to absorb extra wear and heat due to weakened struts it means your transmission and axles have more stress on them as well. This stress leads to premature aging and expensive repairs sooner rather than later.
- Engine – While you wouldn’t think strut failure would affect the engine, it does. If the suspension goes then it reduces drag and puts more stress on internal engine parts. This can cause major damage, especially if it continues for a prolonged period of time.
So, while many think struts are simply going to give you a smoother ride, they actually have a big impact on your car and safety. If you see or hear any of the following symptoms, you have to be proactive and get your struts inspected and repaired as soon as you can.
Bad Strut Symptoms
1. Knocking sounds when you drive over bumps
The struts are a solid piece that allows the chassis, wheel assembly, and body to move together when you hit a bump while driving. If the strut is worn out or damaged, it’s going to clunk or knock loud enough to be heard. The strut includes an inner shock, bushings, and other parts that wear out through use. When the strut is compressed and makes a clunk, that is metal on metal contact and that should not be happening. If the sound happens near the front or back area where your tires are then it’s probably caused by worn out or a broken strut.
2. Your ride is no longer smooth
If you are out for a drive and can suddenly feel all the bumps, this may be a symptom of a strut issue. It may also be a signal of an issue with other parts of the strut assembly. It could be the bushings, bad shocks, or even the mounting pieces. No matter what part of the strut is failing, you will begin to feel all bumps in the road.
3. Your vehicle pulls
When your vehicle pulls one way or the other, you may have a strut issue. The alignment of the front end should be checked as the pull could be coming from tire issues caused by strut failure.
4. Tire wear is uneven
If you see abnormal or unbalanced tire wear, it could be the struts. If the vehicle can’t absorb the shock of bumps then your tires will and they’ll wear unevenly if the struts can’t deal with the loads. Make sure to have the suspension looked at and repaired as needed before getting new tires installed. You don’t want to cause more damage and you’re not really fixing the problem.
5. Problems when you are driving at faster speeds
If you are driving on the highway and feel like the car is shifting or moving up and down then you may have a strut issue. Instability at a faster speed makes this feeling noticeable. Be wary of this as you don’t want to overcorrect a wobble.
6. Your vehicle tilts
If you are taking a quick turn or heading onto an off-ramp and you get a feeling that you are tilting or the turn makes the vehicle seem wobbly then the struts may be failing. They no longer provide the support needed when turns happen at higher speeds.
7. The fluid is noticeable
If you see fluid leaking on the outside of your struts, it’s a symptom that the seal has probably broken and any fluid inside is leaking out.
Maintaining your struts is important. They not only make sure your ride is comfortable but they are also needed for vehicle safety and stability. It’s easy to ignore a simple clunk or thump but by not paying attention to your struts and the symptoms they might exhibit, you could not only end up with a costly repair bill for more than the struts but you may end up putting your safety at risk as well.
Listen for noises you don’t normally hear, pay attention to the way your vehicle feels when you are driving it, and look for visual clues when you look at the assembly to make sure there is nothing wrong with the struts. Paying attention and doing quick repairs when necessary is a way to stay safe and reduce overall vehicle repair costs. It doesn’t take a long time to do a quick inspection and it could save you a lot of money at a repair shop in the long run.