Ever wondered why you’ve not bumped your head on the roof every single time you drive over a speedhump? Well, you can thank your car’s clever suspension for that. Not only does it need to cushion your body (as well as the rest of the car) from all that shaking, but it also needs to make sure you don’t bounce around too much. Understandably then, shocks and struts replacement cost isn’t something that can be easy on your wallet.
But pay you must, and it’s more than just your discomfort that is at stake. Shocks and struts are among the most crucial components in your car’s suspension. And there are indeed many bits and pieces that co-exist within an automotive suspension system. You can imagine then, that having your entire car, with its many hundreds or thousands of moving parts – all of which need to work within very tight tolerances – bouncing around and swaying about isn’t a good idea.
But what exactly are shocks and struts, and what do they do? Aren’t shocks and struts the exact same thing? More importantly, if they’re so integral to your car’s wellbeing, how could they possibly wear out? How can I tell if my shocks or struts need to be replaced? Moreover, how much am I going to have to pay for all this? All very pertinent questions, and ones which we’ll hope to answer in our shocks and struts replacement cost guide…
What are the differences between shocks and struts that you need to know?
Shocks and struts both perform similar roles in your car’s suspension. Therefore, a lot of people have made the mistake of using them interchangeably. However, it’s important to understand that they are both different components in their design and structure. So, it’s not a good idea to tell your mechanic to check your car’s “struts”, when you actually meant “shocks”. As the name may have suggested, struts (unlike shocks) are structural components in a car’s suspension.
It’s the struts that are what hold the coil springs in place. As they are an integral component in your car’s suspension structure, the struts are also a part of your car’s steering. The struts share responsibility in maintaining the wheel alignment, as one example. It’s for this reason why – as we’ll learn later on in our shocks and struts replacement cost guide – damage to your struts can be felt quite easily through the steering.
Shocks vs. struts
Since they play such a pivotal role, struts can also be expensive to replace. The main role of shocks – or ‘shock absorbers’ – on the other hand, is to help cushion your car. But even more crucially, shocks also control and moderate the level of the bounciness of your car’s suspension. The coil springs – or just the springs – in your car’s suspension is what absorbs most of the impact and movement. However, it’s the shocks that prevent them from bouncing too much.
Imagine if you’re jumping up and down a trampoline… We don’t want this on a car. That is what happens when you don’t have the shocks. Filled with pressurized gas or hydraulic fluid, shocks are cylindrical tubes that work like pistons. With this in mind, shocks are then able to provide the right amount of resistance against the coil springs extending or compressing too much. In effect, it makes sure your car doesn’t jiggle like a bouncy ball every time it goes over a speed hump.
What’s causing your car’s shocks and struts to wear out?
So far then, we can understand that your car’s shocks and struts have a lot of key roles to play. But surely if they’re this important, they shouldn’t be able to wear out, right? Well, it’s not as simple as that. Remember that your car’s entire suspension sits in the undercarriage. In other words, it sits outside (and at the bottom) your car and is left exposed to the elements as you’re driving along. This leaves it vulnerable to hitting all kinds of debris.
Add to that, your car’s shocks and struts need to cushion out every little imperfection on the road. This includes speedbumps, potholes, lane markers, cobblestone roads, gravel, stones, and a whole lot more. The most common issue with shocks or struts is leaking, either hydraulic fluids or pressurized gas. This will start appearing as soon as cracks start to form, or if the seals wear out. Once your shocks or struts start leaking, they’ll no longer work as well at cushioning your car.
This will, eventually, lead to prematurely wearing out other strained parts of your car’s suspension. The goods news here is that by design, you shouldn’t have to bear shocks and struts replacement cost all too often. Most manufacturers recommend that owners have their shocks and struts checked out every 40,000 to 60,000 miles. But some can last 75,000, 90,000, or even 100,000 miles if you take good care of them.
How can you tell if you need to consider shocks or struts replacement cost?
Among the most common questions in this regard is, “Can I keep driving with worn-out shocks or struts?” In short, we don’t recommend it. At least, only for emergencies and very short distances. For a start, driving a car with worn-out shocks or struts is uncomfortable, as you’ll have suffered a lot of bumping about. But also, leaving this unfixed can gradually wear out the rest of your car, too. It’s safe to foresee that the rest of your car’s suspension won’t be all too happy with that much bouncing.
Furthermore, you can imagine that all those sudden jolts and intense impacts reverberated across your car can wear out certain parts faster. For example, mounts or bearings becoming over-stressed, or maybe even shake entire components – like wires or hoses – completely loose. So, being prudent about servicing and replacing your car’s shock and struts will no doubt help to prevent even bigger, more complex, and more expensive repair bills down the line.
However, you won’t be compelled to have them replaced immediately, thankfully. According to some technicians, you can still drive around for a week or two at most with worn-out shocks or struts. Mind you, this is merely a general estimation and doesn’t take into account your particular car’s condition. In our case, we’ll still highly recommend that you just pay up any necessary shocks and struts replacement cost as soon as you see just one of these symptoms…
1. Your car bouncing around more often than it should
A healthy shock and strut should always maintain your car to be composed. You shouldn’t have to feel like you’re sitting in a bouncy castle. So, you can tell that something is wrong with the suspension when your car starts bouncing around excessively every single time you drive over a fairly small obstacle. Most often, we can pinpoint this problem more specifically towards the shocks or struts.
You can try to diagnose this by leaning down and checking your car’s shocks and struts. If you notice that your shocks and struts are looking a bit greasy or oily, then you’ll need a replacement soon. Alternatively, see if there’s a puddle of oily liquids near the base of the tires. As we mentioned earlier in our shocks and struts replacement cost guide, they can wear out and start leaking after a while.
2. Your car rolling a lot while turning
This is called, “body roll”, which in short means how much your car leans when it’s turning. Too much body roll can be felt as though your car is about to tip over and fall on its side. If your car’s shocks and struts are in good condition, it should work to prevent excessive body roll. It should keep your car and its four wheels planted firmly in the ground, even if it’s a taller and heavier vehicle like an SUV or truck.
When you’re experiencing this terrifying leaning too far right or left, then it’s another clear sign of suspension problems. Turning across at steeper gradients or doing so too quickly could even cause your car to roll over! Once again, we can point the blame most likely towards worn-out shocks or struts. At the very least, you can still notice this even if you’re not moving. See if your car is leaning more to one side when it’s parked on a flat surface.
3. Your car squatting a lot while accelerating or braking
Other than bouncing up and down, you might also feel that your car is bouncing front and back. You can feel as though your car is dipping in, or diving ahead nose-first into the ground as you press on the brake pedal. Or, you can feel your car squatting hard backward while accelerating. This can be normal even with good suspension, but it shouldn’t feel as though the front or rear end is kissing the ground. You could check this for yourself to make sure with a “bounce test“.
With your car safely in ‘park’, go to the front and press down on the hood with your entire body weight. Release, and count how many times the car bounces. You can then repeat this same step on the back of your car by pressing down on the trunk lid. Either way, if your car bounces more than 2 or 3 times, then you have worn-out shocks and struts. By repeating this both back and front, you can also check more clearly on which side of the car it’s worn out more.
4. You can hear an odd clunking sound after driving over something
Your car’s suspension shouldn’t be making any sort of sounds. If you hear a ‘clunking’ noise – or any other sort of noise – any time you drive over a bump or hole, then it could point to a worn suspension. In the case of shocks and struts, that clunking sound is what happens when the tires don’t stop bouncing around. As we learned so far in our shocks and struts replacement cost guide, shocks and struts are what prevents excessive bouncing, both the body of your car and its wheels.
5. You notice uneven tread wear on your car’s tires
An extension of our previous point, a lot of a shock’s and strut’s wellbeing can be seen with the state of your tires. If your tires are bouncing around a lot, you can feel this with vibrations through the steering wheel. But if you’re not able to feel this symptom from the steering, then you can inspect your tires just to make sure. If your car’s shocks or struts are worn out, it won’t be able to maintain your car’s composure as stably as it once did.
This means that it’ll put more pressure and strain on one side or a set of tires more than others. Check your tires for any uneven tread wear. It might show itself along the inner or outer walls of your tires. You can also look out for the pattern of the wearing itself. Normally, a car’s tires should wear out evenly across the entire width of the tire. But with a potentially faulty suspension, the uneven wear might appear as a wave-like pattern.
How much is the shocks and struts replacement cost that you should worry about?
Now that you’ve patiently waited long enough, it’s a good time to discuss more on financials. Remember that there’s a lot of different components working together in your car’s suspension. From the coil spring itself, control arms, ball joints, sway bar, bushings, and a whole lot more than requires attention. Overall, the average cost for repairing or replacing the entire suspension system is around $1,000 to $5,000.
If we narrow it down a bit further, we can note that the average shocks and struts replacement cost sit somewhere in the range between just $200 to $1,500. This price goes out for a whole set for your entire car, meaning four shocks and four struts. Although, know that struts are more expensive, and you can expect to pay at least four digits for just a pair. You could also see this price go up even higher if you have a higher performance or heavy-duty vehicle.
For instance, sports cars, pickup trucks, or specialized 4×4 off-roaders. In this case, a complete shocks and struts replacement cost for all corners could set you back anywhere from $2,000 to upwards of $5,000. It’s not easy to find an exact price tag for your vehicle. However, there are easy ways to do this. You can ring up your local mechanic or dealership for a quote. Or, you can find them online on sites like RepairPal, RepairSmith, YourMechanic, AutoGuru, Fixter, and more.
Can you replace just a single shock or strut?
There have been times when we try to skimp out on shelling out for full shocks and struts replacement costs by just replacing only one. For example, instead of changing both shocks and struts on the front axle, you only do this on one side. It’s tempting to save on your hard-earned money, but we don’t recommend that you do this. Firstly, replacing them only on one side will cause uneven wear, as one shock or strut works better than the other.
As we’ve learned earlier, this will eventually result in your tires wearing out quicker and you’ll need to replace those. Now, you’ll have to worry about tire rebalancing and extra labor costs. Aside from that, it’ll also wear out the rest of your car’s suspension prematurely, which will cost you a whole lot more in repairs. Depending on your mechanic’s prognosis, we definitely recommend changing out entire pairs, such as both the front or rear shocks and struts.
What affects the shocks and struts replacement cost?
There’s a lot of different factors at play when it comes to determining how much your shocks and struts replacement cost will be. The make and model of your vehicle is one way. Luxury cars will no doubt charge you more, as the shocks and struts on a Mercedes will assuredly be different than those on a Honda. Then, you’ll need to see where you’re going to send your car off to. Official dealers have always had a higher price tag on them than independent workshops.
Next, we’ll need to know how much rust is present in your car. The more rust there is around the suspension – which is normal in older cars – the more time and effort it’ll take to complete the repair. In turn, this added complexity will add more hours for the fix to be done, which means a higher labor cost. On average, you can expect that a complete set of shocks and struts can be replaced fully within 2 to 4 hours.
Diverging a bit into the overall suspension, know that modern cars have more complex and clever setups. This can include innovative tech like active damping or air suspension. These advanced suspension designs are no doubt comfier, but are also very deadly expensive to replace when they go wrong. Other than that, you can take a look at your car’s warranty or insurance. In some cases, they might have coverage for shocks and struts replacement cost.
How can you prevent shocks and struts from wearing out too quickly?
Understanding now that shocks and struts replacement costs can be quite hefty on your bank account, it would be helpful to learn more about how we could prevent them from wearing out quicker than they need to. In fact, there have been owners whose cars have driven for 100,000 miles without needing to replace their shocks or struts. The simplest way to extend the lifespan of your poor old suspension is to be mindful of how you’re driving.
Drive modestly and gently, while looking far ahead of any approaching speedhump, potholes, or potential debris. Take them slowly, and try to avoid any sudden or sharp jolts. But beyond just the style of your driving, take note of how you’re treating your car. The more load – in other words, mass – you’re putting on your car, the more that weight will impact the health of your car’s shocks and struts. So, think twice before moving that sofa with your car.
Then, you’ll want to pay attention to where you’re driving your car. Try to avoid rough surfaces that could put your shocks and struts under a lot of strain. In short, minimize your driving over gravel or unpaved roads, and take those badly paved roads cautiously. There are some hobbies that also could wear out your suspension a lot quicker. This includes going off-roading, or taking your car down to the race track. Although fun, it can cost you a pretty penny in due time.
Shocks and struts replacement cost – Conclusion
As an oh-so-important component of your car’s suspension, shocks and struts will indeed ample amounts of love and attention. We’ve learned so far that shocks and struts replacement cost is not something one can swallow easily. But there are also thankfully a lot of ways in which we can prevent needing to replace said shocks or struts more often than is necessary. Driving carefully and calmly will do wonders for lengthening the lifespan of your car’s suspension as a whole.
Should you like to save on money, then maybe you can consider replacing shocks and struts by yourself. Although, we only recommend this for those that have plenty of experience in working on cars. Changing out your car’s shocks and struts at home can be quite the difficult fix for most people. But if you’d like to take on the challenge, there are some pretty helpful guides out there on how you can do it. Otherwise, it’s likely better to just suck up the price of labor.
But even if you need to pay for replacing your car’s shocks and struts, there are some good reasons why you should. They’re paramount to the well-being of the rest of the suspension. Would you rather pay 5x more to replace your car’s entire suspension just because of worn out shocks and struts? So, whether you like it or not, shocks and struts replacement cost should always be a subject matter that sticks in your head whenever you’re sending your car out for its regular check-up.