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Main Street Mechanic, Established 2005

How To Care For Your Suspension System

Struts and shock absorbers are the parts of your vehicle’s suspension system that, at the most basic level, keep the vehicle from bouncing and provide damping over bumps and uneven terrain. Both are filled with gas or oil that is compressed inside when the vehicle travels over rough roads. However, your car’s suspension doesn’t just help ensure a safe ride, it also helps to make sure your car doesn’t have to work as hard to keep you on the road. Struts serve another function – vehicle structure and support. It provides damping and serves as a structural mounting point. Maintaining your suspension can help increase fuel savings as well as extend the longevity of your vehicle. Here we’ll go over how to maintain your suspension for the long haul, as well as signs to look for that may suggest it’s time for suspension repair.

Understanding Your Vehicle’s Suspension System

First, it’s important to know that different cars have different types of suspension systems. Some vehicles have a shock absorber for each wheel while others have a strut for each wheel. Most modern vehicles use struts in the front and shocks in the rear. Struts provide a compact combination of structure and damping, so they are ideal for the front axle of a vehicle where there is not much extra space available.

Suspensions systems commonly fail due to age and high usage. Over time, the seals inside break down and allow leakage of the oil or gas inside. If you spend most of your time on the highway, your struts and/or shocks will generally last longer than a vehicle that is driven on city streets and stop-and-go traffic. Other causes of failure include rust and impact, such as hitting a pothole or curb.

If struts or shocks aren’t replaced when they fail, your vehicle will experience poor handling, especially on turns and rough roads. In severe cases, this can lead to complete loss of control of the vehicle. You may experience increased braking distance and increased bounciness. Driving will failing shocks/struts can also cause uneven tire wear.

Maintaining Your Suspension System

While many don’t consider tires a part of the suspension system, tires protect the wheels as you move your car over every bump in the road. Tires protect jarring from rattling other pieces of the suspension system loose. To maintain your suspension, check the air in your tires. Properly inflated tires help protect your entire suspension system from damage. Under-inflated tires hurt handling and performance, as well as reduce gas efficiency over time. You’ll also want to check tire tread using the penny test.

You’ll always want to make sure your wheels are aligned to ensure proper handling in all driving conditions. Keep in mind that the rougher you drive, the more often you will need to check your alignment.

Your power steering fluid is an important part of your suspension system as well. If you have a hydraulic steering system, your mechanic should check fluid levels at every oil change. It is usually changed every 30,000 miles, but make sure to check your vehicle’s manual for specific guidance.

It’s important to have your vehicle inspected regularly, and this includes having your shock absorbers and struts checked. This is especially true if you’ve been in an accident. Even minor bumps can shake your suspension system loose. An inspection will ensure your car is working the way it should and will ensure you’re going safely and securely.

Signs Your Car Needs Suspension Repair

If your car is riding rough, meaning you start to feel every bump in the road and notice your vehicle is bouncier than before, this is an obvious sign that your vehicle’s suspension needs work.

If you notice drifting or pulling during turns, your suspension system is likely failing. The shocks are no longer keeping the vehicle body stable against the centrifugal force of a turn. This not only is bad for your vehicle’s suspension, it can also increase the risk of a rollover. If you feel drifting during turns, it’s time to take your car into the mechanic.

Another telltale sign is noticing your car dipping, nose diving, or lurching forward when you apply the brakes firmly. A bad suspension system can increase stop time by up to 30 percent and affect your ability to stop the car quickly.

Uneven tire treads are yet another sign your suspension system isn’t holding up. When your suspension system is failing, you’ll start to notice uneven tire wearing and balding spots on your tires.

If you take a peak under your car and notice the shocks/struts look greasy or oily, they are likely leaking fluid and aren’t working properly. If you notice oily shocks, it’s time to get them replaced.

Last but not least, you can try the simple bounce test to do a quick check on your shocks and struts (though it’s always best to have your vehicle inspected professionally by a certified mechanic). With the car in park, press down on the front of the vehicle with all your weight. Bounce it a few times and release it. Repeat this at the rear of your vehicle. If the car continues to rock or bounce more than 2-3 times after you release it, the suspension is likely wearing out.

For expert auto repair in Utah County, trust the ASE-Certified experts at Main Street Mechanic. We have a solid reputation for excellent customer service and trusted repairs. We offer special offers online for additional savings. Don’t risk your safety by putting off inspections, repairs, and maintenance. We’re here to help Monday to Friday 7:30am – 6pm.

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