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Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
You’d probably think that the safety of your vehicle lays in the brakes or all the fancy systems that come with it. While this is true to some extent a pair of components that actually keeps you safe from accidents are the struts.
They also make your ride more comfortable too alongside with vehicle interior and tire pressure. As you would expect, your vehicle’s suspension is the system most responsible for both the safety and comfort of your ride.
How to tell if your struts are bad? -Well, you are in the right place. Confirm that your vehicle has either shocks or struts, or even a combination of both is a viable option, and dive into the article!
How Struts Actually Work
Struts link the suspension system with the wheels and they are also the first line of defence against potholes. Without them, you would feel every single bump in the road and you won’t be able to control your car as easily.
Simply put driving without struts is not only uncomfortable but also unsafe. Driving with faulty struts is a big no-no, so here’s how to tell if your struts are bad.
Bad Strut Symptoms
One big indicator of bad struts is noise. Usually, you’ll hear banging or clunking types of noises when you’re driving over potholes or any sort of obstacle in the road. Creaking sounds when turning the steering wheel which occur when the strut mount has gone bad. There are other important symptoms that you should look out for.
When the struts are stuck, loose or damaged your vehicle will bounce excessively.
This will affect the tires the most which will result in an uncomfortable ride even when driving in normal road conditions. When Driving through potholes or on uneven roads the bouncing will be more severe. This calls for an urgent struts replacement.
Diving & Squatting
Since struts keep the vehicle stable if they were to go bad the front end of the vehicle would start to dive and the rear would squat. This happens when accelerating and braking. The rear end will squat during acceleration whilst the front end dives when you apply the brakes.
While tire wear is normal with every vehicle, uneven tire wear is a big no-no. This happens when your struts are worn out and thus they can keep your tires on the road as well as they used to.
''Vehicles are made so the tires stay in uniform contact with the road'' says Gottweis from Volkswagen Group.
If that weren’t the case you would get flat tires all the time.
The ability to control your vehicle is reduced as well as your vehicle’s braking performance when the struts have been worn out. This usually results in a notchy steering wheel. This leads to reduced performance both when handling your vehicle and when braking.
The overall ride will become less enjoyable as the struts provide less support for your vehicle. This will result in a rough ride even when driving on a perfectly fine road.
The struts can wear out to the point where your vehicle bottoms out which is what happens when the spring has reached the end of its lifespan.
Similar to your vehicle squatting and diving, body roll occurs when cornering. If the struts have just started to go bad and it makes your vehicle lean when turning. Even if you’re taking a slight turn you’ll notice your vehicle lean.
Something that you’ll feel on the steering wheel is vibration. Vibrations are a strong indicator of a serious issue with your struts.
Usually, your steering wheel will vibrate when driving on an uneven road but if the vibrations continue even after you’re past the uneven area it is usually a sign of concern. These vibrations can cause handling issues when traveling at higher speeds making your vehicle completely unsafe.
The brakes can also get affected by a faulty strut or struts. A worn-out strut can easily increase braking distance up to 20%. A delay in braking or longer stopping distances is easily going to bring you one step closer to an accident. When you experience this immediately visit the nearest mechanic.
Risks of Driving with Bad Struts
The first thing you risk from being damaged when driving with bad struts is the wheels. Faulty struts can lead to a flat tire or cause the wheels to break down since wheels and tires are part of the suspension system and connect the wheels to the chassis and body. Because of this, faulty struts on a car can easily result in an accident.
Your vehicle’s joints will also be affected by a broken down strut or two. Vibrations will cause the joints to shake and jolt your vehicle as they will get weak and eventually break. The shaking will cause them to wear down which will affect the smoothness of the ride.
How Long Can You Drive with Bad Struts?
In theory, you are still able to operate your vehicle even with bad struts. But as mentioned above they can make your vehicle hard to control and affect vehicle safety in a negative way. While usually, you need to replace struts every 40,000 to 50,000 miles, bad struts on a car will drastically lower those numbers. This, of course, will depend on the severity of the issues your struts are faced with.
How to Find the Right Replacement Struts
Important factors to consider before purchasing your aftermarket struts.
- Types of car struts
When searching for struts you’ll encounter three different types, gas, coilover, and pneumatic. Gas or also known as gas-charged struts have gas and oil in them to provide the dampening effect. They are something between pneumatic and coilover struts with gas struts being better than coilover with the added benefit of pneumatic struts.
Pneumatic struts which are also known as hydraulic work with the help of oil when helps dampen impacts as the oil gets compressed. The differentiating feature in coilover or MacPherson struts is that the top of the strut has a coil that helps dampen any movement.
- Strut size
When it comes to strut size it’s important to get a pair that suits the year and model of your vehicle. Apart from knowing what type of vehicle you drive, you’ll also need to note down the part number of your struts so you purchase the correct components.
- Struts weight transfer rating
Another important feature is the amount of weight the struts are able to distribute when accelerating, turning at a junction or stopping suddenly. This is represented by the strut’s weight transfer rating. If you were to get struts with the incorrect rating your vehicle will lift and canter as the struts will be too soft.
- Spring Rate
To properly support the weight of the vehicle you need to find struts with the correct spring rate. Spring rate determines the behavior of the strut when force is applied against it. Usually, the spring rate on most vehicles is anywhere between 25% and 30% of their free length. Streetcars typically have a firmer spring rate of about 25%.
If you were to avoid replacing your struts even after all the telltale signs have occurred the result of that can be dangerous. Not just for the state of your vehicle but dangerous for your life too.
Since struts are a structural part of the suspension when replacing them you’ll want your mechanic to align them.
As you already know struts help keep your vehicle stable even at high speeds, amongst other things. So having even a pair of new struts installed can make a big difference in how your vehicle drives on an open road. A new set of struts can even make your vehicle corner and brake as it did when you first got it.
A lot of people want to know how new struts feel. Well while the first 100 miles you will notice that they are a little bit bouncy and stiff. This is pretty normal as the new struts like a new pair of sneakers need to be broken in to make the night and day difference possible.
One thing is for sure and that is that struts are an incredibly important component that your vehicle can’t go without. Keeping an eye on your struts isn’t necessary but knowing when they’ve gone bad is.
A “check engine” light is something you can ignore for a long time and your car will work perfectly fine. But a strut isn’t something that you can put aside for the time being. This is why it’s important to know how to tell if your struts are bad.