That’s a good question, isn’t it? Because on the surface, it seems like it would be an obvious answer: Yes. Because why would you replace one set of shocks without the other? But then if you think about it further, the logic can collapse. Money gets called into play, and all sorts of questions about whether or not it’s a good investment pop up.
So what do you do? Well let’s talk through it and figure it out.
A story with two sides.
There are basically two scenarios at play here.
- You replace one pair of shocks at one time
- You replace all four shocks at the same time
The case can be made for both, so let’s take a moment to go through them and weigh the good and bad.
1. You replace one pair of shocks at one time.
For clarity purposes, let’s refer to a “pair” of shocks as the two shocks installed either in the front or back of your vehicle. You wouldn’t want to do sides of shocks, as they’re often sold in pairs, and the shocks in the back won’t be the same as the ones up front.
Say you notice that your car is riding funny — it’s “floatier” than usual. So you figure out that it’s the front end that needs new shocks. But what about the backs?
On the plus side, replacing just one pair will save you money today. Long term you’ll want to replace the rear shocks as well, but for now, you’ll have a few extra bucks in your pocket. And if you’re not doing the install yourself, then you’ll save that extra cost, too. Ultimately, with the exception of the smoother ride up front, all of your benefits here are financial.
So what’s the down side? Well you’ll probably start to notice that the back of your car isn’t riding that great anymore. It’s a comparison thing, mostly, but now that your front suspension is all dialed in, you’ll start to feel like the back end now needs to be on the mend. It might just be your perception, or it could be reality. But either way, it likely will lead you to buying another pair of shocks for the back and installing them.
The only other down side here is that if your vehicle needs all four shocks replaced, then it does become a safety issue just to replace two. Part of your ride is a lot safer, sure, but now the other end is going to be a problem and could make the issue worse. If that’s where you find yourself, then make sure to replace all of the shocks when it comes up.
2. You replace all four shocks at the same time.
What’s the problem here? Money. It’s going to be more expensive to replace the whole set of shocks on your car or truck as opposed to just the front or rears, and again, if you’re including installation, add a few more bucks to that total.
But is that so bad? Not really. Replacing all of your shocks at the same time ensures that the next time they need replacing you’ll know that it’s all of them, not just one side or the other. Your car will be back to handling the way it was prior to the shock problem, and you’ll have some peace of mind, too.
At the end of the day, it’s all about money.
Do you want to pay what it costs to replace your shocks? In an ideal world, yes. You probably should do all four at the same time, if for nothing else, safety reasons. But look, we get it: Stuff ain’t cheap, and that paycheck may not stretch as far as it needs to. Maybe you get just one pair now and another pair in a few months when things even out a bit. It happens.
But no matter which way you go, don’t ever just replace one shock at a time. You’re almost guaranteed to get uneven handling as a result, which could cause your problems in the long run.