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What Happens When Struts Go Bad

Posted by Switch Suspension on

It’s a good question, right? I mean, if you’ve got a car with struts and they go bad, is it that big of a deal?

Yes, absolutely. Bad struts can cause all sorts of problems, including a loss of control, and maybe even an accident. It’s a huge issue, and not something you should take lightly. Follow along as we figure out what happens when struts go bad.

What are struts, anyway?

Let’s back up for a minute. A strut is essentially a shock absorber. It’s what dampens the ride that you get on your suspension. The coil spring is what holds up the weight of the vehicle and provides the up and down movement. The strut controls that movement, making it feasible to drive safely.

Now the difference between a strut and a regular old shock absorber is how it’s set up. A strut is an assembly made up of the shock absorber and the coil spring. The coil goes over the strut, then a strut cap is put on the top that makes it all one big piece. As a result, they’re relatively easy to remove from your car or truck as a unit. But if the strut itself is bad, you have to deal with springs under tension and so on.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

What’s the downside of having a strut go bad?

Go back to our explanation of the suspension on your car. If the coil spring suspends the weight of the vehicle itself and provides up and down movement, then you need something to dampen the ride, which is in this job of your strut. If the strut goes bad, then the coil spring just bounces the car up and down. How’s that a negative thing?

Think about your daily commute. Do you hit more than one bump at a time? Probably. And what about hitting a pothole on one side of the car and not on the other? These movements need to be controlled, otherwise the car will just bounce up and down repeatedly. Not only will it make you feel seasick, but it causes a loss of control. And that’s when things get scary.

As your car cycles up and down, the contact patch on your tire changes, too. That means that if your strut is out and you go to jam on the brakes, you might not have enough contact with the road to stop in time. And that leads to accidents.

What’s the solution?

The fix is to replace the damaged struts.

Are they easy to replace?

Well, yes and no. A strut is a self-contained suspension unit that has your spring and your shock absorber in one spot, so really, taking out the struts isn’t that complex of a process. But because they’re one self-contained unit, things are a bit more complicated. See you have to separate the coil and the strut, and for that, you need some specialized equipment.

A spring compressor, at a minimum, is necessary to replace your struts. You can rent them cheap at your local auto parts store, so there’s no real reason not to get a pair. Then, once your spring is compressed, you can remove the top of the strut, take out the spring, and replace the strut.

The other issue is your alignment. If you mess with your suspension, you should get an alignment after you remove any component, and your struts fall into that category. This is particularly important if you have MacPherson struts, which also are a part of your steering system. Although you can sometimes get by without an alignment, make sure to set some cash away to do it once the struts are swapped out.

So yes, they’re easy to replace if you have the right tools. If not? Well it gets a little bit more complicated.

How important is it to fix?

Very. We can’t stress that enough.

On the surface, it seems like a minor thing. After all, it’s just about your comfort, right? Who cares if things are a little too floaty? But as we’ve explained, it goes a lot deeper than that. It’s about the safety of you, your passengers and the people around you, and it’s important not to take that lightly.

So what happens when struts go bad? You need to get them replaced, and soon.