Do My Struts Need To Be Changed?
One of the biggest changes in the mindset of today’s shoppers is the shift from a consumption mentality to a savings mentality. And that isn’t seen any more clearly than behind garage doors across America. According to research done at Polk, there are more than 247 million cars and light trucks on the road in the U.S. today at an average age of 11.4 years old. Considering that just a decade ago, the average was 9.6 years, it’s obvious that we’re all keeping our vehicles longer and trying to get more value out of them before trading in and buying something new. But the only way to get more value is to stay on top of maintenance items. You will keep your car running better longer and it is cheaper in the long run than getting by without service until major repairs are needed.
We’ve all been to the repair shop for a routine oil change and walked out with repair estimates for thousands of dollars. The question that crosses all our minds is, “What of this stuff really needs to be done?” To answer this question, let’s start with the basics of struts and what they do. Then we’ll talk how struts depreciate and what is involved when repairing them.
What Are Struts?
Struts are the main component of a modern independent suspension system – these are what “suspend” the body and frame of a vehicle above the wheels. All the weight of the vehicle rests on the struts, which shift the weight, via a few other components, to the wheels. Struts have a possible three components: a spring, shock absorber and the optional swivel mount.
A spring is used to “suspend” the weight of your vehicle above the wheels — allowing the wheels to travel up and down on the road without causing possible damage to the body of your car by means of bumping up and down with every crack or pothole in the road. The spring is constantly trying to find the equilibrium to smooth out the impact of the road; but without a shock absorber it would cause the body of the vehicle to move up and down several times after each bump.
The Shock Absorber
Shock absorbers (shocks) absorb the shock of an uneven road before it reaches the body of the vehicle. Instead of all the force of a bump being conveyed from the spring to the body/frame of the vehicle, shock absorbers take the force and use most of it up themselves. The force that does make it way to push up the body of the vehicle is absorbed by the shock absorber when the vehicle comes back down for a smooth transition to equilibrium and a normal ride. A strut is a combination of a spring and shock absorber.
Most of smaller vehicles today, such as sedans, with independent suspension use what is called a “MacPherson” strut —named after its inventor. The MacPherson Strut throws the swiveling mount into the spring and shock absorber combination. They have to be strong enough to not only swivel when the wheels turn, but to also be able to bear the weight of the vehicle.