What Are Struts on a Car? | Shocks vs Struts

Different types of cars have different types of suspensions. Most car owners have heard the term “strut,” but may not be clear as to what exactly the struts on a vehicle are or what they do.

Most straightforwardly defined, the strut is a common damper type used on many of today’s independent suspension, front-wheel drive vehicles as well as some rear-wheel drive vehicles. They are mounted at the top of the chassis at the front end of most front-wheel-drive vehicles. However, struts are not limited to front-wheel-drive configurations.

What is a Strut on a Car?

A strut is a major structural part of a suspension. It takes the place of the upper control arm and upper ball joint used in conventional suspensions. Because of its design, a strut is lighter and takes up less space than the shock absorbers in conventional suspension systems.

Struts perform two main jobs. First, struts perform a damping function like shock absorbers. Internally, a strut is like a shock absorber. A piston is attached to the end of the piston rod and works against hydraulic fluid to control spring and suspension movement.

Just like shock absorbers, the valving generates resistance to forces created by the up and down motion of the suspension. Also like shock absorbers, a strut is velocity sensitive, meaning that it is valved so that the amount of resistance can increase or decrease depending on how fast the suspension moves.

Struts also perform a second job. Unlike shock absorbers, struts provide structural support for the vehicle suspension, support the spring, and hold the tire in an aligned position.

Additionally, they bear much of the side load placed on the vehicle’s suspension. As a result, struts affect ride comfort and handling as well as vehicle control, braking, steering, wheel alignment, and wear on other suspension parts.

It is recommended to replace your struts every 50,000 to 100,000 miles with normal use. However, if you regularly drive off-road or live where rust could be a problem, you might need to replace them more often.

Signs Of Faulty Struts and Replacement Costs

If your vehicle is difficult to handle at some point, your struts are at fault. It spells trouble in many ways than one. For instance, you could completely lose control over a bump on the road, which puts your passengers at risk.

Struts come in pairs; thus, you’ll need to replace both. This will usually cost you anywhere from $300 to $900. Depending on what kind of driver you are, you should go through the procedure every 50,000-100,000 miles. That is, unless you don’t encounter any sort of tell-tale signs that may require you to go about replacing them quicker. These may include:

  • Bumpy ride. This is the most obvious sign. If you can feel each bump on the road and the ride has become uncomfortable, it’s time to spring into action.
  • Steering problems. If struts are faulty or worn out, the steering wheel feels stiff or hard to turn. You may even feel like your car is swaying or leaning when you take a turn or switch lanes.
  • Braking issues. Here, the problem is that your car feels unstable or takes nose dives, lurching forward when you step on the brake pedal.
  • Fluid leaks. Leaked fluid on the exterior of shocks is a sign that something is off. If they don’t have enough fluid, they’ll provide no impact absorption.
  • Uneven tread wear. When your suspension and wheel alignment is off, your tires will experience uneven tread wear, which will look different than when they are aging. Suspension damage could cause scalloped dips (“cups”) to develop around the edge of the tread, potentially putting you in harm’s way.

Are Shocks And Struts The Same Thing?

Shocks and struts are both parts of your vehicle’s suspension system. However, each one has a very specific job.

strut vs. shock absorber

Shock absorbers are hydraulic components that help minimize movement generated by the vehicle’s springs. These springs absorb some of the jolts you might feel from uneven or damaged roads. By softening the impact from rough roads and rocky terrain, shocks can help you maintain better control over your vehicle, resulting in a smoother, more comfortable driving experience.

Struts are structural components of certain vehicles’ steering and suspension systems. They usually consist of a spring and a shock absorber. Struts are designed to be much stronger than shocks since they are weight-bearing components. Additionally, they help dampen vehicle jolts and improve your vehicle’s steering and alignment.

Role Of Shocks and Struts:

A key part of your vehicle’s suspension system, shocks, and struts help keep your vehicle’s tires in contact with the road. Why is this so important? If your car doesn’t maintain firm contact with the road, steering, handling, and braking can all be affected. Quality ride control products perform many vital functions:

  • Control excessive body and tire movement
  • Reduce vehicle bounce, roll, and sway – plus brake dive and acceleration squat.
  • Help maintain consistent handling and braking.
  • Help maintain wheel alignment.
  • Help reduce the potential of premature wear on tires and other suspension parts.

Do All Vehicles Have Struts?

Many vehicles will have shocks on one axle and struts on the other. However, not all vehicles have struts. Depending on its design, your vehicle might use separate springs and shocks in place of struts. If you’re not sure whether your vehicle has shocks or struts, there are a few ways you can find out.

Shocks vs. struts: What’s the difference?

While shocks and struts are both parts of your car’s suspension system, they are fundamentally different components. Shock absorbers are located behind the tires and work alongside a separately mounted spring. The sole job of car shock absorbers is to stop the car from bouncing.

Car struts combine a shock and spring assembly in one unit that is part of the structural make-up of the vehicle. These heavy-duty, weight-bearing components are attached to the wheel. In addition to softening the ride, struts also hold the tire in position and provide valuable support to the vehicle’s braking and steering systems.

Depending on the suspension, some cars feature a combination of both shocks and struts.


Can you drive a car with bad struts?

Struts on the front end of your vehicle are also crucial for steering and alignment. Driving with a broken strut will be extremely uncomfortable for you and your passengers, and is unsafe in an emergency. It can also damage other components in your car.

How much does it cost to replace a strut?

Struts come in pairs; thus, you’ll need to replace both. This will usually cost you anywhere from $300 to $900. Depending on what kind of driver you are, you should go through with the procedure every 50,000-100,000 miles.

What are the symptoms of a bad strut?

Symptoms of Worn Struts:
1. Nose dive when braking.
2. Bouncy ride.
3. Vehicle rolls or sways when cornering.
4. Uneven tire wear.
5. Rear squat during acceleration.
6. Vibration in steering wheel.
7. Unusual noises.
8. Leaking fluid on exterior of shocks/struts.

What happens when the struts go out on a car?

If ride control parts like shocks and struts are worn, they might not properly respond. Additionally, stopping distances might increase and brakes and tires could wear more quickly. Plus, there could be added strain on the springs.

What do bad strut sound like?

A bad strut can produce a variety of noises, including clunking, knocking, or rattling sounds when going over bumps or uneven road surfaces. Additionally, a worn or damaged strut may also cause the vehicle to bounce excessively or feel unstable while driving.

The Bottom Line

Struts are integral components of your suspension and wear out every 50,000-100,000 miles. They’re not particularly cheap to replace, but you won’t have to do it too often, so that won’t hit your wallet too much. If you’re unsure when to go through with replacing, pay close attention to your auto and try to spot the symptoms.

Other than that, stay on top of your maintenance and try to take care of your car to avoid any trouble on the road. Safe driving!