“Looks like you need some new struts on your car. Do you want me to replace them?”

Admit it. We’ve all said yes to have struts replaced with little or no understanding of what they are and what they do for a vehicle. In talking with local experts, struts may be one of the most important parts on your vehicle.

“The purpose of struts is to dampen spring oscillation after hitting a bump. It is a form of shock absorber,” said Andre Bonneau, vice president of Bonneau’s Garage in Lewiston. “Without them our vehicles would continue to bounce or oscillate after hitting the original bump. This is dangerous because bouncing affects steering and handling and can cause an accident or at least make driving rather scary, especially at higher speeds.”

Shocks and struts fail in the same manner; they become weak and cease to effectively dampen spring oscillation. Maine State inspection requires that the shocks/struts do not allow more than 1.5 free-rocking oscillations and that they are not leaking.

According to Ed Lloyd, general manager at VIP Parts, Tires & Service, there’s no predicting when struts will need to be replaced.

“Some are good for 60,000 to 80,000 miles while others last 30,000 to 50,000 miles,” said Lloyd. “You just can’t tell.”

Lloyd noted that the best indicator of how long struts will last is in the type of vehicle and the driving conditions it routinely takes.

“Driving on dirt roads or back roads under construction can make a difference,” said Lloyd, implying that Maine has its share of road hazards. “It also depends on how much weight you are hauling. If you carry tools or heavy items beyond the capacity of the vehicle, that will affect the struts.”

While regular vehicle inspections can identify problems, Lloyd explained that the average driver can usually sense a problem with struts.

If there’s leaking fluid under the vehicle, that’s a sure sign,” said Lloyd. “If you feel excessive bouncing after hitting a bump, that could mean that it’s time to replace them.”

Dean Swindler, a manager at Rowe Auburn, suggests using your body weight to push down on the vehicle several times to get it bouncing on the struts and shocks.

“Stop pushing and step back while counting how many times the vehicle continues to bounce up and down,” said Swindler. “If the vehicle bounces more than three times after you stop, that’s a fairly good indicator that you are going to have to replace the struts.”

Bonneau suggested that replacing struts is not a do-it-yourself project and that the job should be done by automotive professionals.

“Because of how they are constructed and installed in the vehicle, struts have to be separated from the coil spring using a compressing tool that squeezes the coil spring together and holds it while you disassemble and reassemble the strut assembly,” explained Bonneau. “If a coil spring were to let loose during strut replacement, it could be very dangerous. There is a lot of energy stored in a compressed spring that routinely holds up tons of automobile and cargo. For that reason, it’s not a great do-it-yourself type of project.”

Industry standards dictate that if you replace one strut, you should always replace the other. “You can’t just replace one,” said Lloyd.

Putting off strut replacement can lead to more serious problems on a vehicle.

“(With failing struts) you’re adding pressure on ball joints and tie rods,” said Lloyd. “It can also lead to excessive tire wear and damage.”

“Looks like you need some new struts on your car. Do you want me to replace them?”

Admit it. We’ve all said yes to have struts replaced with little or no understanding of what they are and what they do for a vehicle. In talking with local experts, struts may be one of the most important parts on your vehicle.

“The purpose of struts is to dampen spring oscillation after hitting a bump. It is a form of shock absorber,” said Andre Bonneau, vice president of Bonneau’s Garage in Lewiston. “Without them our vehicles would continue to bounce or oscillate after hitting the original bump. This is dangerous because bouncing affects steering and handling and can cause an accident or at least make driving rather scary, especially at higher speeds.”

Shocks and struts fail in the same manner; they become weak and cease to effectively dampen spring oscillation. Maine State inspection requires that the shocks/struts do not allow more than 1.5 free-rocking oscillations and that they are not leaking.

According to Ed Lloyd, general manager at VIP Parts, Tires & Service, there’s no predicting when struts will need to be replaced.

“Some are good for 60,000 to 80,000 miles while others last 30,000 to 50,000 miles,” said Lloyd. “You just can’t tell.”

Lloyd noted that the best indicator of how long struts will last is in the type of vehicle and the driving conditions it routinely takes.

“Driving on dirt roads or back roads under construction can make a difference,” said Lloyd, implying that Maine has its share of road hazards. “It also depends on how much weight you are hauling. If you carry tools or heavy items beyond the capacity of the vehicle, that will affect the struts.”

While regular vehicle inspections can identify problems, Lloyd explained that the average driver can usually sense a problem with struts.

If there’s leaking fluid under the vehicle, that’s a sure sign,” said Lloyd. “If you feel excessive bouncing after hitting a bump, that could mean that it’s time to replace them.”

Dean Swindler, a manager at Rowe Auburn, suggests using your body weight to push down on the vehicle several times to get it bouncing on the struts and shocks.

“Stop pushing and step back while counting how many times the vehicle continues to bounce up and down,” said Swindler. “If the vehicle bounces more than three times after you stop, that’s a fairly good indicator that you are going to have to replace the struts.”

Bonneau suggested that replacing struts is not a do-it-yourself project and that the job should be done by automotive professionals.

“Because of how they are constructed and installed in the vehicle, struts have to be separated from the coil spring using a compressing tool that squeezes the coil spring together and holds it while you disassemble and reassemble the strut assembly,” explained Bonneau. “If a coil spring were to let loose during strut replacement, it could be very dangerous. There is a lot of energy stored in a compressed spring that routinely holds up tons of automobile and cargo. For that reason, it’s not a great do-it-yourself type of project.”

Industry standards dictate that if you replace one strut, you should always replace the other. “You can’t just replace one,” said Lloyd.

Putting off strut replacement can lead to more serious problems on a vehicle.

“(With failing struts) you’re adding pressure on ball joints and tie rods,” said Lloyd. “It can also lead to excessive tire wear and damage.”


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