Do I need new struts, or is there something else going on with my suspension system? This is a question many people ask themselves when they start hearing unusual noises coming from under their vehicle while driving. Clunks, bangs and vibrations can point to a number of potential chassis issues, but for cars and trucks that use a strut-type suspension, there are a few classic warning signs that it might be time for replacement.
1. Bounce, Bounce, Bounce
One of the primary jobs of a strut is to control your vehicle’s body motion. This means it absorbs much of the up-and-down and side-to-side motion associated with braking, turning or driving over rough pavement. If you start to notice a certain softness in how your car handles any or all of the above, it’s probably time to ask yourself: Do I need new struts? The answer could very likely be yes. Pay particular attention to the motion of your car’s front end over bumps. If you see it bouncing on a regular basis, it’s time to head to the shop.
2. Knocks and Clunks
All of that uncontrolled body motion can often lead to suspension parts and other components coming into contact with each other much harder than they were ever designed to. The greater range of motion associated with a worn-out strut leads to louder impacts and potentially greater wear on various parts. This wear often manifests as a repeated knocking, clunking or banging sound while the suspension is in motion. If left unaddressed for too long, a bad strut can lead to damage on other areas of the chassis, so as soon as you start to notice regular troublesome noises, it’s a good idea to get a professional opinion from your local NAPA AutoCare.
3. Worn-Out Tires
When you’re getting your tires rotated or having new ones installed, pay attention if the technician tells you that they noticed unusual wear. When struts are no longer performing as designed, they are unable to keep your tires in constant contact with the road, and this bouncing or floating will create uneven wear patterns on the tread that are often easy to detect. If your tire tread isn’t showing normal wear, then that’s an indication that something isn’t right with your suspension system.
If you encounter any of these symptoms, don’t ignore them. Talk to a mechanic you trust about what your options are for repair or replacement, so you can get back on the road as soon, and as safely, as possible.
Check out all the steering and suspension parts
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.