Car Maintenance

Shocks & Struts – Noticing the Signs of Wear

Shocks and Struts

Your shock absorbers (or struts on most vehicles today) have a primary function: To help you maintain control of your vehicle. And even though you think of them as the reason your vehicle rides so nicely over bumps, it’s actually working hard to keep the suspension and steering controllable by the driver. If worn or damaged, control will be compromised, and the ride will be uncomfortable.

Some telltale signs of worn or failing shocks and struts

UNSTEADY STEERING OR WANDERING
If your vehicle feels like it is sliding around or feels like you have a heavy crosswind when you don’t…it’s likely that your shocks or struts are doing very little to control the car. It’s most noticeable if you find yourself constantly correcting your direction, or over-correcting in what should be a straight line of travel. These are dangerous symptoms and the shocks should be replaced as soon as possible.

UNEVEN TIRE WEAR
On failing shocks or struts, your tires will become “patchy” and uneven. This is because they are not making full flat contact with the road. This has the potential to increase the risk of hydroplaning, and can also lead to thin or weak spots that can result in an unforeseen loss of pressure.

LOSS OF CONTROL WHEN BRAKING
If the front end of your vehicle dips forcefully under braking, or swerves to one side the struts are the likely culprit. This can be very dangerous in wet weather; it’s imperative to bring this behavior to a halt!

SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL
Over even the smallest bumps, or perhaps a train track crossing, your vehicle shakes and bounces like you’re in an earthquake! The shocks aren’t doing their job, as they are moving up and down rapidly with no damping, feeling every impact and sending that impact to other parts of the steering and suspension. Over a period of time, this can do severe damage to other steering and suspension components, and also result in the creation of many rattles and loose parts all over your car.

LONG DISTANCE STOPPING
You need your brakes to do what you expect when you press down on the pedal. With worn shocks or struts, your stopping distance can increase by up to 20%, making your vehicle extremely unsafe to operate! Your vehicle needs an inspection NOW.

Shocks and struts will wear out over time, so none of these symptoms will appear overnight.  Just as soon as you experience even one of these signs of wear, get your vehicle into us at your earliest convenience. To delay could result in damage to other components, broken mounts or bushings, or even loss of control or an accident resulting in serious injury or worse. Get the vehicle inspected and repaired so it’s once again safe and comfortable.

Maintenance You Can't See

underside of car

We take care of our vehicles by keeping them clean and by providing the regular maintenance they need. As much as we do, however, we typically neglect one area that needs regular cleaning, but doesn’t get it. I’m talking about the underside of your car.

When new, the underside of your car is shiny, just like the outside. But over time and many miles, the dust, dirt and road debris will cling onto every item under your car. And in the wet Winter months, more mud, snow, even sticks can accumulate under your car, becoming lodged in moving parts and causing rust to untreated surfaces. Without removal, these items can age your car prematurely, from the inside out! They can also hide or damage areas of your car that technicians must access as part of needed maintenance.

Many car washes today will spray off the bottom of your car as part of the wash process. If you take your car to one of those self-service “wand” washes, stay a minute longer and point it at the underside to clean loose debris and dirt.

A few minutes like this can make a big difference to the way your car ages, and to the technicians who work on your vehicle. It only takes a few minutes, but the benefits will extend the service life of your car.

Check-list for safe driving

ChecklistFollow this check-list for safe driving!

  1. Check lights and wipers for visibility. With shorter days and inclement weather ahead, make sure lights and wipers function properly so that you can see and be seen.  Check the exterior and interior lights and replace any that are dimming, rapidly blinking or not functioning. Check wiper blades for signs of wear and replace if necessary.
  2. Check tires for under inflation or excessive wear. Check tire pressure and refill underinflated tires, including the spare, and look for uneven wear and check tread depth. An easy way to do the latter is by placing a penny head-down in the tread groove. If the tread does not cover Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires.
  3. Consider a back-up detection device. Consider having a back-up detection device installed that provides rearview video or warning sounds when moving in reverse. While drivers should not rely solely on these devices, they can help to reduce the risk of backover incidents along with following other prevention tips from NHTSA.
  4. Get an annual brake inspection. The braking system is your car’s most important safety feature. Before carpool season gets in full swing, make sure that your brakes are functioning properly. Schedule a brake inspection and look for warning signs that your vehicle may need brake services, such as an illuminated brake light or screeching, grinding or clicking noises when applying the brakes.
  5. Make sure everyone is buckled up. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website has important tips on seat belt fit and position. For the younger ones riding along, the site has information about how to install car seats as well as guidelines on selecting a car seat or booster based on your child’s age and size.

Scheduling a complete vehicle inspection is time well spent. Call Central Auto Repair and Electric today to make sure your car is ready to go for your next trip.