The struts and shocks do almost the same job and are pretty much interchangeable. You can easily get confused about the difference between them as they both have a similar role to keep your vehicle from bouncing by counteracting the motion of the spring.
Despite the vast similarity in the way they function, they both are not the same. The difference lies in their design and due to the difference in their suspension design, a shock absorber can’t be used at the place of a strut and vice versa.
If you want to deal with any issue related to the suspension system of your vehicle, you must understand what are the shocks and struts and which one you need for your vehicle.
Let’s throw some light over the function of these two important parts of the suspension system and how they differentiate from each other.
What Are Shocks
The shocks are also referred to as shock absorbers that serve the primary purpose of controlling the rebound movement of the suspension and the coil spring. They do this by absorbing the oscillating suspension energy. To absorb the energy, the shock absorbers use the combination of hydraulic fluid and a series of internal valves that make the suspension movement smoother.
The shock absorbers are mainly used in solid axle suspensions where the wheel connects directly to the axle. The suspension systems that have upper and lower control arms use the shock absorbers.
Without shock absorbers, the vehicle would bounce off the road surface and you can’t have a comfortable ride. If your vehicle extremely bounces off, it may become unstable that can put your safety in trouble.
However, the shocks are not an integral part of the suspension system, so without them, your vehicle will still operate. But if the ride quality and safety is important for you, you must have shock absorbers in your vehicle.
What Are Struts
Struts are very similar to shocks in function, controlling the impact and rebound movement of the suspension, but they are designed differently and are an integral part of the vehicle’s suspension system.
Unlike shocks, they support the weight of the vehicle by working in place of the upper control arms and upper ball joints. Thus, they also control the alignment and steering of the vehicle.
If struts are not attached, the vehicle would fall flat on the ground and would become inoperable. The strut assembly also keeps the vehicle stable while allowing the suspension to move freely up and down without impacting the body of the vehicle.
Related Article to Read: Shocks and Struts Replacement Cost
Difference Between Shocks and Struts
A shock absorber in a vehicle does one thing and one thing only keeps the car from bouncing off of the surface of the road. Struts are quite different. Being integral and a structural part of the suspension system, the struts are mounted to the chassis of the vehicle on the top.
They also include the mounting of the coil spring that maintains the height of the vehicle. There is also a plate in it that acts in place of the upper control arm and attached it directly to the knuckle. And because of such structure, it also maintains the alignment and steering.
The biggest difference is that shocks are relatively easier to replace. Being separated from the coil spring, they can be replaced individually without affecting the suspension system.
While struts are more complicated and tend to involve removal of the complete strut and spring assembly. To remove the strut assembly, you need a tool that compresses the spring to keep it from releasing shooting out. If it is done incorrectly, it can cause serious injury.
Shocks replacement is also less expensive as it is less complicated and does not impact the structure of the vehicle. It is also important to know that technically the vehicle can be operated without shocks, strictly not advised but without struts, the vehicle can’t move.
Should I Use a Shock or Strut in Your Car
The suspension system of your car and the kind of vehicle you have will determine the kind of shocks or struts you’ll need. Generally, you should use the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts when you need replacement. And if your vehicle is equipped with factory shock absorbers, you should prefer to replace them with some type of shock absorber. The same should go for struts.
Most of the vehicles have struts in the front suspension and shocks in the rear suspension. And they should always be replaced in pairs. These suspension parts usually wear out after 50,000 to 100,000 miles.
But the best idea is to refer the user manual provided by the vehicle’s manufacturer. It gives you a rough idea when you should replace them or you can confirm it by proper diagnostic of the parts.
You may take these suspension parts lightly but keep in mind when they go bad driving on bad shocks or struts isn’t just uncomfortable for you but also dangerous.
If you keep driving with bad shocks or struts, you will have decreased control over the vehicle, especially when driving on uneven roads. This will lead to diminished braking capacity as well as the unpredictable movement of the vehicle.