What Are the Signs of Worn Shocks?

Does the tiniest of leaves bottom out your suspension? Let’s fix that

byChris Teague|
Maintenance & Repair photo


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Over time, your comfortably-riding car can start to feel saggy and loose over any road surface. A listing ship in the middle of a hurricane. It’s at this point that you have a choice: You can either continue driving and risk an accident, or you can take the time to replace your car’s aging shocks.

Shocks, part of your vehicle’s suspension, work to keep the vehicle planted and in control through a variety of driving scenarios, particularly when cornering or going around a curve. They help keep the tires in contact with the road and maintain a comfortable ride. When they start to fail, the car can feel wobbly and unstable.

The bad news is that this isn’t a problem you can ignore. The good news is that, with a little help from your crazy uncles at The Drive, it’s something that you can fix at home with a little elbow grease and time. The costs to fix shock problems may shock you, but there’s ultimately nothing too difficult about doing the work yourself.

Let’s dive in.

Your shocks can communicate issues with you in a variety of ways., Depositphotos

How Do Shocks And Struts Work?

Your vehicle’s shocks and struts work to stabilize its movement, keeping the tire’s contact patches flat during cornering, braking, accelerating, or over broken roads. The basic idea is to keep the tires in contact with the road as consistently as possible, while maintaining a comfortable ride for the passengers.

How Can I Tell If The Shocks Are Failing?

Your car will let you know when its shocks are beginning to fail. But if you can’t decipher its language, here are a few of the most common warning signs.

Instability At High Speeds

Once you reach highway speeds, you might notice more movement than expected if your shocks are starting to fail. There may not be a ton of movement here, but it’ll be noticeable.

More Body Movement Than Usual

When you drive around a curve or corner, your car’s shocks work to keep the body in check and prevent excessive roll. If the shocks are failing, you’ll likely notice quite a bit more body movement while driving.

Unusual Tire Wear

All of that excess body movement can take its toll on your tires, causing them to wear unevenly, or to wear out more quickly than normal.

Weird Fluid Leaks Around Wheels

If the seals on your shocks or struts have failed, you may notice fluid leaking from around the wheel wells.

Ignoring suspension problems will only make them worse., Depositphotos

Can I Ignore Failing Shocks?

It’s not a good idea. Beyond the damage you could be doing to your tires and other vehicle components, driving with bad shocks is just plain uncomfortable. There’s also the possibility that the components’ failure causes a loss of control, which could lead to a wreck or damage to other property.

How Much Will It Cost To Fix?

Now, for the bad news. Replacing shocks and struts is not cheap. On average, expect to pay between $700 and $800 for strut replacement and up to $200 for shock replacement. 

Suspension Terms You Should Know 

Get educated.


The job of shock absorbers is to keep the car from bouncing and to keep the tires on the road.


Struts are part of the suspension system that is mounted to the chassis. They help position the wheels.

Body Roll

Under normal circumstances, a vehicle’s shocks and struts work to keep the body as stable as possible while driving around curves and taking turns. Body roll refers to the angle that the car’s body tilts, or “rolls”, during that process.

Suspension systems come in a variety of shapes and sizes., Depositphotos

FAQs About Car Shocks 

You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers! 

Q: How Hard Is It To Replace Shocks At Home?

A: The job to replace shocks at home is not super involved and can be done by anyone with the right tools and a little patience. Every vehicle is different, however, so you’ll want to refer to your specific model’s maintenance guide for the details.

Q: Can I Upgrade My Shocks While Replacing Them?

A: Absolutely! You can make a direct replacement during this process, or you can opt for a higher performance shock that will improve ride quality, handling, and more. You’ll just need to be sure to pick a shock model that fits your exact vehicle.

Q: Should I Replace All Four Shocks at the Same Time?

A: Nobody will yell at you if you don’t, but it’s best to replace all four at the same time for the most predictable handling and safety. At the very least, replace in pairs, changing either both fronts or both rears at the same time.

Q: How Long Do Shocks Last?

A: This will depend heavily on how you drive and where you drive, but shocks should last at least 50,000 miles in general. If you live where the roads are rough and broken (looking at you, New England), you’ll find that your shocks wear out more quickly.

Let’s Talk, Comment Below To Talk With The Drive’s Editors! 

We’re here to be expert guides in everything How-To related. Use us, compliment us, yell at us. Comment below and let’s talk! You can also shout at us on Twitter or Instagram, here are our profiles.

Jonathon Klein: Twitter (@jonathon.klein), Instagram (@jonathon_klein)

Tony Markovich: Twitter (@T_Marko), Instagram (@t_marko)

Chris Teague: Twitter (@TeagueDrives), Instagram (@TeagueDrives)


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Rather than overload you with a sales pitch, The Drive’s editors and researchers have chosen a handful of their favorite products to help you with your vehicle’s shocks. These are the most affordable, most useful, and best reviewed products around.

Got a question? Got a pro tip? Send us a note: guidesandgear@thedrive.com

Maintenance & Repair