How to Check for Bad Shocks and Struts on a Car or Truck

by James Clausen

There is a minor difference between a shock absorber and a strut. Shocks are exposed in the suspension system, while a strut is mounted inside of a suspension coil spring. Other than that distinction, they both serve the same purpose: to serve as a dampener for a vehicle's suspension springs. Without shocks or struts, the tires, wheels and the vehicle itself would bounce excessively. Likewise, worn-out or defective shocks and struts will cause a vehicle's tires and wheels to bounce too much, creating an unsafe and uncomfortable driving experience.

Inspect the shocks by looking for oil leaks. Use a flashlight and visually inspect the shocks from top to bottom. If oil is detected, clean the oil from shocks. Then drive the vehicle and recheck for fresh oil leaks.

Perform a bounce test by pushing down on the front and then the rear of the vehicle. After pushing down, back away from the vehicle and see of the vehicle bounces. A vehicle that bounces up and down more than once or twice is an indication of worn-out shocks or struts.

Run the palm side of your gloved hand over the tread of the tires. Feel for choppy or bumpy tire tread wear. Choppy tread wear is a sign of defective shocks.

Replace any shock or strut that's leaking, bounces excessively or causes choppy tire tread wear.


  • check If a only a single shock or strut is bad, it's acceptable to replace a single shock.


  • close Be careful of sharp objects embedded in tires when checking for choppy tread wear.

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About the Author

James Clausen has been writing since 2001. He contributes to publications focused on automotive dealership management issues, such as "Wards Dealer World" and "Dealers Edge." Clausen has also worked as an automotive dealership parts and service manager for more than 20 years. He graduated magna cum laude with a B.B.A. in automotive management from Northwood University.

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