The Differences Between Shocks, Springs and Struts

by Dustin Walker
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Shock absorber image by Neryman from

Shocks, springs and struts are all designed to lessen the impact of bumps and improve comfort while riding in a car. Roads are filled with small surface imperfections that can shake the car and the passengers inside. Struts refer to a type of suspension while shocks and springs are a component of all suspension assemblies.


Shock absorbers are mechanical devices designed to decrease the impact of riding on a road. Shock absorbers consist of a column with hydraulic fluid and a piston. The fluid dampens the impact on the piston and smooths out the ride for the passengers. Shock absorbers work together with springs to handle vertical bumps. Unlike springs, shock absorbers work to keep car tires in contact with the road at all times. Shock absorbers are installed in all cars and may have hydraulic fluid, air or pressurized nitrogen gas.


Springs are coils that absorb vertical impact. Similar in function to the shocks, springs are designed quite differently. Consisting of a large rod of metal shaped into a helix, springs are capable of absorbing large amounts of energy. However, springs do not absorb small impacts well. If a car only had springs and no shock absorbers, the small bumps in the road would be intolerable. Springs are typically found in all suspension systems.


Struts are a type of suspension system present in many cars. MacPherson struts are the most common form of strut suspension that use a shock absorber as the steering pivot. In this system, when the steering wheel is turned, the strut is actually rotated as well. This rotation provides turning capability to the wheels. Struts are capable of absorbing side impact and are typically more expensive than other forms of suspension.

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