Signs of a Bad Shock or Strut

symptoms of bad shocks and struts
symptoms of bad shocks and struts

Is Your Shock or Strut Bad?

The shock absorbers on your vehicle help damp the small vibrations you experience while driving and control the rebound of the coil springs after hitting a big bump or pot hole. So when the shocks are damaged or worn down then you feel more of those vibrations and your vehicle bounces after a speed bump or dip in the road. If you have bad shocks (or struts) they have to be replaced to restore the vibration and bounce control aspects of your vehicle. This article will detail some of the symptoms of bad shocks and struts, why they go bad, and replacement options as well as how to extend the life of your shocks.

Difference Between Shocks and Struts

While shocks and struts both help damp coil spring rebound, one big difference is that the strut helps support the weight of the vehicle while shocks do not. You may think you have a good idea of what these parts look like, but the difference between a “strut” and a “strut assembly” is a big one (especially if you are trying to order a part without the benefit of a picture). A shock can look similar to a strut depending on the make and model of the vehicle so before we go further, lets cover the basics of what we mean when we say shocks and struts.


shock absorber example

An automotive shock absorber is a self-contained unit that uses a piston, fluid, and gas to absorb vibration and limit the up and down movement of a vehicle after a bump by controlling the ‘bounce’ of the coil springs.


automobile strut example

A strut is a shock that is part of an assembly (usually including a coil spring) that supports the vehicle’s weight and maintains wheel alignment in addition to controlling spring movement and absorbing vibration.

Symptoms of Bad Shocks and Struts

As with most suspension component problems, when the shocks have gone bad or the struts are damaged you will notice things like unusual noises and increased vibration, but there are some other symptoms that are specific to bad struts and shocks. Most of these symptoms by themselves could point to problems with other suspension components such as the control arms or sway bar, but if you notice several of these signs then taking a closer look at your shocks or struts would be a good idea. As always, a trusted mechanic is going to be the best way to diagnose a problem with your vehicle, but these symptoms can give you a better idea of what to expect.


If you notice excessive vibration in the vehicle the shocks or struts can be the culprit.


A possible sign of many problems including worn or damaged shocks or struts.

Excessive Body Roll

If you notice your vehicle ‘rolling’ or leaning more to the outside during a turn, a loss of stiffness in the shocks can be the cause.

Bottoming Out

When going over a big bump parts of the undercarriage can actually contact the pavement.


When you have to brake suddenly the front of the vehicle aggressively goes down and the rear goes up.


The reverse of diving. When you hammer the accelerator the rear of the vehicle goes down and the front rises.


The coil springs act like pogo sticks and your vehicle continues to bounce a few times after a bump or a drop.

Uneven Tire Wear

If the shocks are too mushy then you can notice some uneven wear patterns on your tires.

Shock Leaks

Shocks can have some seepage, but if you notice the whole shock is covered in fresh fluid after a drive then it should be checked.

Reasons Shocks and Struts Fail

Shocks are a wear and tear component of a vehicle’s suspension so if you own a vehicle long enough then you will need to replace them at some point. That said, there are some factors that can accelerate the wear and tear on shocks and struts.

reasons to replace a shock absorber

Normal Wear – Shocks have a rough job and even daily driving on highways and interstates demand a lot from shock absorbers. The piston rod is engaged hundreds of times even during a short commute, the internal seals have friction with every compression, and the shock fluid cycles hot and cold with every drive causing a slow chemical breakdown.

Rough Terrain – On well maintained roads the shocks still see a lot of action, but a vehicle that commutes over pasture or uneven roads, is going to be extra tough on the shocks. Sudden changes in the driving surface engage the shocks faster and more aggressively, increasing the fluid heat and strain on the rod and internal components. The more frequent and intense the bounces that your vehicle experiences the faster your shocks are going to wear out.

Towing or Hauling – The heavier a vehicle the more the coil springs compress to cushion the weight and this makes the shock absorbers work harder to control the compression and extension of the springs. Vehicles weigh a lot by themselves but if you add a trailer or a load of something heavy then the shocks are putting in overtime and might clock out early.

Worn Suspension Components – A vehicle’s suspension is made up of several parts and when one is not working correctly the rest of the system gets a little more stressed. In most cases the shock runs between the control arm and the frame so if the control arm is shifting out of alignment every time you turn or hit a bump then the shock is forced to move in a way that was not intended. This can wear down the piston rod, or even bend it in extreme cases, and cause damage to the valving and seals.

How to Extend Shock Life

Even though shocks and struts will eventually wear out there are ways of extending their lifespan, or at least not cutting it short. Getting an alignment will ensure that your wheels and suspension are all in line and functioning properly and this will help reduce unnecessary strain on the shocks or struts.

  • Get a Routine Wheel Alignment
  • Check your Suspension Components
  • Replace Rubber Suspension Components with Polyurethane
broken suspension ball joint

When other suspension components like the control arm bushings or ball joints are worn or damaged you can notice an increase the rate of wear on other suspension parts. If the control arm is not secured to the frame and wheel hub then the shocks can shift out of alignment when driving and the resulting stress can be detrimental to the shocks.

Another, more preemptive option for preserving your shocks and struts is switching from rubber to polyurethane suspension bushings. Since poly bushings hold alignment for suspension parts much better than rubber, and have a longer effective lifespan, your shocks will not be shifting around and enduring undue stress.

polyurethane suspension bushings

Need a Replacement?

If you do find yourself at the point where the shocks or struts are showing signs of wear or damage then getting a good replacement is a top priority for ride quality and the health of your vehicle. Monroe is a great option for replacing your shocks and struts since they supply the OE parts for a lot of vehicle manufacturers in the first place. Besides OE replacements they also offer premium aftermarket shocks and struts for use in fleet, heavy-duty, or emergency service vehicles with features that those applications demand. They have an enormous amount of makes and models covered with their exceptional parts so odds are they have just what you need.

monroe monromatic plus shock replacement
monroe shocks and struts logo
monroe gas magnum shock replacement
monroe oespectrum shock replacement
  1. LostInTransit
    May 26, 2023 at 6:16 pm

    One month ago, we installed a set of the Cobra Suspension 40mm rear lowering springs on the 2020 Connect and over time, the rear has now settled and is lower than the front. We contacted Cobra suspension asking if they made a 10mm front lowering springs for the van. All they could offer is a set of the 20mm lowering springs. This would be too much as we’re running 245/40/R19 tires. Cobra Suspension did not let on if they will make a set of 10mm lowering springs for the van. But it would take up to 1 year to complete. Therefore we’re left with on option. Cutting a factory set of the front springs. In order to confirm that a new set of front coil springs can be cut, we contacted Eaton Springs and watched their videos. In the video it goes into details about what springs can and can’t be cut. For instance the Connect front springs have two different ends. The pig tail can’t be cut, but the continuous rotation end, can be cut. In a few weeks we’ll be buying a new set of the front springs, have somewhere around 5mm-8mm cut from the continuous rotation end, have the springs sent to the powder coaters and reinstalled on the Bilstein B6 struts. This is something Josh and his crew should blog about.

    • Josh Daniels
      Josh Daniels • Post Author •
      May 31, 2023 at 7:43 am

      Hey Lost,

      Interesting. Did you try taking the measurements of the coil spring and checking if there might be an option you did not have to cut? We generally try to find solutions for people that would not require such a modification, since it voids any warranty for the part that might be in play, but sometimes it’s the only way. It might be a long shot, but if you know what measurements you need you might be able to find an option that would accomplish your goals without shop work.

      We would love to hear how your spring shortening experience turns out and hope you can get that front end lowered!

  2. LostInTransit
    May 31, 2023 at 3:45 pm

    Josh, Before installing the rear lowering springs, the front was resting at or a little higher than 40mm. Once the rear springs were added, the rear when from 101mm down to 40mm+/- and the front shifted to a little more than 42mm or 43mm. So We’re under the impression that a new set of factory springs were cut approx. 5mm-8mm this would level things out or may be lower the front slightly more than the rear which is what we’re aiming for. One thing I wanted to add is that and those who maintain this site have very useful information. granted our build is NOT a typically build and some things have yet to be tested. But with this site, we aim to have something suitable to show for it.

    • Josh Daniels
      Josh Daniels • Post Author •
      June 6, 2023 at 9:44 am

      Hey Lost,

      Glad you’ve been able to find some useful information and thanks for the kind words!

      There are a lot of engineering factors that go into a calculation about spring length/height so we hope you’ve got all your ducks in a row, but we’re excited to see how this turns out. It would have been nice if there were a set of springs that fit your purposes but we applaud the DIY spirit and wish you luck!

      If anyone has any helpful tips for customizing their own lowering springs please share!

      Thanks again for letting us know how its going.

  3. Roccoo-says
    September 8, 2023 at 7:20 am

    Great point!!!


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