The strut assembly for a car, truck or SUV is a critical member for the suspension family that impacts the overall drivability of the vehicle. While driving any vehicle, hitting bumps and dips along the way is normal and are absorbed by several suspension components to produce a smooth ride. Within the inner suspension assembly on all four wheels is the strut assembly, which is attached to the vehicle chassis and wheel assembly in the front and back of the vehicle. When the strut assembly begins to show signs of wear and tear or fails completely, it not only impacts vehicle comfort, but can lead to additional damage to other suspension components and potentially unsafe driving conditions.
Some of the other components that are damaged due to worn out struts include:
- Tires: the struts are a major part of overall front end suspension alignment. When they wear out, the suspension will sag, causing the front tires to absorb more heat on the inner or outer portion of the tire.
- Transmission: when the tires are absorbing more wear, it can also add additional stress to the transmission and vehicle axle, prematurely damaging these expensive automotive components.
- Engine: if the struts fail completely, the reduced drag produced by misaligned suspension can also put more stress on internal engine components and lead to significant damage.
The struts on a vehicle have a huge impact on other components on your car. Thus, when you experience any of the symptoms or warning signs noted below, it's critical to take proactive measures to have them inspected or replace the failing strut assembly as soon as possible.
Here are some common signs to watch for if you suspect your strut assembly may be failing .
1. Knocking noises when driving over bumps
The struts are solid units that allow the chassis, wheel assembly and body to move cohesively when a bump is hit while driving. When the strut begins to wear out, it will produce a knocking or clunking sound that can be very noticeable. The strut is filled with an inner shock, bushings, and supporting components that eventually wear out over time. When compressed, the knocking sound that is often heard is caused by the strut "bottoming out" or metal-to-metal contact. If you notice a knocking or clunking sound coming from an area near the front or rear tires, it's most likely due to worn out or broken struts. Contact a local ASE Certified mechanic as soon as possible to correctly diagnose and replace the struts if needed.
2. Car has a bumpy ride
Similar in cause to the above symptom, a rough or bumpy ride can also be an indicator of worn out or broken struts. It can also be a symptom of other parts of the strut assembly such as bushings, shocks or mounting hardware associated with the struts. Either way, when the strut is worn out or broken, one of the first things you'll notice is a much rougher ride. In fact, you'll most likely feel every bump and crack in the road when your struts have failed completely. If your overall ride is becoming bumpy or rough, contact YourMechanic so they can road test, diagnose, and replace the strut assembly if needed. Like most suspension jobs, it's important to replace both sides of the vehicle at the same time. You don't have to replace front and rear at the same time, but make sure the same axle is replaced together.
3. Floating front end
Another symptom of a bad strut assembly is a floating front end, or when it pulls to one side. Typically this is an indication of front end alignment that is faulty, however the issue is typically caused by a strut assembly that has worn out. If you take your vehicle to the local ASE certified mechanic to have the front end alignment checked, the majority of the time a broken strut will be the cause.
4. Uneven tire wear
As indicated earlier, extensive tire wear is common when the struts are worn out. Because your car isn’t absorbing the shock like it used to, your tires are going to take more of a beating. Not only that, but the wear will be uneven since the load isn’t being absorbed as it should. It's recommended to have the suspension fixed first before replacing new tires, have the suspension aligned, and finally have new tires installed. This will extend the life of the new tires and ensure safe driving.
If you experience any of the above warning signs, don't delay – contact a local ASE certified mechanic as soon as possible to replace broken or worn out strut assembly.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Strut Assembly and was authored by Timothy Charlet.