If you’ve ever experienced a floaty, bouncy car ride and felt your steering was difficult to control, then you know what worn shocks or struts feel like. Thankfully, replacing them can be a quick DIY process, but before you do anything, you need to make sure you know the difference between shocks and struts.
Shocks (or shock absorbers) soak up bumps in the road, allowing your car to ride evenly and comfortably. They aren’t structural members of the suspension, but without them, your car would be hard to control.
Unlike shocks, struts are structural. They contain shock absorbers along with a coil spring in one unit to save on space and costs.
To replace your shocks or struts, you’ll need the following equipment:
- Jack stands
- Sockets and a socket wrench
- Box wrenches
- Breaker bar
- Torque wrench
- Safety gear (glasses and gloves)
- New shock or strut that fits your vehicle
You may also need some penetrant spray for corroded nuts or bolts, and (though it’s unlikely) if you’re installing a strut that doesn’t come with a pre-installed spring, you’ll need a spring compressor as well.
Replacing a Shock
If it’s a shock you need to replace, follow these steps:
1. Jack Up Your Vehicle
On a level surface, jack up the end of the vehicle that needs new shocks, then rest it on the jack stands and remove the wheels.
2. Disconnect the Shock
Locate and remove the top bolt holding the shock in place. Be careful not to harm the rubber bushing, as it can be a pain to scrape off the remains. From there, remove the nut that connects the shock to the suspension and pull it away from the bolt and any studs or brackets.
3. Install New Shock
Reverse the previous step to place the new shock. If it needs compression to fit, you may need a helper, but in any case, screw the nuts and bolts back on by hand, using a torque wrench to bring them to the torque specs outlined in your car’s manual.
Replacing a Strut
Installing new struts requires a similar process, but there will be more hardware to remove. As before, place your vehicle on jack stands and remove the wheels first.
1. Remove the Strut From the Steering Knuckle
Place the jack under the steering knuckle and raise it up until the bolts are visible, then remove them.
2. Remove Strut Tower Bolts
Under the hood or in the trunk, you will see the bolts on the strut towers. If in the trunk, you may have to lift some carpeting. Remove the outside bolts holding the strut in place. The center nut holds the spring to the strut, so do not remove it.
3. Remove the Strut
Remove the strut and set it down gently.
4. Install the New Strut
Reverse the procedure to engage the new strut, attaching it to the strut tower and the steering knuckle.
The Final Step
Take your car for a quick low-speed test drive to ensure that everything’s working properly. You may need to take your car to a shop to confirm that the alignment and wheel camber are correct.