As a responsible car owner, it’s crucial to be aware of your vehicle’s condition and address potential issues promptly. One essential component that directly affects your vehicle’s handling and safety is the strut. In this in-depth guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about identifying a bad strut, the potential consequences of driving with one, and the steps to remedy the situation.
How to Tell If a Strut Is Bad
A bad strut can manifest in various ways, and being able to recognize the warning signs is vital to ensure your vehicle’s optimal performance. Here are the key indicators that suggest your strut might be failing:
Uneven Tire Wear
One of the first telltale signs of a bad strut is uneven tire wear. If you notice that your tires are wearing down unevenly or more quickly than usual, it could indicate a problem with your struts. Uneven tire wear is caused by the strut’s inability to maintain proper alignment and distribute weight evenly.
When you drive over a bump or dip in the road, your car’s suspension system, including the struts, should absorb the impact smoothly. If you experience excessive bouncing or a bumpy ride, it might be an indication that your struts are losing their effectiveness.
Nose Diving During Braking
When you apply the brakes, your vehicle’s weight naturally shifts forward. The struts play a crucial role in managing this weight transfer. If you notice a significant nose dive when braking, it could be a sign that your struts are no longer functioning correctly.
Inspect your struts for any signs of leaking fluid. Struts are filled with hydraulic oil to dampen vibrations and ensure a smooth ride. If you find oil leaks on the outside of the strut or around the strut mount, it’s a clear indicator that the strut’s internal seals have failed.
Drifting or Pulling While Turning
When making turns, your vehicle should maintain stability and not drift or pull to one side. If you experience drifting or pulling during turns, it may be a sign of a faulty strut that is unable to keep your car properly aligned.
Knocking or Clunking Noises
A knocking or clunking noise coming from the front or rear of your vehicle when driving over bumps or rough roads could be an indication of a bad strut. The noise is caused by the strut’s inability to absorb shocks adequately.
Perform a visual inspection of your struts. Look for signs of physical damage such as dents, bends, or rust. Any visible damage can affect the strut’s structural integrity and performance.
While some vibrations are normal while driving, excessive vibrations could be a sign of a failing strut. If you feel an unusual amount of vibration in your steering wheel or throughout the car, it’s essential to have your struts checked.
Swaying or Body Roll
When making quick maneuvers or changing lanes, your vehicle should feel stable and responsive. If you notice excessive swaying or body roll during these actions, it could indicate worn-out struts.
Longer Braking Distances
A bad strut can lead to increased braking distances because it affects the vehicle’s overall stability and handling. If you find that your car takes longer to come to a complete stop, it’s time to inspect your struts.
The Dangers of Driving with a Bad Strut
Driving with a bad strut poses significant risks to both you and your vehicle. Here are some potential dangers:
Compromised Vehicle Stability
A bad strut can negatively impact your car’s stability and handling, making it challenging to control the vehicle during sudden maneuvers or emergency situations. This lack of stability can lead to accidents and collisions.
Reduced Braking Performance
As mentioned earlier, worn-out struts can result in longer braking distances. In emergency situations, those extra seconds can make a critical difference and put you at a higher risk of accidents.
Accelerated Tire Wear
Bad struts cause uneven tire wear, leading to premature tire replacement and added expenses for you. This not only affects your budget but also compromises your vehicle’s performance and safety.
Increased Suspension Damage
Continuing to drive with a bad strut can put additional stress on other suspension components, leading to more extensive damage and costly repairs.
Poor Road Grip
A failing strut can negatively affect your vehicle’s grip on the road, especially during inclement weather conditions. Reduced road grip increases the likelihood of skidding or hydroplaning.
Impact on Wheel Alignment
Bad struts can disrupt your vehicle’s wheel alignment, causing the tires to point in different directions. This misalignment not only accelerates tire wear but also negatively impacts your car’s handling.
Replacing a Bad Strut
If you’ve identified the signs of a bad strut, it’s crucial to replace it promptly to ensure your safety on the road. While it’s possible to DIY this task, it’s recommended to have a qualified mechanic perform the replacement. However, understanding the process will help you grasp the importance of this maintenance procedure. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
Gather the Necessary Tools and Parts
Before starting, make sure you have all the required tools and the new strut assembly. Some common tools include a wrench, pliers, jack, jack stands, and a spring compressor. Keep in mind that there are a few differences between coilovers and springs.
Safely Lift the Vehicle
Park your car on a level surface and engage the parking brake. Use a jack to lift the vehicle and secure it with jack stands to ensure your safety during the repair.
Remove the Wheel
Loosen the lug nuts, then remove the wheel to access the strut assembly.
Uninstall the Old Strut
Detach the sway bar link and brake hose bracket from the strut assembly. Use a spring compressor to compress the spring before removing the strut mount and spring from the vehicle.
Install the New Strut
Place the new strut assembly back into position and secure the strut mount and spring. Reattach the sway bar link and brake hose bracket.
Reassemble the Wheel and Lower the Vehicle
Reattach the wheel, tighten the lug nuts, and carefully lower the vehicle back to the ground.
Test the New Strut
Take your car for a test drive to ensure the new strut is functioning correctly and that there are no unusual noises or handling issues.
Get a Professional Alignment
After replacing the strut, it’s crucial to get a professional wheel alignment to ensure your vehicle’s proper handling and tire wear.
Periodic Strut Inspections
Lastly, make it a habit to inspect your struts periodically, along with routine maintenance, to catch any issues early on and ensure your vehicle’s safety and performance.
Identifying a bad strut involves paying attention to certain signs. If you notice excessive bouncing or swaying while driving, uneven tire wear, a bumpy or harsh ride, leaking hydraulic fluid, or visible damage to the strut itself, it is likely time for a replacement. Promptly addressing a faulty strut is crucial to maintaining a safe and stable driving experience, ensuring better handling and overall vehicle performance.