The first cars that were invented basically had tires that were essentially oversized rubber bands stretched over wooden frames. They didn't even think much about the suspension system either. Today however, suspension technology has improved to the point where riding in your car is just as comfortable as sitting at home on your living room couch and the car handles like it's running on rails. Advances like the pneumatic tire, well engineered springs and struts and shocks, even the roughest of roads won't wake the sleeping baby in the back seat. Regardless of how well they're engineered, shocks and struts will wear out and need to be replaced. By knowing when they need to be changed keeps your car ride smooth and keeps it handling smoother as well.
There's actually a fairly simple test to see if your shocks and struts are worn out. All you have to do is push down on either the front or the back of your vehicle (depending on which end you are testing) and get the vehicle moving up and down. When you stop "bouncing" your car, it should move back into "normal" position at once and not bounce any further. If it continues to move up and down, your shocks or struts are worn and should be replaced. While car manufacturers and the makers of shocks and struts have a mileage suggestion as to when they should be replaced, it's good to occasionally use this test as well to ensure your car is safe.
Even though struts and shocks make a car ride smoother, they are an integral part of how your car handles as well. If they are worn out, not only does your car ride rougher, it's actually more difficult to drive. That's because the shocks and struts, important on any car but more importantly on front wheel drive cars are a major component in the interface between the steering wheel and the wheel. Worn shocks or struts means you have less control over the wheels which means you have less control over the car. This may create a dangerous situation, especially with wet or icy roads. Anything that can cause the wheels to lose grip can lead to hydroplaning and an accident.
Even under the best of conditions, worn shocks and struts can cause other problems as well. Because these components do connect to the wheels, being worn out can make the tires wear unevenly and can cause additional stress on other components such as wheel bearings and tie-rod ends. If your car is coming close to the manufacturer's mileage suggestion or if its handling changes, have your shocks and struts changed out. Certified mechanics will be able take a look and see, and if it's needed, they can put on new ones, usually in less than an hour. Compared to worn tires, worn bearings and other damage, they're not expensive at all and they keep your car running safely and riding smooth.
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