Suspension systems have two critical parts: shock absorbers (shocks) and strut assemblies (struts). Shocks, you can usually find mounted vertically behind your vehicle's tires; their hydraulics keep spring movement to a minimum. Struts, you can often find mounted horizontally; they look like extensions of wheels, they're usually comprised of both a spring and a shock, and they're weight-bearing. (Note: though some vehicles may have struts on one axle and shocks on the other, not all of them have struts, necessarily.)
What they do is help your vehicle stabilize, and they do it by controlling the activity of the suspension's coil springs. This helps maintain wheel alignment, it minimizes body roll, it helps the vehicle's tires stay on the road, and it keeps handling and braking consistent. Put simply, it keeps driving under control and enjoyable.
Occasionally, though, shocks and struts can wear out. In this cases, repair is usually inadvisable; replacing the parts is recommended. Luckily, if the ones under your proverbial hood have started going bad, there are signs that'll tell you. They range from rough ride quality and leaning forward excessively when stopping to bouncing and pulling to the side during a turn. Others include worsening steering response, loss of control at higher speeds, and uneven tire treads or flat areas on your tires. One of the most obvious is an oily or greasy film on the parts.
These symptoms do usually show up long before the things get worse, though. If you're seeing any of them, do a suspension inspection, followed by replacing whatever the results call for. Be sure to check on the system every 50,000 miles or so as well; that's according to most owner's manuals. Double-check yours for more info. When it's time to order parts, you can take care of it right here our auto parts store.
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