Struts & Shocks: What’s the Difference?

There seems to be a lot of misconceptions online regarding the purpose of struts and shocks. The discussion forums we tend to see have many inexperienced people trying to explain how shocks and struts do the same thing. While there are some similarities between the two, it is incorrect to say that they do the same thing.

If you were to replace a shock with a strut or vise versa, you would be in serious trouble. Let’s walk through the basics of what a shock and a strut are and why you shouldn’t mix the two up.

The Shock

Shocks and struts are both a part of your car’s suspension. They both help in absorbing the impact of bumps on the road. Within the shock, there is oil that moves through valves, or air if you have an air shock. When the shock is compressed the oil can only flow through these valves at a certain rate, the suspension movement then becomes slower and smoother. This is what helps keep the car from excessive bouncing.

Absorbing the impact of bumps is the extent of a shock’s main function. The car can still drive if you don’t have any shocks on your car. You can often tell when shocks are bad when your car continues to bounce after you hit a bump. People compare it to the feeling of driving a boat over wavy water.

The Strut

What makes a strut different than a shock is a strut has more structural significance on the vehicles suspension system. A strut helps damper the impact of bumps as well as control the vehicles steering system and alignment. This is why it is recommended that you need to have your wheels checked for alignment when replacing the struts. Struts can look similar to shocks since they also contain the same internal oil and valve system.

However, unlike shocks, if the struts were not attached, the car would fall flat on the ground and be totally immobile. The wheels would flop around because they would only be attached to the lower control arm. The control arm is what attaches to the strut so that your wheels can turn smoothly and in sync with each other.

Because the strut is an integral part of a car’s suspension, it is also the reason why it is more expensive to replace.

“So, how do I know if I have shocks or struts?”

If you are not a trained mechanic, it can be hard to tell. As mentioned earlier, shocks and struts can both contain a coil and an internal valve system. Depending on the type of car, it may also contain both struts for the front wheels and shocks for the rear wheels. To make sure your car is receiving the correct service, we recommend taking it to a certified auto mechanic.

If you have any questions regarding the struts or shocks on your vehicle, please give us a call. specializes in European auto repairs and maintenance. We strive to keep our service costs 40% less than dealerships. Schedule an appointment for your Audi, BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes, Mini Cooper, or Volkswagen with us.

Written by Spotlight Automotive