The cost of replacing shock absorbers
The shock absorbers on your car play an essential role in the comfort of your vehicle’s drive quality. This gas or oil-filled tube, compressed by a piston, is responsible for levelling out your car’s passage over any bumps, humps or holes in the road.
Replacing your shock absorbers can cost anywhere between £250 and £400 for most typical family cars.
The lower end of the range will apply to city cars and smaller family models. As you’d expect, if you’re driving a luxury saloon, estate, SUV or sports car, then the price is going to rise accordingly. For the higher-end vehicles, prices can increase to between £500 and £600.
Prices will always vary between garages, and dealership prices can tend to be quite a lot more. Shopping around for your best price is advisable, and you should always try to use a reputable service. When it comes to keeping your family safe, are you prepared to take unnecessary risks with your car just to save a few pounds?
Shocks or struts?
Despite the two terms often being commonly misused, interchanged and misinterpreted, shocks and struts aren’t the same things.
It’s true that both items do the same job. They both dampen movement generated by an uneven road to stop unwanted bounce from the car’s suspension.
The key difference, however, is that a strut is a structural part of the suspension system. A strut will hold the coil spring where a shock doesn’t. The strut, because it’s part of the suspension’s structure, is also part of the steering system and responsible for alignment angles.
The added roles it performs adds to its build and also explains why a strut is, more often than not, more expensive than a shock.
How long do shock absorbers last?
The general rule of thumb is that your shock absorbers should be able to travel around 50,000 miles before they’d need replacing. However, their lifespan will, of course, be affected by the abuse they receive.
If you drive a 4×4 or you’re regularly driving over poor quality roads, then you can expect the additional wear and tear from heavy use to shorten their life accordingly.
Alternatively, a driver who spends most of their time on motorways or in well-maintained areas could expect to attain a much longer life from their shocks.
What a shock absorber does
Your shock absorbers (or shocks or shockers) are designed to control the bounciness of your suspension springs. The springs absorb the movement of the suspension, but it’s the job of the shock absorbers to stop them bouncing too much.
The shock provides some resistance to the bounce of the suspension springs, so your car won’t bounce more than a couple of times.
Its design is that of a simple piston. The piston rod slides through a cylinder tube filled with fluid and pressurised gas—this provides just the correct amount of resistance. It allows your suspension precisely the right amount of bounce when hitting a bump to absorb it without providing any unnecessary additional movement.
How to tell if shock absorbers are worn out
Once your shock absorbers start to wear out, they’ll tend to deteriorate fairly quickly. This is because the main area of failure is within the seals. As the seals begin to break, and the liquid leaks, they can’t possibly operate at the same level as when they were fully loaded.
Here are a few of the most obvious signs to look out for:
- Knocking or bumping sounds from the suspension
- Your car is sinking over one wheel
- Small bumps are more noticeable than normal
- Your car bounces far more than it usually would
- Poor stability when cornering or driving over rough surfaces
- Loss of contact with the ground over humps or bumps
- Pools of oil or fluid appear under the wheels
Shock absorber bounce test
One test you can carry out to see if your shock absorbers are on their way out is a bounce test. Press up and down on the front or rear of the car (over the wheel in question) until it’s bouncing in time with you. When you stop, a healthy shock absorber should keep bouncing only a few times.
If the car bounces excessively, or not at all, it’s a sign that something’s wrong.
How to fit shock absorbers
If you’re considering fitting new shock absorbers yourself, then you should be a fairly experienced and competent home mechanic.
- Park your car on a flat or level area—place chocks or wedges under the wheels that are going to stay on the ground.
- Jack up the car to raise the problem wheel as high as you can off the ground.
- Place a jack stand under the factory lift point, and lower the vehicle onto the stand. This should allow you enough room to work on the car.
- Take a little of the pressure off the suspension you’re going to work on by jacking it up just a touch. You should do this one side at a time if you’re changing the shocks on both sides.
- Remove the shock mounting bolts with the correct size socket or wrench.
- You should now be able to remove the faulty shock absorber from your vehicle.
- Replace the faulty shock with the new one and also the fastening bolts.
If the shocker is difficult to fit, you may need to make a small adjustment to the bracket. If you need to, bend them just a little to get your new shocks to fit correctly.
- Apply the correct torque when tightening the mounting bolts.
- Remove the floor jack from under your car and then lower the vehicle back to the ground.
- Remove the chocks and take your car for a test drive.
We’ve seen a handful of guides that will show you how to repair rear shock absorbers (or the front ones for that matter), but it really isn’t a good idea. A repaired shock will suffer a much-shortened lifespan.
With a component that you rely on so heavily, you shouldn’t think twice about choosing replacement over repair.