HomeAutomobile enggShock Absorber vs. Strut: What's the Difference?

Shock Absorber vs. Strut: What’s the Difference?

In this article, you’ll learn what is shock absorber and strut? How they work?and What are the main difference between shock absorber and strut?

Difference Between Shock Absorber and Strut

While you might not always pay much attention to shock absorbers and struts, you will be happy to have them anytime you drive through potholes and bad roads.

Although they are both instrumental at smoothening your rides, and some motorists will even use the term shocks and strut interchangeably, they are not the same thing.

Shock absorber and struts are two distinct vehicle components that play quite different roles. Here we look at exactly what each is, what it does and how they differ.

What is Shock Absorber?

Shock absorbers or just shock, as many motorists often refer to them, are crucial components of a vehicle’s suspension system. This component is tasked with controlling the impact on the vehicle’s springs and suspension system when driving through different terrains.

Shocks are designed to ensure the wheels always maintain contact with the road throughout by dampening any force or energy that might prompt them to bounce.

Hence, if you drive a vehicle with no shocks, even hitting small stones or uneven surfaces would cause erratic vibrations, and the car can bounce off the road as you move through rough terrains.

While it is possible to drive a vehicle without shocks, given they do not directly impact things like steering or overall vehicle functioning, rides can be pretty unpleasant and uncomfortable without them.

However, shock absorbers still play a vital role in your vehicle and hence the need to get the best ones. Car Care Total is an excellent place to start your search for the ideal ones for your car as they have a wide variety of recommendations.

What is Strut?

Struts are common ride dampers you will find in many modern vehicles that use independent suspension systems, and they are an integral part of the suspension system.

They take up the place of the upper ball joint and upper control arm that you get in the traditional suspension systems. Additionally, struts support the suspension system and spring while also keeping the tires aligned.

Therefore, struts affect vehicle handling, ride comfort, steering, and braking. Hence, besides making steering impossible, the absence of struts can also cause the tires to fall flat, meaning the vehicle cannot move.

The Main Difference Between Shock Absorber and Strut

Although struts and shock absorbers serve many similar functions, they differ in various aspects. Here we breakdown their key differences to help motorists understand what their vehicle needs.

1. Construction

These two components’ construction is perhaps their primary and most obvious difference when looking at them side by side. Here the main point of departure is that the shock is an extra part added to the vehicle while the strut is built into the suspension system.

The structure of the two components also varies. Shock absorbers will have three main components: a coil, piston, and hydraulic fluid. The piston exerts pressure on the hydraulic fluid to slow down the coil to minimize the bumpy feel when the wheel hits a crevice or pothole.

You can get shock absorbers in three types: mon-tube, dual-tube, and coil-over shocks. The most basic strut structure will include a coil spring, strut housing, and the damping unit.

The coil spring supports the vehicle’s weight while the strut housing gives the assembly structural support, and the damping unit controls suspension and spring movements.

2. Ease of Replacement

When you want to replace shocks, you will probably only have to spend just a few minutes at the auto shop, and if you have basic mechanic skills, you can even do it yourself at home.

Given that shocks have minimal effect on the vehicle’s movement, there is little risk to your safety even if you do a lousy job with their replacement. On the other hand, struts can be quite complicated to replace and even potentially hazardous if not done correctly.

Hence, this is a job always best left for professionals. Struts affect the vehicle’s caster and camber angles, and you can alter them if the struts’ position is not correct. Therefore, a strut replacement always comes with a wheel alignment, making the job even more hectic.

3. Cost

The cost for both shocks and struts largely depends on the type and model you are buying, as you can get both from budget and premium brands. However, shocks are still the cheaper part of the two.

While you can get a basic pair of shock absorbers for as little as $50, prices for a couple of good struts will, in most cases, start at around $100.

Another cost aspect to look at when comparing the two is the cost of replacement. Here, shocks are still more cost-effective as they are cheaper to replace and do not always require extra services like wheel alignment.

On the other hand, struts affect the vehicle’s structural integrity, and their replacement requires mandatory wheel alignment, which makes the job more expensive.

Which One Should I Use?

What you use between these two components largely depends on what you have on the vehicle. In most instances, you cannot replace a strut with a shock or vice versa without having to do extensive modifications to the vehicle’s suspension system.

However, it is always vital to replace both parts in pairs to maintain a vehicle’s optimal performance. After the replacement, a professional wheel alignment is a great idea to ensure everything is in the correct position.


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