When Should I Replace My Car’s Shock Absorbers?

Maintaining your car is a little more involved than changing its oil and rotating the tires, especially if the car is older. So what about the bigger maintenance requirements like replacing your car’s shock absorbers? Is there a prescribed mileage or time required for those?

Replace your car’s shocks as needed

You might not be able to see them as easily as the tires, however, your car’s shock absorbers do a lot more than just stabilizing the car when going over bumps and dips in the road. In fact, your car’s shocks play an important role when it comes to steering the car and braking. If we take simple physics into account, your car reacts to the forces that you on it when accelerating, decelerating, and steering and the car’s shocks respond appropriately.

However, if the shocks are worn out, they won’t do a very good job when it comes to keeping your car stable when driving normally. However, there isn’t a prescribed mileage in which to replace them. According to Cars.com, some shock absorber manufacturers will tell you to replace them every 50,000 miles, but technically, your car’s shock absorbers should last the entire lifetime of the car.

A shock absorber and spring assembly on a car
A shock absorber and spring assembly on a car | Wikimedia Commons

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Signs that it’s time to replace your car’s shocks

While your car’s shock absorbers should last a long time, they can wear out quicker depending on where you live and the conditions that you normally drive in. Since it’s unlikely that you live in an area with super-smooth, paved roads, you’ll be able to tell when they are in need of replacing just by paying closer attention to the way your car handles.

Here are six different ways to tell if the shocks need replacing:

  • A bumpy ride: This one is a given considering that providing a smooth ride is the most important part of a shock absorber’s responsibility. So if you experience a lot of shakiness or bumpiness when you drive your car, then the shocks could need replacing.
  • Steering issues: Are you noticing some stiffness when you turn the steering wheel or perhaps some instability when going through a turn? If so, then your car’s shocks might have something to do with it.
  • Braking issues: If the car squats or dives under heavy braking, or especially under light braking, then the shocks most likely need replacing.
  • Visual damage: While the car’s shock absorbers might be hard to see, you can always look under your car and visually inspect them. If you notice any physical damage, including a leak, then you will most likely need to replace them.
  • Worn-out tires: Worn out shocks can lead to worn-out tires. Typically, the tires will be “cupped,” which is when they form dips around the edge of the tread. In that case, you’ll need to replace the shocks and tires at the same time.
  • Mileage: While there isn’t an exact mileage interval in which to replace your shocks, you might want to at least have them checked every 50,000 miles to see if they need replacing.
FOX shock absorbers on a Jeep
FOX shock absorbers on a Jeep | Jeep

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Use OEM replacement shock absorbers

If you end up having to replace your car’s shocks, then it’s recommended that you use the OEM factory shocks from the automaker in order to get the most quality product. The manufacturing spends countless hours of research and development to ensure that your car handles optimally, so replacing the worn-out shocks with new OEM ones is the best option.

However, there are plenty of well-known and reputable shock absorber manufacturers in the aftermarket that provide good-quality products as well for a lower price than the OEM units. Just be sure to ask your mechanic and see which method works best for your car and your budget.