What Is a Strut?

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People talking about vehicle suspensions often refer to “shocks and struts.” Hearing this, you may have wondered just what a strut is, whether it’s the same as a shock, and whether you need to worry about your car’s or truck’s struts.

The first thing to understand about a strut is that it’s one component of a vehicle’s suspension — the system of parts that connects the wheels to the rest of the vehicle. The three major functions of any vehicle’s suspension are to:

  • Support the vehicle

  • Absorb impacts from bumps, potholes, and other road irregularities

  • Allow the vehicle to turn in response to the driver’s inputs. (The steering system can be considered part of the suspension, or its own system, but either way the suspension has to allow for movement of the wheels as the vehicle turns).

It turns out that unlike most other components of the suspension, the strut is usually involved in all three of these functions.

What's in a strut

A complete strut assembly is a combination of two main parts: a spring and a shock absorber. (Sometimes the term strut refers to the shock absorber portion only, but other times the term is used to denote the entire assembly including the spring). The spring, which is almost always a coil spring (in other words, one shaped like a spiral), supports the weight of the vehicle and absorbs large bumps. The shock absorber, which is fitted either above, below, or right down the middle of the coil spring, also supports some or all of the vehicle’s weight but its main function is the same as that of any shock absorber, namely to dampen vibrations. (Despite its name, a shock absorber doesn’t absorb shock directly — that’s the job of the spring — rather, it stops the vehicle from bouncing up and down after a bump). Because of its weight-bearing design, a strut has to be much stronger than a normal shock absorber.

Do all vehicles have struts?

Not all cars and trucks have struts; many suspension designs use separate springs and shock absorbers, with the shocks supporting no weight. Also, some cars use struts only on one pair of wheels, usually the fronts, while the other pair employs a different design using separate springs and shocks. When a car has struts on the front wheels only they are usually MacPherson struts, which are struts that are also considered part of the steering system because the wheels pivot around them.

Why do some vehicles use struts while others have separate springs and shocks? The specifics are complicated but for the most part it comes down to a trade-off between simplicity and initial cost (advantage: struts) and handling and performance (advantage: certain suspension designs without struts ... usually). But there are exceptions to these patterns; for example, most sports cars employ what’s called a “double wishbone” suspension, which uses shock absorbers rather than struts, but the Porsche 911, which is arguably the quintessential sports car, uses struts.

How to maintain your struts

What else does a vehicle owner need to know about struts? Not too much. Whether your car has struts or shock absorbers you’ll want to have them inspected periodically for leaks or other damage. One difference is that when they do wear out, struts are more expensive to replace, but there’s nothing a driver can do about that. Regardless of what suspension system your car has, be sure to have it inspected regularly — every oil change or alignment, or every 5,000 miles or so is fine.


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Recent Strut Assembly Replacement reviews

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YourMechanic Strut Assembly Replacement Service

Average Rating

4.9/5

Number of Reviews

670

Rating Summary
631
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5
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631
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5
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14

Kenneth

19 years of experience
522 reviews
Kenneth
19 years of experience
Lexus RX300 - Strut Assembly Replacement (Front) - Rancho Palos Verdes, California
Kenneth is an all-around great guy. He showed up on time - he was totally prepared - he was extremely professional and organized - he put his head down and got the job done. Excellent workmanship and very efficient. Plus, he's an extremely nice guy.
BMW 328i - Strut Assembly Replacement (Front) - Los Angeles, California
This was my second time having kenneth R. as my mechanic and yet again i was impressed . Kenneth is great at his profession and his knowledge and experience with cars is seen in his work. I would highly recommend Kenneth. If you're looking for a technician with skills and integrity Kenneth is the man.

Chuy

13 years of experience
134 reviews
Chuy
13 years of experience
Toyota Highlander - Strut Assembly Replacement (Rear) - Chicago, Illinois
On time, very timely in his work. Explained all needed services thoroughly. Will use chuy as my main mechanic from here on out.
Toyota Highlander - Strut Assembly Replacement (Front) - Chicago, Illinois
Chuy had great communication, was very thorough in explaining the process and gave me timeframes for future services that would be needed.

Nathaniel

9 years of experience
158 reviews
Nathaniel
9 years of experience
Toyota Solara - Strut Assembly Replacement (Rear) - Virginia Beach, Virginia
Very polite gentleman knows what he’s doing for sure! More work is needed for my vehicle and Mr. Cobb will be my mechanic recommend him highly for anyone!
Nissan Maxima - Strut Assembly Replacement (Front) - Virginia Beach, Virginia
Nathaniel arrived 30 minutes before scheduled start time and finished within no time. I have nothing but great things to say about YourMechanic service. I will definitely be using the service from now on.

Michael

7 years of experience
4 reviews
Michael
7 years of experience
Mazda 3 - Strut Assembly Replacement (Front) - Scottsdale, Arizona
Michael arrived on time and had great communication. One of the CV axles was frozen into the steering knuckle. Michael was able to problem solve and finished up the job when new parts arrived. Thanks for being awesome Michael!

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