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Do-It-Yourself Projects
Replacing Shock AbsorbersPrintable version
Degree of DifficultyModerate
Moderate
Estimated Time60 minutes
60 minutes
The shock absorbers on your vehicle dampen (or restrain) the vibrations that the suspension springs can create as your vehicle travels over various road surfaces. Put simply, shock absorbers keep the tires on the road by keeping the springs from bouncing up and down continuously.
 
After countless up and down cycles of vehicle dampening, the shock valve and piston become worn, gradually losing their effectiveness. If your vehicle has over 75,000 miles, or its ride and handling aren't as smooth as they used to be, it may be time to replace your vehicle's shock absorbers.
 
For vehicles produced in the last few decades, shock absorbers can be classified into two basic types - individual or stand-alone shocks that attach to the vehicle suspension and frame, and shock-absorber units (or cartridges) integrated into a suspension strut - technically, a MacPherson or Chapman strut. Bear in mind that some cars have struts in the front and individual shocks in the rear. If this is the case, you can replace the rear shocks, but the front struts are better left to a professional.
 
The integrated shock absorber/struts can be quite difficult to replace. Many times they require removal of the suspension springs and the strut unit, which is beyond the scope of this DIY project. Although many newer vehicles use struts, most older vehicles, and most new or old trucks and SUVs, have individual shock absorbers in both the front and rear. This DIY article will describe how to replace those individual shock absorbers.
Setup
Park your vehicle inside or outside in a well-lighted, level area. Unless you have a pickup truck or sport utility with lots of ground clearance, you must remove the wheels to determine whether your vehicle uses struts or individual shock absorbers, or whether the front and rear have different systems. You will only need to remove one front and one rear wheel (one at a time) to see this. Use all appropriate safety precautions.
Remove the Wheel to Reveal the Strut or Shock Absorber
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