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Do-It-Yourself Projects
Replacing Shock AbsorbersPrintable version
Degree of DifficultyModerate
Estimated Time60 minutes
60 minutes
Once a wheel is removed, you should be able determine what type of system you have. If your vehicle is equipped with struts, it should look like this:
  • The strut is a tube that is two or three inches in diameter and 20 to 30 inches long. It is mounted vertically behind the wheel hub and brake.
  • The vehicle spring surrounds the strut, usually on the upper half.
  • For the front suspension, the strut tube rotates as the steering wheel is turned.
If your vehicle is equipped with individual shock absorbers, it should look like this:
  • The shock absorber is tubular, like a strut, but shorter, usually only 12 to 18 inches long.
  • The ends of a shock absorber have either a ring welded to them for a bolt to pass through, or an exposed rod that is threaded. This threaded end goes through a hole in the vehicle suspension member or frame.
  • For the rear suspension, the shock absorber will have a similar attachment, but it will often be located between the vehicle frame and the rear axle.
If you are having trouble telling a strut from a shock absorber, visit your local automotive parts supply store or car dealer parts counter and ask to see the shock/strut for your vehicle, or a picture of it. Make a mental note of the shape and location, look for that specific shape on your vehicle, and see how it is attached.
Once you have identified that your vehicle does have shock absorbers rather than struts, you need to determine your ability to handle the job of replacing them.
Take a close look at the ends of the shock absorber and their attachment hardware:
  • Can you see the bolts and nuts that hold it in place?
  • Is the top mounting under the hood or inside the trunk?
Take a close look at all the fasteners. Since it can take many years to accumulate 75,000 miles, the fastening hardware may be quite rusted. Check to see if you have the right wrenches to fit the bolts and nuts. If possible, check to ensure that you can loosen the fasteners.
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