Off-roading is an adrenaline rush whether you're crawling over boulders on the side of a mountain or ambling over mud and roots with a forest canopy stretching out overhead. But all of that thrill will come to a screeching halt if you haven't taken proper care of your vehicle.
If you are a frequent off-road explorer, you need to be aware of the signs it's time to replace your suspension.
Your vehicle's suspension can take a beating from uneven ground, quick acceleration, heavy loads, and other factors that can wear down your suspension and affect the comfort and safety of your truck. Off-roading comes with a high potential of risk.
Is your vehicle bottoming out? Pulling or drifting when you try to make turns? Does your vehicle make sounds when going over bumps?
Keep reading to learn more about these and several other signs it's time to replace the suspension on your vehicle.
Why Is Suspension So Important?
What is suspension? The suspension system is made up of the parts of a vehicle that support it as it travels on the road. These parts include the shock absorbers, shocks & struts, coil springs, bushing, ball joint, bearings, and control arms.
Learn more about your car's suspension in this article explaining seven car suspension system components and their functions.
In general, suspension systems magnify the friction between your vehicle's tires and the road. Suspension is what allows you to steer and handle your vehicle with comfort and ease.
Even when driving down paved roads, you'll encounter bumps and potholes. Roads get a lot of wear and tear. They're anything but perfect.
Your vehicle's suspension is even more critical when you are offroading.
The ability of your vehicle to ride and handle well is a direct result of its suspension system. Your car won't survive with a damaged suspension, whether driving down a pristine avenue or clambering up a rocky hillside.
12 Signs You Need to Replace Your Suspension
We've compiled a thorough list of all the possible signs of a broken or damaged suspension here. Whatever issue you're experiencing, we'll help you determine whether your vehicle is in need of critical repair.
If your vehicle is experiencing any of the symptoms listed below, it is important that you take your vehicle in to get serviced by a trustworthy mechanic as soon as possible.
1. Makes Sounds When Going Over Bumps
Your vehicle making sounds when going over bumps is one of the first indicators that there is something awry with the vehicle's suspension. It may be that one of the suspension components is in need of repair or replacement.
Potential causes can include damaged ball joints, worn out struts, loose body mounts, damaged shock absorbers, or bad control arm bushings.
As it is very difficult to diagnose the exact issues on your own, it is important to take your vehicle into an automotive expert if you're experiencing any alarming sounds when driving your vehicle.
2. Bumpy Ride
If your ride feels extremely bumpy, it could be the result of a damaged suspension. Typically, a very bumpy ride happens when your struts or shocks need replacement.
The struts and shocks are the parts of the suspension intended to absorb the bumps in the road. If you're feeling every little bump they are probably worn out and need to be replaced.
3. Unstable Vehicle Body
If you feel your vehicle rocking back and forth or sideways when you stop, start, or turn, this is a sign you need to replace your shocks and struts.
Vehicle instability is a common sign that the shocks and struts are no longer capable of stabilizing the motion of your vehicle.
4. Sinking Vehicle Frame
Have you noticed your vehicle leaning to one side when parked? It can be hard to tell whether the vehicle frame is sinking while the vehicle is in motion. You may accidentally assume the road you're driving on is uneven or paved at a slant.
Try parking your vehicle to see if it is noticeably leaning toward one tire in particular. If it does, you're probably dealing with a broken suspension spring or springs.
If your vehicle's frame is sunken, it's also important to listen out for any clunking sounds. These types of sounds could mean you have something broken underneath the body of your vehicle.
5. Uneven Tire Wear
Your vehicle’s wheels are an important part of the suspension system. The treads on your tires can wear down for a variety of reasons, but if your wheels aren't aligned properly your tires will wear unevenly.
Uneven tire wear means your suspension isn't carrying the weight of your vehicle evenly, so the tires aren't touching the road in the right way. This can cause many problems, the least of which would be wearing out the tread on your tires faster than average.
6. Oil on Your Shocks or Leaking Oil from Shocks
Shocks begin leaking fluid only if they are completely worn out. If you see oil, feel oil, or see it dripping from your shocks you can be sure they are no longer functioning properly and need replacement.
7. Bounce Test
Did you know you can perform a simple test at home to check your vehicle's suspension?
With your vehicle parked on flat ground, push down on the front end with as much force as you can muster. Push down a few times in a row and then let go. If your vehicle bounces more than a few times, it is a sign that your struts are worn out.
Don't forget to push on the rear of the vehicle as well to test the shocks.
8. Pulling or Drifting When Turning
Do you feel a pull when trying to turn a corner?
Vehicles tend to pull or drift while turning when the shocks are no longer able to keep the vehicle stable. Damaged shocks increase the risk of your vehicle rolling over.
If you are experiencing any of these issues when turning, it is important to get your shocks checked out right away.
9. Nose Dives When Stopping
If you notice your car sits lower than usual when parked, it's likely an indicator that you have a broken spring.
If you feel your vehicle lurching forward or down when you press on the brakes, it means your shocks are worn out. Worn-out shocks significantly impair your ability to stop quickly and safely.
If you notice your vehicle jerks you into the dashboard when you press the brakes, you also need to get your shocks and struts checked. When you brake, the weight of your vehicle is transferred to the front.
The shocks and struts are what prevent you from nose-diving into the ground. Worn-out struts can cause significant damage to your vehicle and impact your safety while driving.
Don't ignore any of these issues. Ignoring them will put more pressure on the shock absorber and you'll end up needing to repair or replace that as well.
10. Difficult to Handle
If you're having difficulty steering your vehicle, especially at low speeds, it is a clear indicator your car has a damaged suspension.
Because your car's steering and suspension are linked, trouble with steering is directly correlated to a lag in your car's suspension system.
Possible causes of steering difficulty could be low power steering fluid, worn-out control arm bushings, or loose belts. If you hear a whining sound you could have a failing power steering pump.
11. Bottoming Out
If you listen carefully, you can hear your suspension bottom out when you go over bumps. It will sound like a hollow thud. Bottoming out can result from a compressed spring and can cause damage to the undercarriage of your vehicle.
At high speeds, bottoming-out can cause significant damage to your vehicle's springs, steering, exhaust pipes, and oil sump. If you bottom out at a high speed, you should get under there and check for damages immediately.
Bottom out hard enough and you might need to replace your springs and get a realignment. If your vehicle is bottoming out regularly, it is in need of immediate service.
Sometimes it's a simple matter of how many miles are on your car. Automobile experts and manufacturers recommend most cars get a suspension replacement after 50,000 miles.
For the best results, consider being proactive. Don't wait until your suspension breaks before replacing. Consider getting it thoroughly checked out when your vehicle reaches the 50,000 miles mark.
So, Does Your Suspension Need Repair or Replacement?
Any mechanic will tell you, it's best to get your vehicle's suspension repaired before it suffers severe damage.
If you are experiencing any of the 12 signs listed above, you need to consider that it may be time to replace your suspension.
Make sure you get your vehicle into a mechanic right away so you can get back on the dusty trail as soon as possible.