It’s easy to overlook worn shocks because shocks wear out gradually. What usually happens is you gradually adjust your driving habits to compensate for the loss in control without realizing it
It’s important to know when to check your shocks to see if they’ve gone bad. In this handy guide, you’ll learn how to recognize the most common signs of worn shocks and how to confirm that one of your shocks needs to be replaced.
How to Know When it’s Time to Check Your Shocks
Image Credit: Jalopnik/Peter Monshizadeh
Shocks tend to go bad after 50,000 miles, but they can fail sooner is if you drive in an area with a lot of rough roads. We recommend checking your shocks every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. If you suspect that one of your shocks has gone bad, then it can’t hurt to check your shocks ASAP, too. Let’s go over some of the signs of worn shocks:
- Nose-diving when slamming on the brakes
- Excessive lean or sway in turns
- Increased stopping distance
- Vibration in the steering wheel
- Vehicle veering in cross winds
- Uneven or premature tire wear
Take the following three steps to diagnose failing shocks:
1. Perform the Bounce Test
The first thing you want to do is to perform a simple test that takes only a few minutes and doesn’t require any special tools or expertise: the bounce test. Here’s how to do the bounce test:
- Park your Toyota on a flat, even surface.
- Push down hard on each corner of your car, one at a time.
If the corner springs back up without bouncing, then the shock at that corner is still good. If it bounces once, then the shock is failing. If it bounces more than twice, then the shock is already bad and you should replace it right away.
Even if your car passes the bounce test, it’s still a good idea to visually inspect your shocks anyway to make sure that they don’t have any problems. If your car fails the bounce test, then a visual inspection is necessary to determine what exactly is wrong with the shock.
2. Look for Leakage
Sometimes the piston rod will get corroded or scratched from road salt or debris. When this happens, the piston seal will be compromised. Hydraulic fluid can leak out and impair the shock’s ability to control the vehicle.
If you have a leaking shock, you’ll likely see discoloration and a thick coat of oil, dirt, and grime on the body of the shock.
To check your shocks, lift your car and then visually inspect the shocks for leakage.
3. Make Sure the Shocks are Still Connected Snugly
When you’re still underneath your car, gently shake each shock to see if it’s still bolted snugly to the frame (or body) and the suspension. It’s possible that your shocks are still good but one of them came loose and is underperforming because of it. If you find that one of your shocks is loose, simply bolt it back in place. Then perform the bounce test again to determine if that shock is still good.
If You Have a Bad Shock
A bad shock is a serious safety risk, and it needs to be replaced as soon as possible. We strongly recommend replacing your shocks in pairs in order to keep the damping properties equal.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about diagnosing failing shocks.