Difference between front and rear shocks, replacement and shock absorber prices

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Every Vehicle is designed with either a shock or a strut at each wheel, never both. Your vehicle’s suspension cannot be changed to use the other. In this post, I like to discuss some of the common a lot of people are confused about when come to their car front and rear shock. questions like:

  • should i replace front and rear shocks at the same time?
  • when should shock absorbers be replaced?
  • how long does it take to replace shocks on a car? 
  • What is the difference between front and rear shocks?

All these what we will cover in this article, so let’s get right into it.

Difference between front and rear shocks, replacement and shock absorber prices


What is a shock absorber as used in auto term?

A shock absorber, also called a damper is a mechanical device that is designed to absorb and damp shock impulses by converting kinetic energy of the shock into heat energy which is then dissipated.  Basically, shock absorbers function by controlling the movement of springs and suspension. They also keep your tyres in contact with the ground every time. The bottom surface of your tyres is the only part of your vehicle in contact with the road at rest and even in motion.

Shock absorbers help give your car a smooth and even ride, making them very important for the performance of a car. However, with time, these vehicle suspensions become worn out, causing even the smallest potholes to become both more severe and difficult to ignore.

You can replace your shocks by yourself if they get worn out, you can replace them yourself with a little time and know-how.

Difference between Front and Rear Shocks

Most people use shock and strut interchangeably, this is wrong because the front shocks is different from the rear shocks. Though a shock and a strut perform the same basic job on a vehicle, which includes damping the movement of the spring and stopping oscillation and bounce, but they are still very different.

NOTE: A front shock cannot be used to replace a rear shock and a rear shock cannot be used in place of a front shock.

Every Vehicle is designed with either a shock or a strut at each wheel, never both. Your vehicle’s suspension cannot be changed to use the other.

The major difference between the front shocks and rear shocks is that the rear shock is a structural part of the vehicles suspension system where a shock isn’t. Also, a rear shock is a vital part of the vehicles steering system and greatly affects angles of alignment. A rear shock or strut is a pivot point for the vehicles steering system and contains a coil spring. This makes an alignment always required when replacing a strut. This makes struts more costly than shocks.

Customers often get confused as to using strut or shock because the terms are used interchangeably. In fact, some vehicles have struts on the front axle and shocks on the rear.

When Should Shock Absorbers be Replaced?

Every car is designed with a suspension system that provides dampening of shocks and jarring while driving on road. The suspension also improves the handling of vehicle. There are diverse types of suspension systems, but the most common is a combination of shock absorbers and struts. Shock absorbers are used on both the front and rear wheels for older vehicles. However, modern cars use them mainly on the rear wheels, with strut assemblies on the front.

Shocks and struts work in a similar way – they use either compressed gas or liquid to help absorb the up and down movement of your car caused by bumps, dips, speed bumps, and potholes. Your shock absorbers are in use any time the car is moving and when it’s stationary, this exposes them to a lot of wear and tear, and they will ultimately fail. Shocks and struts are considered a normal maintenance item, and should be replaced regularly. Ensure you inspect your shocks and struts every time you change oil.

Generally, a shock absorber is expected to last at least 50,000 miles before you have it replaced. However, the determining factor is where you drive and how you drive. If you always take a rough route, do a lot of off-road driving, or spend a lot of time on dirt roads, your shocks will wear out more quickly than when you are always on a smooth road. If always take highway or interstate while driving where the roads, then expect your shock to lasts even beyond the 50,000-mile mark.

If your shocks starts to wear down, the end seals also begin to wear, this will cause your shocks to fail, so you will need to have them quickly replaced.

Signs of a Failing Shock Absorber

When your shocks starts to wear, the gas or liquid inside the shock absorber will leak out. It can appear as moisture on the top of the shock absorber or running down the side of the assembly in a liquid-based shock. Since shock absorbers of your car have such a major role to play, it’s essential to know the signs that specify you have a failing or failed shock. These include:

  • Car does not sit level
  • Bumping from the rear suspension
  • The smallest of bumps or potholes become noticeable
  • Having a feeling of loose rear end particularly when going around turns
  • The rear end bounces more than is normal
  • Shaky ride over rougher roads

Consult your mechanic for proper check if you think your shocks are in need of attention. A skilled mechanic should inspect each shock absorber and have them replaced.

Should Front and Rear Shocks be replaced at same time?

Front and rear shock absorbers are important parts of the vehicle suspension that absorb shocks from the bumps and potholes, thereby helping your vehicle achieve a smooth and stable ride.

A strut is the shock absorber fabricated into one unit with the coil spring. Every car has four struts/shock absorbers, with one located at each wheel.

Since the front and rear shocks are maintenance-free units, does this mean that they never have to be replaced? A front or rear shocks don’t need to be replaced unless there is a problem with it or if you just want to improve your car with new shock absorbers.

The most common problem with shocks and struts occurs when they begin to leak. Struts and shock absorbers are filled with oil, and when they start leaking, they must be immediately replaced because they will stop working even without noticeable seepages.

The symptoms of a bad shock absorber or strut include bounciness and/or knocking when driving over bumps. Also, your car may swing up and down more like a boat.

Also, front and rear shocks should be replaced after hitting a major pothole or after an accident. Any of these problems may cause the rear shocks to bend, which may not be noticeable but can be spotted during the wheel alignment.

It is unsafe to drive with a failed strut or shock absorber. If one shock or strut is not working, it places more load on the other three, which will cause them to quickly fail.

Should You Replace Both Front and Rear Shocks if only one is bad?

It is not really necessary to replace both front and rear shocks if only one is bad. However, it’s usually best to replace them in pairs, that is, both front struts and both rear shocks. The reason for this is that a new shock absorber will absorb road bumps better than the old one. So, replacing only one shock absorber may create bumpiness from side to side when driving over bumps. But for new vehicles, it may be okay to just replace only one strut or shocks since the opposite side is still okay.

How long does it take to replace shocks on a car?

It takes about 2-3 hours to replace a single set of shocks, as does either side’s control arms. However, it may take less time for lesser work such as replacing a spring. It may take days for a complete suspension renovation.

Steps on How to Replace Shock Absorbers

If you notice that while driving, going over potholes and bumps isn’t as smooth as it used to be, then it may point to the fact that your shocks are worn out and require replacement or it may point to some other issues other than having your shock absorbers replaced.

An easy way to test if your shocks are worn out and need to be replaced is to push down hard on the trunk or the hood directly above the wheel well. If your shock absorber is still good, it should bounce up once and settle moderately quickly. However, it may require replacing the shocks if the body bounces any more than that after pushing.

Now, let’s look at ways steps you should consider in replacing worn-out shock absorbers:

  • 1. Buy new shock absorbers. If you aren’t certain of what type of shock absorbers you need, consult a local auto parts store or an auto mechanic to buy the right one for your vehicle.
  • 2. Jack your vehicle in an suitable location. To do this, park your car on a level surface and untie the lug nuts on both sides of the front or rear, depending on which you want to replace. Make sure you secure your vehicle with ramps and/or jack stands. With the car up, proceed to remove the wheels and locate the shocks.
  • 3. Check the shock mountings, spray with metal cleaner. This is probably the most difficult part of replacing shocks. The old shocks may be greasy with both age and road-grit, so removing it may be hard. Check out the mountings to establish if they’re loose enough to remove. It’s easier to spray some WD-40 or PB Blaster in there and allow it to remain for a few minutes to try to slacken things up before you proceed.
  • 4. Remove bolts from the shock tower. In most vehicles, the top bolts are located under the fabric in the trunk of the car, meaning you’ll have to lift up the lining to get to the shock bolts and remove them with a ratchet and socket. Consult your shop manual for more detailed guidelines concerning the location of the shock tower bolts, but they would be in the trunk.

You should turn the socket and ratchet anticlockwise to unfasten the bolts. You can grease the bolts with penetrating fluid to get rid of any surface rust.

  • 5. Disconnect the shock from the suspension. To disconnect the shock from the suspension and remove it from the bolt, you can use a socket set or a nut splitter. Apply a solvent if there isn’t enough room to control the splitter.

You may need to unfasten the knuckle at the top of brake assembly to get the shock depending on the assembly. You can use same process to remove the nut positioned at the top and keep the nuts separate so you will know which bolt is for which position.

  • 6. Remove the shocks from the bottom and top bolts. Removing the shock of the bolts can be hard, particularly if the shocks are mounted on rusty studs with a retaining bracket. You have to keep wiggling it around till it comes off.

It can be problematic if your piston rod keeps turning with you while trying to loosen the nut. You can use locking pliers on the end of the rod and prevent it from turning with the pliers while untying the nut with a wrench. Avoid misaligning the bolt as this will affect you when trying to reinstall the shock.

  • 7. Fit the new shock back onto the suspension control arm. You may need the pressure to tauten the shock as it falls into place, and you might need help from another person to lift the suspension back up to reinstall the bolts in their right positions. Fasten on the nuts hand tight.
  • 8. If you removed the anti-roll bar while trying to remove the shocks, you can fix or reattach it and screw the bolts back on hand-tight. Ensure you replace the shock tower nuts you removed at the start of the process.
  • 9. Before you tighten everything back, recheck the torque specifications in the manual to ensure everything’s secure
  • 10. To replace the other 3 shock absorbers, if necessary, repeat the steps. After this, put the wheels back on and tighten the lug nuts back into position.

Shock absorber prices

Shock absorber prices can range from anything from $20 to $80 depending on the car and brand that best sorts your car.

You might have to look up some of the prices on Amazon with the link below. Check prices here.

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