1999 Accord LX 156k mi, just doesn't handle like it used to

I drive this car less than 5k a year but notice it doesn’t handle like it used to. My struts and shocks appear to be in good shape. But because I’ve got so many miles on the car, would replacing the struts help it handle the road more like it used to? If yes, should I also replace the shocks?

If they’re all original I’d replace them all.

I agree with Texases, but the OP should not overlook the tires as a possible part of the problem.
Even if the tread is not badly worn, aged tires wind up with hardening of the rubber compound as a result of exposure to heat and environmental conditions, and this hardening leads to less traction and poor handling characteristics.

If the tires are more than 6 years old, they need to be replaced, as this is a safety-related issue.

You got 14 years and 156k on those shocks. They owe you nothing. Get new ones.

You might also (or instead) see if there are bushings in the steering and suspension that can be replaced. For my money (on my 1999 Honda Civic) I would do this before the expensive stuff and see if it makes enough diff. I also agree tires are a majpr contributor to a car’s overall feel and performance. If you intend to keep the car for more than a couple years, it may well be worth new tires and bushings, and then maybe struts and shocks.

I agree about the struts.

Don’t forget the front and rear sway bar links and bushings

The struts are likely needed but I would also strongly agree with VDCdriver about the possibility of aged rubber being a problem.

There’s also the issue of whether or not the tire pressures are correct but my assumption at this point is that they have been monitored and adjusted as necessary.

I also drive only ~4000 miles a year, not counting the occasional road trip.
By the time my '88 Accord reached the age and mileage of yours I had changed the struts twice.
The roughness of the roads you travel have a great influence on how long shocks/struts last.
BTW, shocks and struts are essentially the same thing, main difference is struts include brackets to hold the springs.
Loose ball joints and hardened, cracking bushings can be expected at this point.

When was the last time you had an alignment? How old are the tires, and how worn are they? You comment is so vague that it would help if you could express your concern more clearly and more specifically. Does it not corner as well on fast turns? Does it seem to hop sideways on a bumpy road? Does it sway or, lean over excessively in turns?

Suspension and ride quality are full of variables and lots of parts work together making up the car’s ride. Springs, sway bars, struts (on the front wheels) and shocks (on the back) and all have lots of bushings and fasteners holding them in place.

Worn springs can make the car ride a bit lower and could allow more sway. Weak, broken, or disconnected sway bars can cause unstable turning and excess lean and body roll in the turns. Struts and shocks main job is to stop the springs from springing and keep the car steady, so a bouncy ride is bad struts and shocks. Old struts and shocks can get “soft” and new one’s can make the ride feel harsh and jarring. If you replace the original OEM struts and shocks with aftermarket units that are “stiffer” (and most are) you might not like the “ride” at all.

I’d get the alignment checked first, all 4 wheels. Have the front and rear suspension inspected for any loose, broken, or missing parts. Make sure all the suspension parts are connected and torqued to specs. Then see if anything has changed for the better in the ride. Next, if the tires are pretty old a new set of good tires can make a huge difference.

The suspension inspection should have identified any obviously leaking or “bad” strut or shock. If the inspection didn’t reveal anything and you still feel the ride needs improving then I’d replace the struts and shocks.

Doesn’t handle is pretty vague. The standard test is the bounce test, bouncing the bumpers up and down , then letting go and see if the car continues to bounce. This is OK for a gross test of the struts, but the first symptoms of struts going bad is much harder to detect.

The first indication of worn struts is in the fine movements, not the gross movements. Most of the time, the shock absorber part of the strut is moving in a very narrow range, absorbing the small bumps in the road, like expansion strips etc. When the ride becomes very harsh over these small bumps, that is the ride is very harsh when you are in the right lane of a freeway, that is the first sign. The right lane gets more wear and tear than the left lanes, mainly due to the large trucks that use it.

If the ride is smooth, the handling could be due to any number of other things.

There are many more components than struts/shocks. I would have the suspension looked over and make no mention of age of shocks. The likely case is rubber pieces like tie rods, bushings are worn out or sway bars are damaged or missing etc.

Replacing shocks may do little except drain your wallet.