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Am I Bad because I've never replaced the Struts on my 21 year old car?

I’ve been pretty good about most necessary maintenance (oil changes, tuneups, timing belts etc.) I recently had the distributor replaced (3rd one) and then the car did not pass smog (first time!) so had a new CAT converter put in.
August was a bit spendy, and when told I should get the struts replaced and found out the cost…well, I just want to wait a bit. BUT, am I putting myself and others in danger?? Okay, I’m ready for the scolding :wink:

Your struts may be a bit worn and show signs of leakage, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still get the job done. You know your car well; if it handles OK you can postpone the repair.

If they do need to be replaced and you’re ignoring it, you may wear your tires out prematurely and you may have trouble controlling the car over certain bumps. It would be best not to wait too long.

21 years i’d say they need to be changed…but as mentioned above, if it’s handling ok, you can probably wait on it.

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ahh never mind

Thanks for the responses…I worried when I read some older postings on this forum regarding struts, as many people had cars much “younger” than mine and with less mileage. Mine has 236K and counting. I did have a 4 wheel alignment a few months ago, along with two new tires (two had worn badly but were not excessively old and the other two were fine…guess I did not rotate as often as I should have) BUT, I have noticed lately that the car shakes when I brake, but not all of the time. Brake/rotors were checked by my mechanic and he said they were fine. And the steering wheel has been shaking a bit too. Made me wonder if my alignment was bad, even though I’ve not hit anything to knock it out of alignment, but then I started to worry about the struts.
Sorry I got very long winded here!

If you go over a speed bump and the car keeps bouncing…replace them.
If the car just bounces the once that it always has…don’t.

Many car items can age out but shocks & struts are a ‘‘wait till they’re bad’’ item.

My 1979 Chevy pickup is still on it’s original shocks with no signs of needing replaced yet.

Thanks Ken!

It’s common for struts to show minimal amounts of leakage around the shaft seal, but if they are drenched in oil they likely need replacing. You could take a look at them yourself and and probably make a good determination. If the car still handles good and doesn’t handle poorly or continue to bounce when hitting bumps it’s likely your struts are fine.

Nothing to add to the advice, but I give you my vote for “Best Title for a Post”.

The test that I have seen mechanics do to quickly judge strut health is to push down hard (with all body weight) on each corner of the car and see how much it bounces, like in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzSWNHUIfcU. If your car passes the bounce test with flying colors and the mechanic still wants to replace the struts, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re full of shit, but they’d better explain.

The bounce test may be valid on a strut or shock that is major league bad but sometimes there is just no way of determining how good it is unless it’s removed and tested by hand. If you’re at the point where they’re going to be removed then you’re better off replacing them at that time.
At 21 years old there’s a 99%+ chance they’re bad to some degree.

As to the brake shudder, whether the brakes are good or not in that regard cannot be determined by a visual inspection. This requires checking the brake rotors for runout, parallelism, etc. with a dial indicator, micrometer, etc.
Keep in mind that brake shudders are not always caused by the brakes. Worn suspension components, worn wheel bearings, etc. can also cause symptoms similar to rotor problems.
At 236k miles everthing should be thoroughly inspected.

Thanks again. If I push down on the hood of the car (left and right) it just bounces back up. Then again, maybe I don’t weigh enough to get a good bounce! I do hear a squeaking sound when I go over speed bumps, and yeah, maybe it does bounce once more in these instances, but it does not bug me (yet).
As for the shuddering that SOMETIMES happens while braking on the FWY…Even though the guys have checked my brakes and said they were fine, I just looked at the last time they were done. The rear ones in 2003 and front ones in 2004. Now, I know I’m good to my brakes and don’t use them excessively, but I was surprised at how long they’ve lasted…is this crazy or normal?

To reiterate, performing a bounce test can certainly be done but it generally won’t mean much unless the strut or shock in question is completely bad or almost to that that point. A shock or strut that is moderately weak (as most are) may appear to pass a bounce test fine but if that strut was diassembled and the plunger operated by hand one would easily notice the fault.

The squeaking may not be related to the struts at all. What I would suspect there would be a sway bar bushing squeak. This is very common on any make of car and it’s caused by the rubber hardening with age and the rotation of a dry, non-lubricated sway bar inside the bushing. Often a little lube will shut them right up.

Brake wear depends on the type of driving (mostly city or highway, etc), how aggressively the brakes are used, how correctly a brake job was performed, and the environment. Road salt, dust, etc. all play a part, especially in regards to brake caliper slides.

As to the shuddering, that could still be the brakes causing this even if it is on an erratic basis.
As to the inspection that would depend on how it was done. There’s the eyeball method (not accurate at all) or the dial indicator/micrometer method. Unfortunately, many mechanics choose the former method. :frowning:

If you’ve been rolling up the miles and it’s been 6 to 7 years since the brake work then I’d say you were doing fine.
Hope that helps anyway.

“A shock or strut that is moderately weak (as most are) may appear to pass a bounce test fine but if that strut was diassembled and the plunger operated by hand one would easily notice the fault.”

Not to be disagreeable, but I’m curious. How much does this hand-operated plunger test matter, compared with how the strut performs on the car. How is the performance on the car tested? If I bang my head against a wall, it hurts. I acknowledge that my skull has a deficiency in that matter. But as long as I don’t do that, it’s fine. Likewise, without doing something abnormal with a strut, how can its integrity be tested, and how much does a disassembling test, subjecting it to abnormal stress, mean?

Simply because once a strut is disassembled and the plunger is moved manually one can often feel what could be called “spots” in it. Sometimes the plunger may move 2 or 3 times in a row and feel fine and then abruptly sink or extend without any resistance. The same goes for plain old shock absorbers.
The car may seem fine on a bounce test but if the bottom of the shock is unbolted from the car and the shock is operated by hand one can often feel anomalies in those too.

The same thing applies to halfshafts or U-joints in driveshafts. They may feel tight and be noise free but once removed from the car and placed on a bench one can often move them around and find “hitches” in them and that’s the sign of a problem.

A few years ago I replaced the halfshafts in a Mitsubishi my daughter owned. A few weeks later she was having a shudder that would come and go. Suspecting a CV joint I removed the shafts and found that one of them had a bad spot in it. (Keep in mind there were 2 week old reman units.)
The parts house warrantied the shaft and ordered another. Removing them from the box at the parts house I discover his reman shaft is bad right out of the gate. They order another and sure enough, inspection of that one on the countertop shows it to be bad also. The third one ordered was a charm and felt fine.

Ditto for U-joints. Many people check them and consider them fine if the shaft is tight in the yokes. Drop the driveshaft out of the car, carefully move those joints around by hand, and it may be an entirely different matter.

Your question about the brakes depends on the type of driving you do city/highway and how much you use your brakes. It’s not uncommon for me to get 100-150K miles out of a set of brakes, because I start slowing for red lights and stop signs by coasting to them instead of running up to them at 60 mph and slamming on the brakes. I’ve seen people who would wear out a set of brakes in 25-30K miles. If you are concerned about the condition of the brakes take your car to a mechanic you trust for a brake inspection. If the pads/shoes are getting worn thin go ahead and replace them now instead of waiting until they start making a metal to metal grinding and your rotors/drums probably won’t need replacing saving you a significant amount of money.

@ Fordman59…I was just curious about the brakes, as at my previous shop, it seemed like something was always being done to either the front brakes or rear brakes every 40-50K miles. Maybe they were just more diligent than the shop I go to now, or maybe they were just making a sale. I think I drive/brake the same way I always have for years, as in I don’t ride them and I too coast somewhat before stopping.

Brake servicing (new pads and/or rotors) every 40-50K would be perfectly normal for most folks and most cars. There’s nothing to be concerned about here. Your new shop is probbaly just allowing them to go a few more miles or perhaps using a different pad material, metallic perhaps as opposed to organic. Again, nothing to be concerned about.

As regards the struts, if you’re noticing abnormal tire wear, floatiness (or lack of stability in winds), excessive body roll when you turn, or bounciness over road wallows or speed bumps, than you probably need struts. After 21 years, I’d expect it.

Last spring I put new shocks in my 5-year-old rear end even though the guys said I didn’t need them. I didn’t like the way my rear tires were wearing. The car passed the “bounce test” with flying colors and felt fine in handling. Yet I still felt a clear difference on the highway, even before they realigned it, and the young fella that test drove the car after installation said the same thing. They don’t know it yet, but I’m having them do my front struts after the holidays. In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that for me the labor is all free, but my point is that even if the struts seem great on an old car a new set can make a marked difference. On a 21 year old car I’ll bet it’ll feel new with new struts and a good alignment.