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Could my struts be killing me?

I’m told my 96 Maxima has weak struts that need to be replaced (for $1300!!!). My husband says if we don’t get them replaced they could break and cause the wheel to come off and we’ll cause a 10 car pile up or something dramatic. He says it isn’t safe for the family to ride in the car with weak struts. I did a bit of research though and it seem like the worse case is you’ll be stranded or have a really, really rough ride until you get home. So what’s the case? Unless I’m in danger driving with weak struts I’d prefer to keep driving on them until they break and then replace them if I still need the car? (it has 119,000 miles and I’m only looking to get another 10,000 miles or so out of it

Struts very rarely “break and cause the wheel to come off”. That might happen if they rust through. Long before that they will lose the ability to control the handling of the car and keep the tires planted on the road over bumps. Wheel hop due to dead struts could cause loss of traction when you most need it, like in the rain. Then you could spin out and cause a 10 car pile up or something dramatic.

Struts eventually wear out, but the effect is gradual not catastrophic. You won’t even be stranded; you’ll merely feel a rough ride developing over a period of time. Your husband is an alarmist, to be sure, but he at least has your interests at heart.

In offering advice, I first question whether your struts are really in poor condition. Or not. A mechanic might merely have tried to spook you into an expensive repair job. You may easily be able to drive another 10,000 or 50,000 miles or more without any repairs. You should certainly seek a second opinion.

Second, you may find it prudent to go ahead with the repair merely for family peace. That $1300 estimate seems exceptionally high. Is it a dealership quote? Any garage, any tire shop can do the same job, typically for much le$$. Again, ask around.

Who in the world quoted you $1300 for new struts?? You can get aftermarket struts for $60 a piece for that car at Autozone. Even the original equipment struts cost about $150 a piece online. Order two new struts of your choice and find a new mechanic.

As for the safety thing, no worn out struts won’t cause an accident, but there can be some problems from rusted out strut mounts or a strut that breaks in two, but those are both unlikely on a 96 Maxima. By the way, 119,000 miles is low mileage for this car and the engine and transmission are more than capable of going 200,000 miles with regular oil changes.

In an emergency evasive maneuver good struts could indeed save your life. Or someone else’s. Shop around for prices, but I think they’re akin to insurance.


I agree with circuitsmith.

While the mechanic stated the wrong reason why your worn-out struts could possibly kill you, they can kill you all the same. Lack of traction due to “wheel hop” is a very real phenomenon and at high speed, or in the rain (or, God forbid–in the rain, at high speed) wheel hop would give your tires so little contact with the road that you could lose control of the car.

Get another estimate and get those struts replaced before you endanger yourself, your passengers, and those riding near your car.

If they’re weak they need to be replaced but your husband is incorrect. They’re not going to break and cause a 10 car pileup.
Price this around and consider having a shop price it with you providing the part. Here’s an example…

A 120 bucks there and a reputable shop should not charge more than about an hour and a half per side so figure roughly 3 hours labor.
It’s a far sight cheaper than 1300 dollars.

(When struts really become dangerous is when the ride of the car feels like a ping-pong ball skipping across the table)

To see if her struts are really bad couldn’t she just do the test where you bounce the front/read end of the car up and down and see how long it takes to stop bouncing once you let go of it? Is that only good for shocks or are there other things that makes doing that as a check invalid?



That used to be the method a number of years ago, but I find that modern cars have far too much stiffness built into the suspension for a bounce test these days. It may work on an old Cadillac or a Lincoln Town Car, but good luck bouncing most new cars. Also, the test doesn’t measure if the strut is sticking/grabbing when in fact it may appear to be fine.

Whenever you do strut work, have the alignment checked and re-set correctly. Some independent shops don’t have a modern alignment machine but some do have deals with tire shops or other shops that do have the proper, modern alignment equipment for discounted alignments. It’s a ‘B to B’ thing. Ask about this when you start checking other shops. $1,300? I think not. Too much. (Shop must be saving up for kids’ education expenses, vacation, or whatever).

The old bounce test is no longer valid. It will show many worn out shocks as OK. Don’t bet your life on it.

You could also look for used parts at a local salvage yard or online. If you’re not intending to keep the car much longer, that’d be more cost-effective than putting brand new parts on it. The labor would be fairly inexpensive then.

You may want to consider looking into a different mechanic for the work, as the quoted price seems very high. Some people in my area have had good experiences with chains like Cole Muffler or Monroe for specific work like this, and any independent mechanic should be able to do the work too.

How does one check for worn/weak struts today then? Is special equipement needed to check for this now?