Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

How cheap would you go...?

It’s about that time (105,000mi) when I noticed it’s time to change the front shock absorbers on my 2002 s10 4cyl 5sp. I looked on the web site of the local auto parts store and it would seem I have have quite a few choices on price point when it comes to new shocks.

How cheap should I go? I could spend anywhere form $20-$150 a piece. Now keep in mind I’m a poor college student, but I also don’t want to be doing this job again next year. Is there really that much difference between the quality and performance of the different price points?

Thanks in advance.

If you’re not off-roading a 4x4 or racing…
The 20- $30 shocks are just fine.

I prefer to buy lifetime warranted shocks so that if one fails, you are out only labor. choosing a 50K warranted shock (Sears used to sell them that way) might be a cheaper alternative if you don’t think you will be keeping the car all that long.

Check out warranty; determine how long you want to keep the car, then decide.

Thanks, AutoZone has a lifetime warranty on the cheapo ones, so I guess I’ll go with those. Thanks for the input.

What makes you believe that you need new shock absorbers? Mileage is not a determining factor but performance is. If the vehicle drives well, you may not need new shocks/struts.

Fair enough. A little over a year ago I took my truck in for an oil change at my mechanic (cause it was too d*@n cold in january) and while I was talking to him he pointed out that my shocks (The drivers side more than the passengers) were leaking. Well I waited and now when I go over winter’s finest chuck holes the whole front end shimmies and bounces. If I get the front of the truck bouncing with my weight it will continue to bounce for roughly five cycles.

It seems to me that they are just worn out. + While I was under there changing them I was gonna go though and make sure all my suspension joints and linkages are tight. At this point I have no reason to believe otherwise, but I like to nip things in the butt. I will also be changing the oil and serpentine belt during this adventure.

Yep, worn out big time.

I bought cheapo struts once with a fine warranty. They rode like an old buckboard. I think you may want to consider that since, as Wha Who? notes below performance will vary rather than just warranty. When I’m thinking of performance I’m not thinking of off-roading or sport car driving - just everyday handling and comfort. I don’t have anything off the top of my head, but I’d find site with customer reviews and think about things like that.

Lifetime shocks are no different than the standard ones. Its just a sales gimick. Just get the standard OEM shocks. I had lifetime Monroes once and they replaced them once but wouldn’t the second time. They didn’t know I kept a car for several hundred thousand miles.

I actually stopped at my (favorite) local independent auto parts store, and they had the same ones for $18.50. I think I’d rather patronize them.

If you are looking for a specific recommendation, I have had good luck with Monroe Sensa-Trac shocks and struts. They ride well and have a good, long life. Many auto parts stores that sell Monroe would recommend Reflex shocks for a pickup, but they ride quite a bit stiffer than the Sensa-Tracs do. The Reflex shocks will last forever, though, but I prefer a softer ride in a small pickup.

Here’s a tip for removing the old ones: don’t worry about saving them. In a case like this, sometimes removal does not necessarily have to be the reverse of installation. Rather than trying to remove the nut from the top of the shocks, try breaking them off by tightening them first, or by applying lateral force with a socket and long extension. They are old enough that they will probably break readily, and this will save you a lot of time. If you break them off, you can have them in and out in under 20 minutes, five minutes for the pair if you’ve done them before and are working in a shop. Just don’t apply this principle to the two bolts attaching them to the lower control arm.

I’m in agreement about the Monroe Sensa-Trac shocks. After using a number of them over the years on various applications I’ve never had a problem with any of them.

You refer to those 150 dollar shocks/struts and those are likely some high end unit like Bilstein.
Just my opinion but I think things like that are way overrated. I’ve been involved in installing some pricy Bilsteins and a few others over the years and it’s always led to problems when those high dollar shocks or struts failed within 2 weeks or 2 months.

The customer then gets mad because they just KNOW that it’s an installer caused problem and refuse to believe that a high end name like Bilstein could go belly-up so quickly.

So are you guys saying that the Monroe sensa-track are worth the extra money? The ones I was looking at were Gabriel Gaurdian. I looked online, and I didn’t find any horrible reviews; the Monroe got stellar reviews though. For the record I will not be off-roading with this truck; I just want a decent ride for cheap. So, I’m inclined to take your recommendations if the price difference isn’t too much (I’ll look it up).

@Mark - Thanks for the tip on the top bolts. I will be doing this parking lot style, so any speedy tips that help me get out from under the truck sooner are appreciated.

I prefer to buy lifetime warranted shocks so that if one fails, you are out only labor.

Me too.

Since you are a college student, and cheap does nothing but help you in the long run right now in your life, but the least expensive shocks you can find that have a lifetime warranty, IF you plan on keeping the truck for longer than the warranties on the other less expensive shocks last for.

I wouldn’t worry about ride quality so much, because you’re young, and can put up with whatever you get for that price range for a while. While the sensa trac shocks might be fine for people who don’t mind a nice floaty disconnected ride on a Toyota Camry, the same probably isn’t desired in a small pickup truck.


So thanks for the advice everyone. I ended up getting Monroe-Matic Plus Shocks. They were $1 more and in stock; I didn’t feel like waiting to save $2.

Anyway, looking at the new shocks, the flat spot to hold the shaft from rotating is on the top of the shaft. My service manual says to torque the upper nut (that compresses the rubber grommet) to 106 in lb. How am I supposed to use my torque wrench if I need to hold the shaft above where the socket goes?

There may be a simple answer, but I haven’t been able to think of it.


“At this point I have no reason to believe otherwise, but I like to nip things in the butt.”


I wouldn’t be too terribly worried about the torque spec for the top nut. As long as it’s tight enough not to come loose and make noise, it’s tight enough. If you still want to use a torque wrench, you can grasp the upper body of the shock absorber with a strap wrench to keep it from spinning while tightening the nut.