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Why Is My Ride So Rough?

Hi there,
I have a 1997 Subaru Legacy Outback 5-spd with 160,000 miles on it. I replaced the struts, strut mounts, and tires just this last fall. I was anticipating a great improvement to the quality and smoothness of my ride yet, several months later I have still not experienced any sort of improvement. It even might be slightly worse. Any time I go over any kind of bump in the road, it feels like my car is getting punched from underneath. There is little to none absorption it feels like. And I here a loud “clunk, clunk” when accidentally going over a moderate sized pot hole.
I initially thought that my springs were worn out, but I have been told on several accounts that springs do not wear out.
Thanks for the help!

A 1997 car is 19 years old and the suspension has probably gone soft and mushy by then. Installing new everything would give the car a harder ride, like when it was new.

The only other explanation I have is that they installed the wrong components, not very likely in a special vehicle like your Outback.

Check the bushings on your suspension and the wheel bearings.

Agree with above and also check your tire pressures.

Who knows what the original ride on your car was like. Also, some aftermarket replacement parts are designed to give a stiffer ride.

The valving in the new struts might be defective.

Usually this is seen when a vehicle is lifted with old struts for a different repair and then when the vehicle is placed back on the ground. The valving in the strut/shock gets messed up and is very stiff.

So the strut spring can’t be the problem, and the upper strut mount/bearing can’t be the problem, so the problem must be with the struts.


probably your tires, noticed the same thing when switching from Michelin to bf godrich.

I presume you replaced the struts on all four wheels, right? If not, it could be the other two you didn’t replace that are causing the problem. If not that … hmm …

Double check the tire pressures. Maybe they are overinflated. If it isn’t that, I concur w/Tester’s guess above, something wrong w/ the new struts.

If they didn’t replace the rubber pads that sit between the top of the strut and the bottom of the tower, that can cause this.

Thanks for the help guys.
To answer a few of your questions, I do keep up on my tire pressure, I purchased Michelin tires, and I did replace all 4 at the same time.
I have wondered about replacing the wheel bearings…

Were they factory struts? You might need factory struts for a decent ride.

Were they factory struts? You might need factory struts for a decent ride.

I’ve never heard of good aftermarket struts/shockis made to the same OEM specs NOT giving a good or better ride.

Wheel bearings have no effect on roughness or smoothness of the suspension - except in those moments just before the wheel falls off. If there is a bad wheel bearing, it needs to be replaced for the sake of safety, but doing so will not change the car’s ride.

Are your tires set at the pressure recommended for your car? These pressures are usually on a sticker in the driver’s door jamb or the glove compartment door. They are never higher, and usually a lot lower, than the max PSI on the tire itself.

I replaced them with Monroe OEM Spectrums, which based on countless reviews, are supposedly high quality.

I have not checked the exact tire pressure for my car… Will do!

My guess (and that’s all it is, a guess) is that your old shocks gradually degraded over the years, and you became used to a softer and softer ride. Now when the ride is restored to it’s previous stiffness, you feel it as rough.

Added to that is that the new shocks may be a lot stiffer than the originals. “high quality reviews” could mean that. They are NOT OEM shocks.

Have you tried the push-on-the-bumper test? Since the problem seems so noticeable to you, maybe that test could be diagnostic. Does the car jiggle around like jello for 5 seconds or more after you push down hard on the bumper? If so, that’s a problem. Or alternatively, is it really difficult to press down on the bumper, and when you let go it pops back into position really fast? That could be a problem too Or is it reasonably easy to press down on the bumper, and afterward the bumper returns to its normal height within a second or two, gently, and without much in the way of overshoot? The latter is what is supposed to happen.

Monroe OEM Spectrums, which based on countless reviews, are supposedly high quality

No, Monroe makes cheap replacements that are designed to fit as many cars with a single part number as they can. So some may end up much firmer than factory. The customer should be able to really feel that he has new struts, right? To support my comment, those Monroes are the cheapest available on and fit the Impreza as well.

FWIW, only about 30% of people would feel much if any difference at all, 33% couldn’t tell if the suspension was welded up solid and 33% would be sensitive enough to feel what you are feeling.

I’m guessing @Mustangman is correct. The symptoms sounds like the part used may do the job, but might not be optimally tuned to the other parts of the vehicle’s suspension system. Since the installation is completed already, absent any indications of a safety problem, maybe a wait and see approach is the best path. The OP may discover the ride quality improves with time.