Shocks vs. Struts vs. Coilovers
June 17, 2021
If you’ve ever had a conversation about your truck’s suspension, you may have heard the terms shocks, struts, and coilovers. But what the hell are the differences? Don’t they all just absorb shock? Whether you’re doing routine suspension maintenance or looking to make some upgrades, these three device names are probably going to be brought up during that process. Let’s take a look at the difference between shocks, struts, and coilovers!
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Remember, all of them are technically shock absorbers. But the shock device we’re referring to specifically in this case is the part that absorbs the “shock” or feedback that comes from the energy of a truck hitting the ground. The shocks on your setup are going to keep your tires on the ground and minimize how wobbly your ride feels by controlling spring movement. Shocks are an important part of delivering a good ride quality and ensuring safety, though your truck will drive with worn shocks or without them altogether. This is pretty dangerous because your shocks can affect your braking, making it longer for your truck to come to a complete stop. Besides braking, shocks are critical for safe steering and proper handling as well. Another tip, if you’re not into wearing out your tires at a faster rate than normal, having maintained shocks will help in the treadwear department!
The components of a shock include a piston, a coil, and hydraulic fluid. When your truck needs to absorb shock from a pothole, for example, that energy starts a cycle where the piston exerts pressure on the hydraulic fluid in the device. The fluid is used to “slow down” the coil in the device, allowing it to relax back into its original place. This is the process that makes it so you don’t feel like there’s an earthquake happening underneath your truck when you’re driving fast or on uneven ground.
Struts, like shock absorbers, also serve the purpose of dampening forces from the road. However, unlike shock absorbers, struts are a structural part of a suspension system. It integrates parts like the coil spring, spring seats, shocks, strut bearing, and steering knuckle into one, compact place.
Along with its shock absorbing duties, struts serve as dual-purpose. Struts support the truck’s weight while it's moving in order to adapt to the road conditions that shocks will need to absorb the feedback from.
They hold the coil springs, which are the reason the truck’s weight is supported. Without struts and the coil springs, your truck can’t drive, as there won’t be a place for the coil springs to fit, and in turn support the weight of the truck. In terms of the truck’s ability to pivot, struts connect the upper bearing to the lower ball joint, which allows you to actually turn a vehicle.
Here are a few signs that your shocks and struts are wearing down and to get them changed:
- Tires are wearing down at a higher rate than usual
- Truck starts “shaking” when driving fast
- Ride quality becomes noticeably bumpier
- Leaking fluids
- Dip in MPGs
- Difficulty braking
Even if you may not be experiencing these issues, it's good practice to replace your shocks and struts around the 50,000 mile mark.
The term coilover comes from the “coil spring over shock absorber.” A coilover is most commonly found on trucks that are performance-level and have a need for certain height and dampening requirements. People like coilovers if they’re interested in lifting their truck and putting bigger wheels and tires on their setup.
They’re similar to struts in the sense that they house coil springs and dampen with shocks, but in coilovers, it’s all a single unit. Instead of having separate shocks and struts to get the job done, a coilover is like a 3-in-1 device for shock absorption and truck support that also allows you to adjust ride height.
In the aftermarket world, there are options for coilover kits that are designed to best suit your truck and lifestyle. Whether you’re looking for a stiffer ride, a good off-road setup, or some extra height, there are different coilover kit options and applications to help you get there.
In the end, if you’re someone who wants to maintain stock height and ride quality, you’re probably going to want to go the OEM shocks and struts route when getting your suspension maintenance. But for a fun height upgrade, coilovers are the way to go for convenience reasons because as a single unit, you won’t have to worry about adjusting your truck’s springs, mounts, and struts during the process.
Looking to upgrade your suspension? Remember, we offer as low as 0% APR for those who qualify, so you can build now and pay later!