Shocks and Struts Continued: A Strut Guide for the Rest of Us

Shocks & Struts

More than Just Springs: a Guide to Suspensions

If you’re in the market for some new shocks and struts, then you have probably asked yourself either what is the difference or isn’t a shock just a large spring? Well no, there are some large differences between the two, and I’m here to give you the lowdown. Check out this sweet pic featuring a Fox decal and a number of their suspension related products, including shocks/struts. 

Shocks & Struts: Do I have them both?

First things first, a vehicle will have either a shock or strut at each wheel, but not both. For almost all vehicles it will consist of struts on the front suspension and shocks on the rear suspension. Both help control vehicle height overall and help to make the ride as comfortable as possible, but how they work and what each function is are very different.

Quick pictureRancho QuickLift Struts and Shocks guide to help you understand the difference between shocks and struts: to your right or below, you'll see a set of Rancho shocks and struts. To the uninformed though, you may not know which is which. I know when I bought my first truck, I had no idea. I would have thought for sure that those cool big springy things were my shocks. Turns out, I didn't know jack, as those black coiled springs are the struts. The smaller, red cased accordion-like parts are your shocks. Now you can probably identify the difference in look at least, but you still need to know how each is different from the other and what makes them work. Read on to become an expert in suspension related shocks and struts.

All About Shocks

Let’s start with the shocks. Catching some Air with Fox Shocks and StrutsThe shock absorber on a vehicle has only one job, and that is to keep the vehicle from bouncing. Most shock absorbers that we sell, like Bilstein, Fox, or Skyjacker, have a single tubular design. (No, not tubular like surfing lingo, but as in mono tube meaning single tube design.) Most mono tube shocks on their base level are a nitrogen charged chamber that helps expel energy when the shock is compressed with the help of a nitrogen based gas. Some mono tube shocks have hydraulic or oil within them to help compensate with compression, but we’ll get to that in a second. Another type of shock absorber are the reservoir style. These work with hydraulic fluid to manage the compression of the shocks through a heat transfer within the tube. It isn't rocket science, so think of it this way. You’re riding down the road, and with each and every bump you hit, your shocks on your vehicle compress. This generates heat (building up friction) from the movement of the piston within the tube. To compensate for the heat and movement, the hydraulic fluid cools the piston and expels the energy from the bump that compressed the shock. Simple right? On most trucks, the shocks usually are working in tandem with the leaf springs; I’d get into details about them, but maybe that is for another article. Typically you should inspect your shocks after the first 50,000 miles and again at every 10-15,000 miles after that. A few signs that you might need some replacement shocks are if you’re experiencing body roll in your vehicle, leaking hydraulic fluid from the reservoirs, or simply do a bounce check on your vehicle. (Don't make it weird, just roll with me here.) Simply bounce the corners of your vehicle up and down. If they don't come right back to true after a good bounce, then you may be needing some new shocks in the near future.

Everything Struts

Now that we’ve covered the basics on shocks, time to dive into the more complicated matter of struts. Struts serve more of a purpose than just righting the ship. Struts are actually an integral part of the suspension and help control vehicle steering and greatly control alignment angles of your vehicle. The alignment, otherwise known as your cast and camber, can usually be adjusted on your vehicle's struts and keep in mind when replacing these that you will normally need a realignment to make sure everything is right in the world when driving. Otherwise you may end up in some dire straights if you lose control of your vehicle because the alignment is off. 

Rancho QuickLift Struts

The struts on your vehicle are typically on the front end suspension like I mentioned before. Unlike your shocks, struts consist of a few different parts:

  1. The strut body (inner strut system)
  2. The shock boot or bumpstop
  3. The upper strut mount
  4. The coil spring
  5. The spring seat

So basically, if it's got a coil spring on the outside of it, it's probably a strut. Easy, right? Sure. Now even though the strut controls the alignment, it also has a dampening purpose just as the shocks do. After all, the inside of most struts contains a dampener or shock system to help control sway and bounce of the vehicle.

Struts & Shocks: Upkeep & Upgrade

RegardlessFox again this time rocking BF Goodrich of what your vehicle has--just struts, only shocks, or (commonly) both--shocks and struts are integral parts of your ride’s suspension that should be maintained and replaced or upgraded as necessary. The more punishment you put your vehicle through on the reg, the more often these elements should be inspected. To make sure you have the right struts/shocks for your off-road monster, hit up the Midwest Aftermarket team. Give us a call or start browsing now online.

Suspension Upgrade Time?

Now for the Strut Guide

If you’ve managed to slog through the entire Shock Guide section, including all the examples, and the Science behind the Shocks, then you really are a trooper and you must really be into Shocks.

If you haven’t read that part, are you finish up with section, you’ll likely want to go back because I’ve got some very interesting news for you:

Struts are just Shocks with some added parts.

I know,The QuickLift in Action: Rancho style right? Struts typically are found near the front two wheels of any 2WD vehicle. They help to stabilize the weight of the engine, absorb bumps and vibrations just like shock absorbers, and they also aid in steering and handling control. So Struts are kinda like Shocks on Steroids.

This doesn’t mean you need Struts at all four wheels though. Shocks will do just fine as long as you don’t need to turn that wheel via steering. If you want something like a Strut though at your back wheels, check out CoilOvers.

What is a Strut?

What is the difference between a Strut and a Shock?

A Strut is really just a Shock Absorber plus the following additional items that mostly aid in turning your wheel and supporting the extra weight at the front end of your vehicle, including the engine and the momentum of a sudden stop:

Coil Springs

The Spring Seat they sit on

A Strut Bearing (which lets the Strut pivot or turn)

And a Steering Knuckle

You might imagine a Strut as a highly specialized Shock absorber with springs included.

The Struts Fox Performance Strutsneeds to include a Strut Bearing at the top and a Steering Knuckle so that you can turn your wheels. If your vehicle doesn’t have this at the front end, chances are you have an upper control rod and assembly instead which mirrors the lower control rod and assembly that the Strut would normally attach into. In this rare case, you would likely have regular Shock Absorbers at all four wheels.

Most vehicles though have Struts up front and Shocks at the back.

Since Struts are just highly specialized shocks with a bit of extra equipment, this section of the guide is going to be… pretty slim. All the same principles that apply to the Shock Absorbers above apply to the Struts too.

The Springs help some to absorb and slow down the momentum of any up and down movement. Of course, you can add in CoilOver Springs to many Shock Absorbers too that we discussed above.

This is also why I included many coilovers and actual images of Struts above.

So to make this pretty quick and painless, if you are going with a particular Shock at the back end, say a Rancho RS7000MT, your best bet is to go with the equivalent Strut at the front end.

Badda-bing. Badda-boom.

Typically, if Bilstein Coilover Strutsyou are replacing a pair of struts it is either because they’ve worn out, which can happen roughly after 50,000 miles up to 100,000 miles. You might also replace shocks or struts if they’ve been damaged (duh!) and are leaking oil or Nitrogen or both.

The other reason to replace your struts if if you are Lifting your truck or Jeep. We highly recommend that if this is the case, you check out our Lift Kit section for discounted bundles of both shocks and struts and everything else you need to Lift your vehicle.

If you just need some Strut replacements, both Skyjacker and Rancho offer some great options. If you’re looking for a full Lift kit though, start in that section of our website.

If you are just interested in Leveling your vehicle though, while we have plenty of kits in that section of our site too, there is another option you might find above: Rancho’s QuickLift Struts.

Rancho QuickLift

These babies are basically just full strut replacements from bearings and boots all the way down to the steering arm connection. In the sake of being thorough, here’s a full breakdown diagram style:

As you can see, the Rancho QuickLift includes all the aspects of a normal strut:

  1. The strut body (inner strut system)
  2. The shock boot or bumpstop
  3. The upper strut mount
  4. The coil spring
  5. The spring seat

What Diagram of a Strut (Rancho QuickLift again!)makes Rancho’s strut so special, is that it adds some Lift. The exact amount varies depending on your make and model, but what Rancho has basically given you is the option to Level your Truck or Jeep using just a couple of Struts--specially Rancho QuickLift Struts--instead of spaces and a full Leveling Kit.

For more info on Leveling Kits, see our guide to Leveling. Also note that many customers find that the increase in height they get from just a Leveling Kit or even Rancho’s QuickLift struts doesn’t end up being substantial enough for them. If you are concerned mostly about increasing your ride height, we highly recommend you head on our to our Lift Kit page and check out our guide to Lifting your Truck. Most likely this is the kind of kit you need to purchase and install to get the effect you’re looking for.

Time to Upgrade your Shocks and Struts

We Jeeps shocks and struts FTW!sincerely hope you’ve found our Ultimate Guide to Truck and Jeep Shocks and Struts useful. If you still have any questions, give us a call or hit us up via Live Chat. Our customer service parts experts are standing by to help you get the product you need at the lowest price on the Interwebs. Midwest Aftermarket only carries the best of the best when it comes to Shocks and Struts. So you can trust that you are getting quality products when you order from us. We always include free shipping and free returns to anywhere in the lower 48 States in the US. Hope know you’re going to love your new suspension upgrades. Let us help you get started on upgrading your Shocks and Struts today.

Midwest Aftermarket's collection of shocks, struts, tuners, throttle response controllers, and much more includes all the leading styles and brands. Midwest Aftermarket is the #1 online retailer for aftermarket truck and Jeep accessories, selling products at the lowest prices and providing the best customer service in the industry. With the goal to provide the highest quality product with the fastest shipping at affordable prices, look no further for your vehicle’s aftermarket accessories. From ATV’s to Jeep-fanatics to F150’s or Chevy Silverado’s, Midwest Aftermarket will give you the customer support you deserve.