Do Cars Have Both Shocks & Struts? Differences Explained

If you are familiar with a car’s suspension system, you know “shocks” and “struts” are not alien. As a matter of fact, you know them as shock absorbers.

However, while their functions vary, car owners still get confused about whether they mean the same thing or are different.

Find out if vehicles have both shocks and struts in this article.

Are shocks and struts the same thing?

Shocks and Struts are not the same things. Every vehicle’s wheel has either one of them, but never the two at the same time.

For instance, the rear wheels could have shocks, and the front wheels have struts.

What’s the difference between a shock and strut?

Shock absorbers and struts are part of a vehicle’s suspension system and can both dampen coil spring oscillations and enhance ride control. 

However, they have their individual functions, which explains the difference between them.

Shock absorbers

It consists of hydraulic components that absorb impact and limit the movement triggered by the vehicle’s springs.

It works the same way as an oil pump – when you encounter a bump, the application of pressure allows the forcing through of hydraulic fluid or gas into some holes and this system does much to weaken the force of such a bump.

The impact absorption by these springs is one from damaged, bumpy, or rocky roads. Thus, the shocks give you good control over your car for better ride quality.


It is structural support for a vehicle’s steering and suspension system. It is a pivot point for the steering system and often comes with coil springs.

A strut combines a shock absorber and a spring to dampen jolts and improve a vehicle’s steering and enable wheel alignment.

The strut assembly is stronger than shocks because of its weighty components.

Do all cars have shocks and struts?

Most modern vehicles have struts on the rear axle and shocks on the front axle. However, that doesn’t mean you will find struts in all cars.

First, you have to consider the car’s design to determine if they have or not.

Secondly, your vehicle may use different springs and shocks in the place of struts. There is no better way to know than inspecting/checking your vehicle.

Do you need both struts and shocks?

Ideally, you need either shocks or struts to dampen the movement of your wheels to prevent vehicle bounce or swing.

They perform similar tasks; hence, you don’t need both simultaneously.

Do struts and shocks come together?

No, they don’t.

A vehicle will either have a shock or a strut at each wheel but never both.

For instance, you can have shocks at your rear right wheel and struts at your rear left wheel but never at both at the same time.

And if your vehicle is designed with shocks at one end and at the end, you cannot replace shocks with struts and vice-versa. You need to follow the owner’s manual strictly for safety.

Does my car have front shocks or struts?

To determine if your car has shocks or struts, you only need to check.

Although every car model has different ways their shocks and struts appear; you can still tell them apart.

Shocks are mounted vertically behind the tires. They look like a coil spring or pumping mechanism.

On the other hand, Struts are mounted horizontally and can be quite difficult to see. They are often located at the wheel extensions and keep the axle off the ground.

Today’s vehicles come with user manuals so you can check if it comes with shocks or struts.

Do shocks and struts need to be replaced at the same time?

There is literally no situation that warrants you replacing your shocks and struts at the same time.

However, some car owners love to do that because they believe the two safety systems may wear down at the same rate.

Notwithstanding, if you wish to have your shocks or struts replaced, you should do it in pairs. That means, as you replace one axle, you should look for the other (i.e., front axle and rear axle).

How do you know when your shocks and struts need replacing? – Bad or Worn shocks Symptoms

If your car has bad shocks or a strut problem, there are some warning signs that will let you know you need to replace them.

The signs are:

1. Instability

One of the significant ways to know you need new shocks or struts is if you are experiencing problems with stability.

Shocks and struts were designed with a stopping power so you don’t lose control while driving. However, if they become worn or damaged, it would be difficult to corner or handle your ride.

In some situations, you could start noticing your wheels are bouncing or you experience a bumpy ride.

Overall, damaged shock absorbers won’t let you get that comfortable ride you’ve always wanted.

2. Rattling Noise

Another way to know you need to have your shocks changed is if you start hearing rattling noise anytime you drive.

It is experienced in only shocks. The reason is that they have a coil spring and suspension parts that are supposed to dampen vibrations and control movement through a feature called bushings.

If the shocks are bad, your vehicle would start producing a rattling noise or a knocking sound, which is an obvious sign.

3. Leaking Fluid

If your shock absorber is experiencing a fluid leak, that is another clear sign that it is bad and needs to be replaced.

If the shock is functioning properly, it provides enough hydraulic fluid to dampen force from rough roads.

However, if there is oil on the sides or an oily patch on the ground, your shocks won’t be up for proper functioning and your vehicle will experience handling issues.

4. Uneven Tread Wear

Another way to know there is a problem with the struts is if the tires experience uneven tread wear.

Most times, this situation is associated with other vehicle problems, especially one with the wheels and suspension parts. However, you can also consider the possibility of a bad strut if the tire tread wears unevenly.

If this problem persists, it causes other issues like hydroplaning and automatically affects your driving pattern.

5. Front end Nose Diving

You also start to experience braking problems if your shock absorbers are faulty.

One of many things you will notice is your vehicle nose-diving at the front end. It only happens simply because fluid is leaking through the seals, causing the piston to move unrestricted in the cylinder.

6. Rear Squatting

Another way you know that your vehicle needs new struts or shocks is if the rear side is squatting when hitting a gas pedal.

As the front nose dives, there is an automatic effect on the rear side. The leaking seals cause the rear to squat excessively, making it look like your car is leaning towards one side.

7. Broken Shock Absorber Bushings

Shocks have a feature at their sides – it is called the Bushings. It is the most vulnerable part because it is exposed to atmospheric conditions – even the harshest.

As time goes by, the bushings crack or break from consistent use on the road. When that happens, you will notice it. Broken bushings are unable to cushion the shocks mounted for suspension work.

Sooner or later, your vehicle will start making noise when you drive on rough roads.

8. Vehicle’s suspension system and steering wheel issues

Another thing that definitely says something is wrong with the shocks or struts of your car is a problem with the suspension and the steering wheel.

In this case, the steering linkage that transfers motion from the gear to the upper control arm becomes wobbly. Then, the steering wheel starts vibrating on normal roads.


From this article, you now know that a shock absorber and a strut are not the same things, even if they perform similar functions.

Not all vehicles have struts but for those that do, you should make sure to check them frequently against damage that may affect struts driving.

And if you have to replace these parts, ensure to buy good products from a reliable store or brand. 


Dean Alvarez, TireForge Head Author

Thanks for reading our article! We've written this article with a lot of thought and care. If you're interested in seeing more of our content, please check out our Tires section and find an answer to your questions!

Tire Forge