The idea of riding along on top of a springy, comfy carriage isn’t new. In fact, the concept of suspension pre-dates the automobile. Even in the early days of the ancient Egyptians, they greatly appreciated being able to glide around smoothly on top of their leaf-spring-equipped chariots. Yet, the suspension is one of those checklist items that we don’t really think much of any time our car gets sent to a workshop. So, the thought of suspension repair costs doesn’t often come to mind.
But when it does, you’re going to need to sit down for this one. Suspension, although it might appear to be quite simple from a glance, is among the most expensive repairs you might ever have to plan out a fix for. Heavens forbid, you have a more modern car equipped with actively controlled dampers or air suspension. Clearly then, there’s a lot more to a set of springs on your car than just cushioning your buttocks against potholes.
Still, you shouldn’t despair just yet. Although it can cost a very pretty penny when things go awry, suspension repair costs needn’t be worth a mortgage. Your car’s suspension is a very complex system with many different parts. Each has its own role to play to make your suspension work. If you’re lucky enough, it might just be one of those parts that need fixing. So, how much are suspension repair costs, and what do I need to do now? Well, read along our guide to learn more.
Why does your car have suspension?
To explain that, we’ll need to know more about what suspension is. Your car’s suspension is a very intricate item that is not just a singular part, but multiple different parts working together. We’ll learn more about the more important – and frequently repaired – components further down in our suspension repair costs guide. For now, we can say that a car’s suspension wouldn’t be able to work well even when just one of them goes out of commission.
In summary, a car’s suspension connects a car’s body or frame to the wheels. It thus allows motion and energy to pass effectively on between them. The suspension has two main functions. Firstly, it must be able to maintain road handling. In other words, the suspension needs to make sure the car can “stick” or hold traction onto the ground as much as possible. The tension of the suspension will do its best to keep your tires’ contact patch with the ground.
The effect is not only being able to transfer kinetic energy to move the car but to make sure the car handles well. Secondly, your car’s suspension will ensure your ride quality and comfort by dampening out any discomfort. Without suspension, you’d be able to feel every single crack, bump, or the tiniest of pebbles that you’d drive over. More to that, making sure your car doesn’t jolt or bounce around too much would prevent your car’s many moving parts from getting dislodged or damaged.
What are the main components of a car’s suspension that you need to know?
So then, your suspension has a lot of very important responsibilities. It’s for that reason why some of those suspension bits and pieces, such as shock, struts, and springs have been designed to last for a long time. As for the shocks and struts, they can last for up to 10 years if you’re always driving on smooth and even surfaces. Although for most people, you’re probably going to need a repair or a replacement of your suspension way before that 10-year mark.
As your suspension sits in the undercarriage of your car, it is left constantly exposed to the elements as you’re driving. Not only will your car’s suspension need to worry about softening out every single speed hump and pothole on the road, but it also gets hit by all kinds of debris. Most manufacturers recommend that owners have their suspensions checked out every 40,000 to 60,000 miles.
The main component of a car’s suspension is the spring. The springs are what set a car’s ride height, as well as position the wheels where they need the be. But there’s so much more to a car’s suspension than just springs. Here are some of the more common and expensive parts for suspension repair costs that you need to worry about…
1. Shocks (or shock absorbers) and struts
They both perform similar functions, in that they help to cushion your car. As the name suggests, they dampen out any “shock” that your car might come across, like driving into a pothole. The difference here is that struts are structural components of your car. Either way, shocks and structs and cylindrical tubes filled with fluids to maintain a set hydraulic pressure. It’s those hydraulics that softens out all the impact.
The most common issue with shocks or struts is the hydraulic fluids leaking. This can happen as cracks start to appear, or if the seals are worn down after continuous wear and tear. Once your shock absorbers start leaking, they’ll no longer work effectively at cushioning your car against any imperfections in the road. This, eventually, will lead to premature wearing out other stressed parts of your car’s suspension.
2. Control arms and ball joints
Control arms are hinged links that basically connect your car’s wheels (and the rest of the suspension) to the chassis. They are then linked to the steering system with a set of ball joints, which also help with steering around smoothly. Control arms and ball joints are key stress points within your car’s suspension. What this means, is that they undergo an immense amount of strain.
As such, the result here is that both the control arms and ball joints need replacing more often than most other parts of your car’s suspension. Control arm bushings can also wear out, or bend over time. This is more of a prevalent problem with front-engine cars, as the power and steering have to both go through to the front wheels. Meanwhile, ball joints will inevitably fail after a while.
3. Suspension bushings
Here’s another part of your car is making sure the suspension can work seamlessly with one another. Bushings are often used as padding or insulators between the components that make up your car’s suspension. For the most part, the suspension bushings help to soften down any noise, friction, and excess vibrations.
But its most important role is shielding the metal parts of your suspension from rubbing against one another. Over time, suspension bushings can get worn and crack, or tear through. When this happens, the metal parts of your car’s suspension may start to scrape against other metal parts. Overall, this will monumentally increase the rate of wear and tear across your entire suspension setup.
4. Sway bar and sway bar bushings
As you’re driving along across uneven road surfaces, this will put a lot of strain on the frame of your car. In some cases, that stress might be unevenly spread. When this happens, some areas of your car’s structure go through more pressure than others. This isn’t a good thing as you’re likely trying to make sure your car’s in tip-top shape. Imagine trying to warp a toy car with your bare hands. Alternatively, your car might learn too much on one side or the other.
The suspension’s sway bar counteracts this. The sway bar’s main function is to evenly spread out forces across your car. This will also mean that it puts force in the opposite ends of your car if it’s leaning too far in one way. For example, the sway bar will balance out the stress if one wheel has gone into a deep pothole, while the rest are still on the road. After a while, the sway bars and their bushings will wear out.
What are the symptoms that you need to know for suspension repair costs?
We’ve now discovered that it’s extremely critical – perhaps more so than many would imagine – that your car’s suspension is able to work properly. That said, how can you notice if something is amiss? How can you tell when your car needs a suspension check-up? Thankfully, there are some very clear tell-tale signs that you can notice if your car’s suspension is on its way out. Here are some of the most common examples, for our suspension repair costs guide…
1. A lot of body roll while turning
The term “body roll” is used to describe how much your car leans when it’s turning. Excessive body roll can be summarised as the feeling as though your car is about to tip over and fall on its side. If you’re experiencing this scary leaning too far left or right, it’s a sign that your car is having suspension problems. Should you be driving a much taller vehicle, like an SUV, it could tip over under heavy turning at steep gradients. Suffice to say, this can make any car dangerous to drive.
At the very least, you can at least notice that your car is leaning to one side when it’s parked on a flat surface. It might be that your car is sitting lower on one side than the other. Often, body roll and leaning problems are blamed on worn-out shocks, struts, or springs. There is a good way to check if this is true. Lean down, and have a gander at your car’s suspension. If you notice that your car’s shocks or struts are greasy or oily, then you’ve just sprung a leak.
2. A very unusually bouncy ride
A good suspension should always keep your car steady and compose, even when you’re driving on the most unforgiving surfaces in the world. So, you shouldn’t feel like you’re sitting in a mobile bouncy castle. If your car is bouncing around excessively every time you drive over a fairly small speed-hump or pothole, then this is another sign of suspension failure. That is unless your car is intentionally designed to be a low-rider.
Other than bouncing around up and down, you might also be bouncing front- and backward. You might feel that your car is dipping or diving nose-first as you hit the brake pedal. On the flip side, you can feel your car squatting hard while under acceleration. Once again, we can often point the finger at worn-out shocks, struts, or the suspension springs themselves. Just like the previous symptom, this could indicate that big suspension repair costs are on the way.
You can actually check this out for yourself with a quick “bounce test“. With your car safely in “Park”, go to the front and press down on the hood with your entire body weight. Release, and now count how many times your car bounces. You can then repeat this same step on the back of your car, by pressing down on the trunk. If your car is bouncing more than 2 or 3 times after you release, then you have a worn suspension.
3. Hearing any odd noises while driving
Your car’s suspension shouldn’t be making any sort of noises, especially not like an old mattress. Should you happen to hear any squeaking, knocking, or clunking sounds, then this might be another clear sign of suspension damage. You can hear this especially after driving over bumps or potholes.
Usually, we can narrow this down to being a fault with worn-out suspension bushings. They might’ve already worn down, and are thus letting your suspension components rub against each other. This is what’s causing that unpleasant metal-on-metal touching sounds. Otherwise, it might also be that your control arms or ball joints have failed. This is accompanied by a sharper, more metallic ‘clunk’.
4. Uneven tread wear on your tires
If your car suspension is failing, it will no doubt cause an uneven amount of stress to be put on your car, as we learned earlier in our suspension repair costs guide. So, where else can you notice this best other than on the tires? If your car’s suspension is nearing the end of its usable life, it’ll put more pressure on one side or a set of tires more than others. You can then check your car’s tire treads for uneven wear.
Be wary that uneven wear might not appear across the entire surface of the tire. It might just show itself along the inner or outer walls, for example. If one or more tires are balder than the others, then this one other clear symptom that you’ll need to consider a check-up of your car’s suspension. Or, if you couldn’t notice this visually, you’ll find out sooner or later as you’re frequently needing to change tires.
5. Car drifting to one side or vibrations from the steering wheel
As your car’s suspension is interconnected with the steering system, you can naturally start to notice signs of suspension failure through the steering wheel. So, pay close attention to the steering feedback you’re getting. You might feel that there are a bit more vibrations through the wheel than usual. Especially take note of how the steering wheel feels when you’re going over a bump.
This can point us towards a failing control arm or ball joint. More seriously, a worn or faulty suspension can lead to your car drifting or pulling itself to one side. In the context of suspension problems, this is often caused by worn-out shocks. This happens as they can no longer maintain your car’s balance. Otherwise, it might be an even bigger problem in your car’s steering.
Could you ignore these suspension repair costs and keep on driving?
However, you might, “Could I ignore needing to pay for any suspension repair costs and just keep on driving?” I mean, surely things aren’t that bad, right? In a word… No, you shouldn’t be driving a car with a worn-out or faulty suspension, if you’ve noticed any of the symptoms that we mentioned earlier. Granted, there are some acceptable exceptions, like knowing you have suspension troubles and need to have it sent for a fix.
In that case, it might be safe enough to drive it to the workshop a few miles down the road. In any other situation, just call up a tow truck. Driving a car with a failing suspension is, for a start, very hazardous. Your car can pull away to one side, or you might have some difficulty steering. Moreover, your car might not be able to maintain good traction to the road’s surface. You can imagine then, that this is a great recipe for a terrible accident. Other than danger, a faulty suspension may also cause the rest of the suspension to wear out quicker.
Just because your car has a faulty suspension, doesn’t mean that you have to bear suspension repair costs for every single part. It could just be that one or a few components – like the shocks or ball joints – needing a replacement. But keep on driving for long enough, and it’ll put a lot more strain on those parts of your car’s suspension that are actually healthy. In the end, you’ll more likely need to replace more of your suspension, if not the entire system.
How much are the suspension repair costs that you need to worry about?
So yeah, we definitely don’t recommend driving a car with a poorly suspension. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it’s incredibly dangerous to your life and for your wallet. But you’ve endured our talks for long enough. “How much are suspension repair costs?”, I can hear you asking with great trepidation. On average, suspension repair costs can range anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. Before you stress out, know that this price tag goes for the entire suspension system.
This is since a lot of suspension problems necessitate replacing the entire unit completely. But this might not always be the case for you. If we break it down individually, replacing the shocks and struts can cost anywhere from just $200 to $1,500. Remember, this price is for a whole set; four shocks and struts, one for each wheel. You can save some money by going for refurbished or do-it-yourself shocks and struts kits, which average around $250 to $350 for a whole set.
If you have a more expensive or complex vehicle, like sports cars or heavy-duty trucks, then expect the replacement cost for a set of shocks and struts to fall between $2,000 to $5,000. As for the control arms and ball joints, a set of four can cost anywhere from $350 to upwards of $2,000 for a full replacement. Again, refurbished or DIY kits can be found for less than $400. There are some additional costs to consider here as well, like a proper wheel alignment which may cost anywhere from $20 to $400.
Which factors do you need to bear in mind for suspension repair costs?
We can’t pinpoint how much suspension repair costs are going to be like for you and your car in particular. There are just far too many variables to consider. If you’d like to find a more precise quote, you can always call up your local dealership or workshop to ask. Alternatively, there are loads of sites such as ClickMechanic, AutoMD, AutoButler, Fixter, YourMechanic, Wrench, RepairPal, WhoCanFixMyCar, AutoGuru, and more where you can find quotes instantly online.
There are a large number of things to consider when counting up suspension repair costs. The make and model of your car is a great start. Higher performant vehicles or luxury cars will likely be more expensive. Then, we’ll also need to assess how badly the damage is on your suspension. If there’s a lot of rust underneath your car, it can make the repair process much harder. In turn, it’ll take more hours for a fix to be done, where you’ll need to pay more for labor costs.
On average, suspension fixes can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. Next up, you’ll need to understand more about your suspension itself. Newer or higher-end cars have more advanced forms of air suspension. These are very expensive to replace, and could net you a loss of several thousand dollars for every corner! Although, you might still have warranty or insurance coverage to compensate for suspension repairs. So do check out that option too, if you could.
Suspension repair costs – Conclusion
There you have it, everything you need to know about suspension repair costs. If there’s one thing we can learn here, is that your car’s suspension can get very, very expensive to fix when things go wrong. But at least there are some ways you can prevent that from happening, or to try and slow down the rate of wear and tear. Be wary of how much load and stress you’re putting on your car. Moving that giant IKEA kitchen set might not always be a good idea.
Try to be a bit more modest when you’re driving, and be attentive to the surface of the road. Avoid potholes or too many speed humps if you can. And remember that you’re not driving a rally car – or least most people aren’t, anyway – so don’t go hooning about on those gravel farm tracks. But other than that, your car’s suspension doesn’t ask much of you. If you take good care of it, you might never have to bear any big suspension repair costs… At least not too frequently.