simply oversized shock absorbers
A strut performs the same ride control functions as a shock
absorber, but it is also an integral part of the suspension
rather than an add-on component.
On most strut suspensions (except some late model Honda
applications that have "wishbone" suspensions), the struts
replace the upper control arms and ball joints.
The 1986 Honda Accord has a rear double-wishbone suspension.
The strut plays no role in wheel alignment in this
arrangement, serving only to carry the vehicle's weight and
to dampen shocks.
Struts serve as the steering pivots and on most applications
(except certain Ford suspensions like the Mustang and
T-Bird), they also carry the springs. On some rear-wheel
drive strut suspensions, the wheel spindles are part of the
front struts (which adds to their cost). The same is true on
some front-wheel drive rear strut applications.
Another important difference between struts and shocks is
that struts also affect wheel alignment, whereas shocks do
not. A bent strut or a mislocated strut tower can cause tire
wear and steering pull problems.
Many struts are also rebuildable. On many import cars, the
struts have an internal cartridge or wet elements that can
be replaced by unbolting the upper strut mount, swinging the
strut out from under the fender, disassembling the upper
strut components, and replacing the internal components with
a new cartridge.
On most domestic applications, however, the entire strut
must be replaced. Replacement options include both
nonpressurized and gas pressurized versions, the latter
offering all the same benefits as gas shocks.
One often overlooked strut component that usually needs
attention is the upper bearing plate that sits atop the
strut. This plate supports the weight of the vehicle and
serves as the upper pivot point for steering. If corroded or
worn, it can make noise, increase steering stiffness and
reduce steering returnability.
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