Are damaged struts a safety hazard, or just a loud, uncomfortable annoyance?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 2000

Dear Tom and Ray:

We have a 1985 Toyota Tercel and have been informed that we need new struts. We have been driving the car in this condition for some time, and it's gotten so bad that
the rear of the car makes a loud thumping noise whenever we hit a bump or a dip in the road. Now we are looking to sell the car. We plan to be honest with potential
buyers and tell them that the struts are in bad shape, but are they a safety hazard, too? A mechanic led me to believe that all that bouncing up and down could even break
the axle. Are we too gullible? -- DJ

TOM: No, DJ. You're not too gullible. Just too cheap! You should have replaced the struts months ago.

RAY: A lot of people think struts only affect ride quality, but bad struts ARE a safety hazard. While a broken axle is unlikely, bad struts (also called shocks) do limit
your ability to stop and turn.

TOM: Here's what happens: When your wheel hits a bump, that wheel gets pushed up and compresses the spring. Now, left to their own devices, these springs would just
uncompress, compress, uncompress, etc., and the car would go bouncing -- boinga-boinga- boinga -- down the road like a basketball.

RAY: Struts are what keep that from happening. They're hydraulic fluid and gas-filled devices that keep the springs from oscillating uncontrollably after an impact.

TOM: As you can imagine, when you have bad struts and the car is bouncing down the highway, your ability to stop and turn is seriously diminished. After all, if you
happen to step on the brakes while the tires are on the upward bounce, rather than down on the ground, you won't have any traction.

RAY: Plus, all of that bouncing ruins the tires, too. So in the interests of honesty, you should probably tell prospective buyers that the car has bad struts AND bad tires.
Oh, and the rear control arms rot away on these cars, so don't forget to mention that, too.

TOM: And when you're all done with the warnings, tell the prospective buyer that you'll pay him $50 to take the car away. And if he looks shocked, tell him you won't
go a penny higher.

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