Steering and Suspension Parts
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Steering and Suspension Parts at 1A Auto
What are the steering and suspension parts and where are they located?
There are a number of parts that connect your wheels to the rest of your vehicle. The suspension, including parts like shocks or struts, control arms, and sway bars, allow the wheels to move relative to the body, smoothing out bumps in the ride. Steering parts, like the steering box or steering rack, tie rods, pitman arms, and center links, move the front wheels (and the rear ones in the very small handful of vehicles with four-wheel-steer) in response to the driver’s input, allowing the driver to steer the vehicle.
Steering and suspension parts obviously are essential to maintaining your handling and your ride. The parts necessary for your steering and suspension will vary from one car to another due to different suspension designs. 1A Auto sells kits for many models that contain all the parts necessary to completely replace your suspension.
How do I know if my steering and suspension parts need to be replaced?
The steering and suspension parts are built to be sturdy, but they are constantly exposed to the elements in their position underneath the car. Dirt, moisture, road salt, and debris can damage or corrode these parts. They can also be damaged in an accident.
Many of these parts, like control arms, tie rods, and sway bar links, use ball joints to allow them to move. The ball joints can become loose and worn, or they can begin to leak grease and wear down.
Loose ball joints and damaged steering parts can lead to a number of problems with your vehicle’s control. The steering may be sloppy or may wander. If there is more wear on one side than the other, the vehicle may tend to pull to one side. You may also see uneven tire wear or hear clunking noises coming from the wheel wells. Problems with different steering parts can present similarly. To find out what part or parts are causing your problem, raise and secure the vehicle, and try to move the parts by hand. Anything that feels loose or has too much play should be replaced.
Shocks and struts wear out over time. Some manufacturers recommend that you replace your shocks and struts every 50,000 to 75,000 miles. Of course, wear can happen more quickly if the shocks and struts are worked hard. If you drive a lot of bad roads, carry heavy loads, or go off-roading, then your shocks and struts may need to be replaced sooner. Shocks and struts can also be damaged by the elements if they get dented by road debris or corroded by moisture and salt.
Worn shocks and struts can result in poor ride quality, body roll during cornering, or bouncing in the suspension. If you find that your ride quality or your handling is suffering, you might want to check your shocks and struts. Check visually for dents or punctures, or leaking fluid. Cupping, or periodic divots on your tires, is also a sign of a failed shock or strut. You can also perform a jounce test. If you push down on the hood or trunk, the vehicle should bounce once or twice at most. If it keeps bouncing, then your dampers aren’t doing their job.
The power steering system can also develop problems. Leaking fluid or a worn pump can reduce the strength of the power steering assist. You may notice that it’s harder to steer, especially at low speed. You may also be able to hear a squealing sound from an overworked power steering pump, or visibly see fluid leaks. Any problems with your steering make it harder to control your vehicle. Since this is a safety hazard, it’s best to replace worn steering parts as soon as possible.
Can I replace the steering and suspension parts myself?
The difficulty of replacing any given steering or suspension part will vary from part to part and from one model to another. Some would be straightforward to replace on your own. Others, like steering boxes, are best left to the professionals. Parts like tie rods, sway bar links, and control arms are not too complicated to replace. You will, of course, have to raise and secure the vehicle. Then you can remove whatever fasteners hold the given part on, disconnect the part from the steering knuckle and the frame, and install the new one. A specialty tool called a ball joint separator can be useful here. After replacing any of these pieces, you’ll want to have your vehicle professionally aligned.
Replacing a shock or strut is more involved, but still doable. You just need to unfasten the shock or strut at the body and at the steering knuckle and slide it off. You may need to remove nearby steering parts to reach it. In some cases, a spring compressor will be necessary. It’s worth noting that the heavy springs, under high pressure can pose a hazard, so we wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to leave this job to the professionals.
A powering steering reservoir is usually easily accessed and easily replaced. The power steering pump is more complicated, requiring the removal the serpentine belt and nearby engine parts. Replacing a steering box is quite complicated and is probably beyond the grasp of the average do-it-yourselfer.