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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My 08 smart is coming up on its 60K mainentance. I have been driving it on some nasty Boston roads and wondering, how do you know its time to replace the shocks on this car?
 

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I replace my shocks when handling and/or ride starts to suffer.

Or when they start to make noise or leak. Whichever comes first.

I drive carefully and try to avoid road hazards, potholes, and I take objects like speed bumps with care. My shocks/struts tend to last a long time.
 

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First thing I'd do is ask the tech to take a look at your shocks when you take the car in for service. In fact have him check the entire front suspension. Chances are you will need other suspension parts before you need shocks. If you use a dealer that gives you a loaner, then compare its ride to yours, although in the six years or so since yours was built, there have been some improvements, but at least you'll get an idea.

Len
 

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. . . how do you know its time to replace the shocks on this car?
The simplest form of shock absorber "test" is known as a “bounce test."


Push down or lean heavily on the front fender or bumper, release suddenly and observe. If the vehicle rebounds or bounces several times, you probably need to replace the shock absorbers.


If the shock absorbers are performing well, the car will rebound only once and then slowly return to its original position.

Also if a lift is available, you may want to check for telltale oil leaks down the side of the shocks.
 

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If you replace shocks then you will most likely need an alignment. It's virtually impossible to do a proper alignment with worn suspension parts. Any mechanic worth his weight in salt will check all those items. If they don't, then it's time to find a new mechanic.

By far, during my 30 year career as a mechanic, I probably replaced more shocks and struts than all other suspension components combined. I suppose as odds go, you could need some other suspension or steering part before shocks, but as an individual component, shocks have a higher failure rate than other components in the suspension and seering, in my experience.

By the time a car fails a static bounce test, it's probably needed struts for a long time and probably drives and handles extremely poorly. The weight of even a 200 pound person bouncing on a car isn't anywhere close to the forces of actually driving the car. Also, one good strut can balance out a bad one in a static bounce test. It's rare, but struts can also fail in a mode that makes them stiff, which may not show in a bounce test.

All of these tests are indicators and have value, but the car should be evaluated as a whole and not rely on just one check.
 

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First thing I'd do is ask the tech to take a look at your shocks when you take the car in for service. In fact have him check the entire front suspension. Chances are you will need other suspension parts before you need shocks. If you use a dealer that gives you a loaner, then compare its ride to yours, although in the six years or so since yours was built, there have been some improvements, but at least you'll get an idea.

Len
Yep, and you might as well wear a sign on your forehead when you walk into the dealership that says SUCKER if you do that. Then they will look for something wrong, and lighten your wallet an appropriate amount for your trouble...

Sorry to be the downer in all this, but I've seen how dealerships work. You open the door, and they will walk right through hands open to take your money...

To the OP: My smart currently has 158K miles on it. I'm just now consideri ng changing shocks and struts. No ill effects, no bad handling. I'm sure it doesn't ride like a new one, but I'm OK with that.

If you're really concerned about it, find a good, reputable alignment shop, and have them check it out. They will usually be fairly honest about what is going on with your car. I have a great local guy that does all my alignments, and I know if he tells me something isn't quite right, I can trust him. He knows I'll fix it myself, and he knows that I'll know if he's feeding me a line of B.S....
 

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Yep, and you might as well wear a sign on your forehead when you walk into the dealership that says SUCKER if you do that. Then they will look for something wrong, and lighten your wallet an appropriate amount for your trouble...
Besides a good dentist the second most important professional in your life should be your mechanic. Unless you are rich and just buy new cars all the time.

It's your mechanic's JOB to find things wrong with your car. Would you want to go to your dentist and have him/her gloss over a few cavities and have them turn into lost teeth or root canals?

It's up to your mechanic to alert you to the problems with your car and advise you of a proper repair strategy. We're not all crooks looking to lighten your wallet but we're not doing our job if you bring us your car in good faith and we let it roll out the door without advising you of it's issues.
 

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Besides a good dentist the second most important professional in your life should be your mechanic. Unless you are rich and just buy new cars all the time.

It's your mechanic's JOB to find things wrong with your car. Would you want to go to your dentist and have him/her gloss over a few cavities and have them turn into lost teeth or root canals?

It's up to your mechanic to alert you to the problems with your car and advise you of a proper repair strategy. We're not all crooks looking to lighten your wallet but we're not doing our job if you bring us your car in good faith and we let it roll out the door without advising you of it's issues.
Well, I guess that's the great thing about being me... :) I am my own mechanic. Figure I'm not going screw myself... I know not everybody has the want, desire, or aptitude to wrench themselves, but as long as the good Lord lets me, I'll turn wrenches myself...:D
 

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Automotive technicians are not mechanics by any stretch of the imagination. M-B techs working on smarts seem to be a level below most other techs.

With a bit of good lighting and a jack you can check to see if the dampers are leaking any fluids and also check for broken springs. Check for play in the suspension and call it a day.

This is something I would have a trusted mechanic do if I could not do it myself. I would never have a M-B tech do the same checks.

I had over 100k miles on the suspension in my 450 and only changed it out to upgrade springs, figured I might as well change dampers at the same time Save the cost of labour to have the dampers changed at a later time.

If you are not breaking springs I would not be too worried about the condition of the dampers if they are not leaking.
 

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Well, I guess that's the great thing about being me... :) I am my own mechanic. Figure I'm not going screw myself... I know not everybody has the want, desire, or aptitude to wrench themselves, but as long as the good Lord lets me, I'll turn wrenches myself...:D
Before I retired from my shop I enjoyed working with the shade tree mechanic. After all, I started out that way myself. Eventually, they would encounter a job they couldn't fix themselves and because I had lent them tools, information, or advice in the past, I got the job. Plus, their recommendation to their friends who needed a mechanic always built business.

Great mechanics aren't easy to find, but when you get one they are worth cultivating, even if they can't always beat Pep Boys, Walmart, Costco, or the internet for pricing.

I'm old-school and proud to call myself a Mechanic, the word Technician always seemed pretentious to me. But that's just my opinion.
 

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W+B agreed!

There are some great mechanics out there. But most don't tend to work for stealerships. At an independant shop the mechanic can call the shots. In general at a dealership there is exactly 0% interface between the mechanic and the customer. In between is the service writer or adviser. Over the years I've found most of these folks to be liars and con artists with very little real knowledge of the mechanicals. It's their job to ligthen your wallet. I don't trust them. I could tell stories that would curl your hair.

To the OP. The bounce test is good as a a basic test. On most cars you could upgrade the shocks on a brand new car to a true "upgrade" and feel the difference 2 weeks after you bought the car. However when cars went to Mcpherson strut style suspensions shocks became harder and more expensive to change as they are inside the springs. Because of this cars have tended to get better shocks from the factory. Most struts are still working pretty good these days at 100k miles. I just replaced the struts on my wifes Honda CRV a few months ago. They were starting to get tired at 170k. unless you feel the car is not handling properly then you probably have some time and miles left.

The only job shocks do is to control the bounce of the springs. Watch around you in traffic on your next commute. Especially at the white work vans and pickup trucks. See them bounce on every bump? Time for shocks.
 

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W+B agreed!

There are some great mechanics out there. But most don't tend to work for stealerships. At an independant shop the mechanic can call the shots. In general at a dealership there is exactly 0% interface between the mechanic and the customer. In between is the service writer or adviser. Over the years I've found most of these folks to be liars and con artists with very little real knowledge of the mechanicals. It's their job to ligthen your wallet. I don't trust them. I could tell stories that would curl your hair.
I'm sorry you had bad experiences at dealerships. I've worked at both dealerships and independent shops before owning my own.

Some of the best mechanics work for a dealership because they often pay better, specialize (which is easier on the mechanic) and can offer better benefits. I lost many great mechanics to dealerships before I figured out how to keep them at my independent shop. After I retired from my shop my best employees went to work for dealerships.

Like with many corporate business models, the great mechanics can get buried in the politics.

Next time you have service at the dealership, ask to chat with the mechanic who worked on your car, you might be surprised.
 

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Automotive technicians are not mechanics by any stretch of the imagination. M-B techs working on smarts seem to be a level below most other techs.
+1!

Seems like now days most dealer "techs" are glorifed parts changers, not real mechanics... Most of them can't figure out a basic problem without a computer telling them what to do.

Two very good examples on the smart: the heater blower motor, and the clutch actuator. a smart tech will touch neither one of them, yet I, and others on this forum, have proven time and again they can be disassembled, cleaned and re-installed in a matter of minutes...
 

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I also do pretty much all of my own work. However, when I need to take my car to my dealer, I have full confidence in what they do and what they say needs to be done. This is a Mercedes dealer - I don't have a Smart yet, so I can't speak to that. They treat me wonderfully, take me back to my car to talk with the mechanic and show me exactly what the problem is. Maybe it's because I act like I know what I'm talking about even if I don't. :)

Also just replacing shocks should have no affect on the alignment and getting it aligned should not be necessary if you are just replacing shocks and everything else is okay. I'd certainly get the other suspension components checked and get the alignment checked though. Replacing other suspension components most likely will call for an alignment.

The service manual for some Mercedes say that a small leak in itself is not a reason to replace a shock. Not sure what the Smart service manual says about that. However, if it was my car that showed a leak, I'd certainly keep a close eye on it.

Len
 

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Also just replacing shocks should have no affect on the alignment and getting it aligned should not be necessary if you are just replacing shocks and everything else is okay.
The service manual for some Mercedes say that a small leak in itself is not a reason to replace a shock.
Perhaps I should be more specific. Replacing a traditional shock absorber does not require an alignment. The words shocks and struts tend to be used interchangeably, but they are not the same design.

Although, sometimes and aggressive gas shock can change ride height and any time that changes an alignment check is a good idea.

Replacing a MacPherson strut does require an alignment (or should).

Correct, a small leak does not mean the strut or shock is currently bad, but it's not a good sign. They don't leak when they are new.

If it means anything, only one out of 50 cars I put on the alignment rack did NOT need adjustment. In that case the customer was charged for an alignment check and not an alignment adjustment.

Ask your alignment shop for a before and after print out if you don't trust them. It can still be faked, but it's hardly worth the time.

Not to mention, given the high cost of tires and fuel, trying to save $79.95 (or whatever) on an alignment, is just false economy. Ask any alignment mechanic how many cars he sees on his machine that are within specification. The answer will be very few, if not none.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thank you all for your feedback. I received some of the same from the hubby. All the usual suspension symptoms don't seem to apply to the smart because it is so....small, short, etc. Like there is a fender to push on?! Does it drift out of the lane (cannot ever not have control of the wheel), does it bottom out (have you seen the craters in Boston roads?). I had to replace two bent wheels this past winter falling into a pit in the dark coming out of the Big Dig on Interstate 93 northbound.This repeated abuse (despite my best effort to avoid manhole covers, slush turtles, etc.) has to wear on the suspension not to mention my fancy entertainment center being knocked off when I hit that hole.

I love my smart but would I buy another one to use on Massachusetts roads, probably not. But she is a lovely commuter car other than that and I am still as thrilled by her looks as when I saw those first three on tour in downtown Seattle in 2005.

Since the extended warranty ran out, I avoid the dealer because their prices are out of sight. I have a local mechanic and tire company that I trust and they and our neighbor's son will do the work. Just wondered what the life of the suspension is for a car that takes so much abuse.

And, again, thank you all for your valuable feedback!
 

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I personally think it will hold up just fine. The light weight of the car helps. When you run out of suspension travel the car just bounces.

I love the term "slush turtles". Never heard it before but knew exactly what you meant.
 

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You can do a quick visual inspection of the shocks looking for leaks and damage. Generally though I change mine regardless at around 60-80000 miles. You may think they're fine but as they wear out gradually you don't really notice it. Toss in a new set and it's like a new car.
 
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