Can You Drive with a Broken Strut?

If your car has a broken strut, you should stop driving and contact a professional mechanic for repairs. Here’s what to know about worn-out and broken struts.
Written by John Davis
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
If your car has a broken or damaged strut, avoid driving until it is fixed. Struts are critical parts of the suspension system responsible for absorbing shock and assisting with steering and alignment. Therefore, a broken strut can result in highly dangerous driving conditions.
Your car's suspension system comprises various parts that work together to keep your ride smooth and comfortable. Struts are critical parts of the suspension system that connect many smaller parts and play a prominent role in your ride quality.
Broken car struts can cause problems ranging from minor inconveniences to serious and dangerous driving conditions. We've put together this helpful
car repair
guide with everything you need to know about driving with a broken strut, including when it's safe to drive and when you need to contact a professional.
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How do shocks and struts work?

The word "strut" refers to an automotive part composed of a shock absorber and a spring. While standalone shocks help absorb impact and prevent your vehicle from bouncing down the road, struts combine shocks and coil springs into one unit known as the strut assembly
The primary responsibility of struts is to support the weight of your car and absorb shocks as you traverse uneven road surfaces. However, struts do much more than that.
Struts—and front struts in particular—are part of your car's suspension system, including components like control arms, bushings, and ball joints. In this system, the struts are chiefly responsible for supporting the vehicle's weight and dampening the impact of bumps on the road, like potholes. Additionally, struts provide lateral support while cornering and making tight turns. 
Furthermore, struts play a crucial role in vehicle alignment and the power steering system. They connect to the steering knuckle and, along with the tie rod ends, are one of the primary front-end adjustment points for many modern vehicles. 
MORE: What is a car suspension system?

How to know if you have a bad strut

Bad struts can result in a variety of problems for your car. And while worn-out struts are inevitable over time, broken struts are a different beast entirely and should not be taken lightly. Let's look at the most common warning signs of bad struts. 
  • The car is unstable at highway speeds. If your vehicle feels unstable at high speeds or moves up and down more than usual, your struts may be to blame.
  • The vehicle leans while turning. If your car leans heavily to the side when turning, it could signify that your struts are worn out. 
  • The front end dives forward when braking. If your front end feels like it's sinking when you hit the brakes, it might mean that your struts are providing insufficient support.
  • The rear end squats when accelerating. Likewise, if your rear end appears to sit down or squat when you accelerate, it's a likely sign that your struts are bad.
  • The car is bouncing excessively. A small amount of bouncing can be expected when driving over extremely rough surfaces. However, if your car bounces while driving on normal roads, it's a good indicator that you need new struts.
  • Uneven tire wear. Uneven tire wear is often a sign of poor vehicle alignment, and bad alignment is very frequently related to a problem with the suspension and steering systems. If your tires are wearing abnormally, you should check your struts and the rest of your suspension and steering components.
  • Fluid leaks. If you notice leaking grease or oil inside your wheel wells or on any suspension components, it could indicate that the shock absorbers in your struts are leaking.
  • Strange sounds. Abnormal sounds, like clunking noises, can indicate problems with your car's suspension system, including the struts. 
  • Braking problems. Bad struts can negatively affect your ability to slow your vehicle down, and you may notice the stopping distance increases if you have worn-out struts.

Can you drive with a broken strut?

If you have a truly broken strut—i.e., a broken shock absorber, strut mount, or a collapsed spring—it can be highly unsafe to drive the car. Furthermore, if you drive with severe strut damage, you risk causing further damage to other suspension and steering components, which will result in more costly repairs.
However, if your struts are simply worn out due to age, you can probably drive for a short period without replacing them. Remember, even if the struts are worn out and not completely broken, your car's handling will suffer, and you might still cause damage to other parts of the car, like the tires.

How much does it cost to replace a bad strut?

The exact cost to replace bad struts will depend on your location and your car. However, you can generally expect the price to fall somewhere between $450 and $900
Individual strut assemblies typically run between $150 and $300—keep in mind that you should always replace struts in pairs, or your ride quality and alignment will suffer. And the cost of labor will tack on an additional $100 to $300. Finally, you'll most likely need an alignment after replacing your struts, which will range in price from around $75 to $150
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The primary purpose of automotive struts is to support the vehicle's weight while dampening and absorbing shocks. Struts also assist in vehicle steering and alignment.
A broken strut typically causes a hollow clunking or squishing sound. These sounds will most likely be amplified when driving over bumps.
If you have a broken strut, you should replace it as soon as possible. And, unless you are an experienced mechanic, you should hire a professional technician to perform the repairs.
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