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Checking Shocks, Struts and Steering Components and CV Joints

People, for the most part, only think of 10,000-mile service things when something goes wrong, and by then it's usually too late to do anything about it except spending money. While you were able to get an affordable coverage plan like buy now pay later car insurance that will cover claims for personal injury and property damage, it is certain that a collision or any car accident is always traumatic for all affected parties. But you don't have to worry when you use what you know to keep problems from developing in the first place.

Shocks and Struts

Bearing in mind that this is only one of about 1,000 different combinations of steering and suspension – strut and recirculating ball steering box, specifically – you can apply the basics to most modern automobiles. Start at the strut, collectively spring and shock. The strut does three jobs. It acts as the upper control arm -- the upper link on your suspension -- it contains the spring that holds your car off the ground, and it houses the shock absorber. You can see the basic difference between the strut and other types of suspension when you compare the LeSabre's strut suspension to the Bronco's “divorced” setup.

The LeSabre's struts save space by running the shock through the middle of the spring, instead of setting it off to one side. But the shock absorbers themselves are practically identical in function, in that they use oil trapped inside to slow the movement of a piston connected to the output shaft.

What you need to know about the shocks

For these purposes, all you really need to know is:

*  The oil inside the shock will eventually break down and thin, causing the shock to “soften,” and

*  The seals that hold the oil in can leak. When inspecting the shocks, you're looking for signs of leakage, like wet oil on the shock body itself.

If you've got dirt caked all over the shock body, which you almost certainly will look also for incongruously clean streaks on the shock body. Over time, oil leaking from the shock will penetrate and run under caked-on dirt; this dirt may lift and flake off the first time rain hits it, leaving a trail or spot of pretty paint amid the grime.

Steering Components

When inspecting the steering system, you're looking primarily for bent components, loose connections, leaking grease seals, and split or severely degraded rubber boots. All of these will not only degrade your car's steering response but allow the tires to wobble around in ways that the car gods didn't intend. They always wobble a little – those end-links and the many rubber bushings don't exactly make for a rock-solid connection – but excessive play in anything will ruin your day.

Manual Checks

The quickest way to assess the condition of your steering system is to point the wheels of your car straight ahead to reduce the load on the end-links, grab the steering linkage and give it a shake front-to-back and side-to-side. In terms of the pressure that you can exert on it, the steering linkage should feel practically solid. If it moves in any noticeable way, or you hear a tapping as it moves, then something's probably gone awry in there. At this point, it's primarily a matter of continuing to shake the linkage until you find the point of the excess play.

Take a very close look at all the little grease boots, bushings, and bolts in the system. A certain amount of grease leakage is pretty typical on used parts, and you can expect to see caked-on dirt and a slight degradation in the rubber bushings. Ideally, bushings and grease boots should be smooth, clean, round, and grease-free; if they rook ragged, flattened, or split, or if you see obvious signs of grease leakage, then consider yourself in for new links or ball joints.

Visual Fastener Checks

A “castle nut” is often found used in steering systems. As you might imagine, tightening every nut and bolt in a system designed to move is a sure recipe for keeping it from moving. Castle nuts are intentionally loose, and are held in place using pieces of wire known as “cotter pins.”

When subject to heavy stress, cotter pins can shear off at the bolt, or they can bend, loosen, and fall out. Once that happens, there's nothing stopping the already loose castle nut from backing completely off of the link. You don't have to do anything with a cotter pin that's still snug and bent the way it was the last time you checked it, but they're easy enough to replace if you detect a problem.

CV Joints

This one's simple: wrap your hand around the exposed shaft between the rubber boots, and try to rotate it clockwise and counterclockwise. If it moves more than a degree or two or you hear a tapping sound, then your CV joint is on the way out. Why? Inside your CV joint, there are two interlocking pieces: a bearing carrier and a “cup.” When the tiny needle bearings inside those donut-shaped main bearings go, or the main bearings wear out, clearances open up inside the CV joint and allow the components to hit each other. Once you hear an audible tap, it's only a matter of time before the CV hammers itself to pieces. You're also looking for grease leaks around the rubber CV boot seals and rips in the rubber. Either one merits attention.

While you cannot control other parties' negligence, even with your cheap auto insurance policy, you can avoid car accidents on your part. Monitoring your car frequently includes checking and testing vehicle functions for safe driving on the road. Preventive monitoring is, in the first place,  taking care of your vehicle and, above all, saving lives.