With the average age of vehicles on the road in the U.S. surpassing 11 years, and considering many of those vehicles' odometers have clocked more than 100,000 miles, one would think shock/strut replacement sales would be going through the roof.
But they are not.
A reluctance on the part of tire dealerships and repair shops to sell such an expensive service to cost-conscious consumers is partly to blame, industry representatives told Tire Business.
Manufacturers of shocks and struts recommend replacing the original equipment parts after around 50,000 to 75,000 miles, depending on vehicle and driving conditions.
Yet many older vehicles are still running on their original shocks/struts, and that poses a safety issue, they said.
"I bet north of 80 percent of vehicles never get one set (of replacement shocks/struts)," said William "Mac" McGovern, director of marketing and training, KYB Americas Corp.
"A lot of customers aren't going to come in to buy shocks or struts just for the sake of buying shocks or struts. It's just that they do so because they find out that they failed, there's clunking noises and things of that nature," said Justin Hynes, ride control product manager for ZF Aftermarket, maker of TRW automotive parts.
"Your shocks and struts play a role in the safety and longevity and maintenance of the car, because changing the shocks will help prevent tire wear. It helps to reduce braking distance, and it helps with the comfort of the vehicle's ride performance," he said.
"And when all those things are worn out — at say 75,000 miles on a vehicle — you're going to see your tire tread life is pretty much worn out. So you're going to spend $500 to $600 on a new set of tires," Mr. Hynes said.
"If you don't take into consideration the shocks and the struts, then more than likely that 60,000-mile warranty on those tires potentially could be reduced, and you're coming in at 30,000 miles with bald spots or spotting on the tires."
"People have to be aware that with worn-out shock absorbers, the braking distance increases tremendously," added Dirk Fuchs, technical training manager for ZF Aftermarket.
Mr. Hynes said typically a vehicle that is around 11 years old has had only one suspension component replacement because the average consumer doesn't pay attention or notice when the shock absorbers are worn.
It's also not in the customer's mindset to replace shocks/struts automatically at 100,000 miles, following the adage that if it doesn't seem broken, don't fix it.
"When your car gets that old, it's not just shocks and struts, it's about everything on it — ball joints, control arms — there becomes more safety concerns," he said.
"I think there is a big lack of doing (inspections)…," noted Mr. Fuchs, adding, "Education at the technician level is really, really important."
"You would be amazed at how often we hear from consumers that their service providers have never informed them of the need to replace worn shocks and struts," said Ethan Bregger, aftermarket training manager, North America aftermarket, for Tenneco Inc., maker of Monroe-brand parts.
"This is a missed opportunity for the service industry."
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