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How to Tell If Your Coil Springs Are Bad

When you drive the same truck for a number of years, you're bound to experience issues with the vehicle's performance at one point or another. While a lot of these issues will come down to problems with various engine components, some stem from the suspension system — namely those due to worn springs.

If your truck uses coil springs, there are several problems that can possibly occur. Therefore, it's crucial to beware of the following broken coil spring symptoms:

  • Vehicle sag
  • Tire wear
  • Underside noise
  • Bouncing movements
  • Vehicle sway

Any given one of these symptoms can creep up subtlely and indicate an advanced problem by the time they come to your attention. It's essential that you act on the matter the moment you notice one of these symptoms.

Consequences of Bad Coil Spring Symptoms

Coil springs and shocks are the critical suspension components in any truck where coil springs are used instead of leaf springs. For the truck to ride at an even level and support its own weight, the coil springs must remain in optimal condition throughout the time that you own and operate the vehicle.

When coil springs go bad, it can cause a host of issues that are discomforting as well as dangerous. Without a set of coil springs that function and provide sufficient suspension for the weight of the truck, the movements of the vehicle are bound to become increasingly unstable and abrupt.

FAQ About Worn Coil Springs Symptoms

It's crucial to understand the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about coil springs. Here are some FAQs and our answers.

1. How Long Do Coil Springs Last?

There really is no set timeframe at which coil springs expire. A lot of coils last for the life of a vehicle, while others break down sooner.

2. What Causes Coil Springs to Break?

Coil springs rarely break, but they can seriously wear down over time when a truck is driven in hazardous environments with endless amounts of water and dirt kick-up.

3. Is It Okay to Drive a Car With a Broken Coil Spring?

No. It would be very dangerous to drive a vehicle with a broken coil spring. Look for solutions before operating the vehicle again.

4. Do Suspension Coil Springs Wear Out?

Sometimes. Prolonged and persistent exposure to water can cause a spring to rust. Likewise, constant overload of a vehicle can also wear down a spring. It's important to use strong coil springs.

How to Know If Coil Springs Are Worn

Here are a few symptoms that will let you know if your coil springs have worn out.

1. Sharp Vehicle Sagging

The purpose of a set of coil springs is to balance the weight of the truck along the underside, which bears the lion's share of weight in any truck. Without these springs, the truck is liable to sag downward, especially if the truck is loaded to its full weight capacity.

When your truck starts to sag, the problem can become noticeable in several ways. While the sagging might be subtle at first, you could eventually start to feel it when you sit in the driver's seat. If it feels as though you're leaning as you drive the vehicle, that feeling is likely the result of sag.

Sagging can also become noticeable from a visual perspective when you park the truck on a flat road or driveway. If you see a slight downward tilt between the front and rear bumper as you view the vehicle from its side, it's likely the result of weakened coil springs.

If the truck is slouched even when the back is empty, there's definitely a problem with the suspension. The springs are intended to give an extra bit of lift in the back. The extra lift is designed to prevent sag once the truck is loaded. As such, an empty truck should have a slight bit of rear lift, while a loaded truck should be flat. Slouching of any sort generally means suspension trouble.

In some cases that involve issues with the suspension, the sagging will be more pronounced on one side. This symptom would indicate that the coil spring at one end is more worn than the other. In any event, vehicle sagging is an issue that needs to be fixed the moment it comes to your attention, especially if the problem is obvious when the truck is empty. If you procrastinate on correcting this situation, the weight of the vehicle is liable to ruin the axle.

2. Unusual Tire Wear

When coil springs deteriorate and ultimately weaken a truck's suspension system, the brunt of excess weight is generally felt by the rear tires. As the problem accelerates, the tires are liable to wear and strip long before you would otherwise be due for a tire change. Of course, if the tires become stripped, they need to be replaced immediately — as would the coil springs — before you have a blowout on the road.

Tire wear can also be a slower and more subtle symptom of weakened coil springs. If the springs wear down gradually, the weight distribution on the tires will slowly go off balance. Consequently, the tires will be pressed against the road at incorrect angles and slowly become misaligned.

Keep in mind that the truck and its tires and suspension system are designed for specific weight balances and distributions. When the balance goes off, everything is impacted. Consequently, when tires bear odd distributions of weight, the rubber is liable to wear down in unusual ways.

The problem with misaligned and oddly worn tires can be especially dangerous if you regularly haul heavy loads across challenging stretches of terrain. When the tires are rendered incapable of properly handling flat, even roads and highways, just imagine the impact of gravelly roads and hillside terrain on the rubber.

3. Unsettling Noise

One of the great advantages of coil springs and shocks is that they limit the amount of noise your truck would otherwise produce along the underside if no suspension system were present. With all the pressure and tension between the weight of the vehicle and the axle and wheels, the truck would be noisy as well as uncomfortable to drive.

A healthy set of coil springs and shocks are unlikely to generate much noise, if any at all. If your truck has become gradually noisier over time, it could be an indicator that the springs and shocks are due to be replaced. The problem is liable to be noticeable when you drive over road obstructions and speed bumps, as these and other imperfections tend to make vehicles jump.

As with other problem symptoms, the noise can start out subtle — perhaps even unnoticeable if you've grown accustomed to tuning out mild vehicular noise — but gradually become louder as the coils deteriorate. Sooner or later, as the truck becomes less comfortable to drive due to its weakened balance and stability, you'll ultimately come to notice these problem sounds.

In any case, excessive noise from under your vehicle needs to be examined the moment it comes to your attention. Even if the sound stems from other components and has nothing to do with the suspension, you should still inspect the issue immediately. If the noise does, in fact, stem from faulty coil springs and shocks, the problem has likely advanced enough to make spring replacement an imminent priority.

4. Harsh Vehicle Bounce

One of the most obvious and frightening signs of a bad suspension system is when abrupt and unintended vehicular movements of any kind occur. When it comes to faulty coil spring symptoms, such movements typically manifest in the form of jumps. If the vehicle seems incapable of handling even the slowest encounters with speed bumps without bouncing excessively, you probably have a worn set of coil springs and shocks.

If your truck abruptly bounces as you drive over bumps and road obstructions, even when you slow the vehicle down, the time has come to inspect your coil springs. For a lot of truck owners, this problem gradually creeps up over time and is therefore not diagnosed until the deterioration of the springs has gotten serious. Consequently, the moment you discover this problem is when you must take action.

A truck with bad coil springs is also liable to bounce when you drive over gravelly or uneven terrain. For example, when you drive on a rocky back road, the imperfections of the road will naturally be a bumpy experience for the tires. Due to the lack of sufficient suspension and shock absorption, the bumpy movement will travel up to the cab, where it will be felt by you and your passengers.

As the problem advances and the coil springs become less effective at absorbing shock and buffering movement between the axle and chassis, the truck might start to bounce each time you shift gears. If you can no longer shift up from first to fifth gear without the vehicle sending abrupt motions throughout the cab, it's probably due to coil springs in need of immediate replacement.

5. Abrupt Vehicle Sway

Another scary symptom of bad shocks and coil springs is when the truck sways. Problems like this stem from lack of the type of stabilization a healthy suspension system is meant to provide. If the coils get weak on one or both sides of the vehicle, swaying is liable to be one of the side effects.

Occurrences of vehicle sway are most common when you make sharp turns at intersections or when you pull into driveways. As the wheels lose the stabilizing force of the suspension system, they invariably lose traction with the ground. When the front wheels turn the truck sideways, the back wheels have less centralization in a vehicle with poor suspension.

Perhaps the most dangerous places where this problem can arise is on freeways, where a truck with poor coil springs might sway as you pass between intersections. In any case, vehicle sway is a tell-tale sign that you need to take a flashlight under the truck and inspect the coil springs for signs of rust, wear or other imperfections.

How to Replace Bad Coil Springs

Coil springs are more dangerous to replace than leaf springs because of compressed energy in the coil. It's crucial to ensure that the old spring is removed and uncompressed slowly. To replace a coil spring, you'll need to have each of the following:

  • Coil spring compressor
  • Jack
  • Jack stands
  • Replacement springs
  • Ball joint remover
  • Pry bar

When you replace a coil spring on one side, it's best to replace the other spring as well, even if only one of the current springs has exhibited problem symptoms. Doing so will ensure that both springs are matched by rating and fitting. When springs are replaced at different times, they might be ill-matched and cause stability issues in the suspension.

When you replace a coil spring for the first time, it might take a few hours to complete. Try to select a free afternoon that you can devote to the project.

To replace a coil spring, hoist the truck with a jack and secure the suspended vehicle with a jack stand. Unbolt and remove the tire on the side you plan to do first. Complete one side before you start the other, as it will give you something to reference if you get confused as you reattach the parts on the first side.

Remove the following parts:

  • Brake rotor
  • Caliper
  • Lower ball joint knuckle

You might need to compress the spring. To do so, turn the thru-bolt to steadily compress, or decompress, the coil. Take out the old coil spring.

Compress the replacement spring. Apply the new coil, and reattach the removed parts. Reattach the upper/lower coil seats as well.

Decompress the new coil and torque the fasteners.

Repeat these steps on the other side of the truck. Once you complete both installations, take your truck out for a ride, preferably in a quiet testing area with no other vehicles nearby. Does the truck ride smoother and quieter than before? If so, you've completed your first coil spring replacement.

Buy Coil Springs From General Spring

Throughout the time that you own and operate a truck, it's critical to ensure that the suspension system remains healthy and optimal for the stability and weight-support of the vehicle. Without a fully functioning set of shocks and coil springs, the truck will not have the proper suspension to carry its weight.

When the front suspension of the vehicle fails, other parts will soon fail too if the cause of the problem is not remedied. Once you learn that your truck has bad coil springs, you need to make sure they're replaced immediately.

At General Spring, we sell coil springs and shocks for a vast range of trucks. From the popular trucks of today to some of the rarest and oldest makes and models, we have coil springs and leaf springs for a variety of payloads and dimensions. With a pair of coil springs from our catalog, you could fix your truck within hours and be back out on the road like the day that you first purchased the vehicle.

For more than 50 years, General Spring has supplied leaf and coil springs to truck owners from around the country. Even if you drive a rare model, we can customize a spring set that will perfectly suit the requirements and specs of your vehicle. To learn more about our coil springs and place an order, browse our catalog and contact us today.