Top strut mounts and upper shock mounts: when to replace?

In a car, a strut is a shock absorber that is built into an assembly with the coil spring and the top mount, called a strut mount, see the illustration. A top strut mount connects the strut to the vehicle body or frame.
Strut mount Strut mount in a MacPherson strut.
In many cars, you can see the front top strut mounts under the hood (see photo below). Shock absorber mounts serve the same purpose, scroll down to read more about them.

Strut Mounts
Strut mounts have multiple roles: First, they have to keep struts firmly in place and absorb some of the shocks from road bumps.
Second, they have to provide a good sound insulation, or the road noises and vibrations will travel from the struts through the vehicle's body and into the cabin. For this reason, strut mounts have a rubber cushion, so there is no metal to metal contact between the strut and the body.
Third, in cars with MacPherson struts in the front end, front struts turn together with the front wheels when steering left or right. To allow for that, front strut mounts in these cars have a strut bearing.
Strut mounts don't need any maintenance. They don't need to be replaced unless they are worn out or there is some other problem with them.

There are several reasons why strut mounts may need to be replaced. The most common is when a worn out strut mount produces a clunking or rattling noise.
Front strut mount Front strut mount.
This type of noise could be caused by a metal plate separating from the rubber inside the mount, or by a worn-out strut bearing. Of course, it's not always easy to diagnose a noisy strut mount because the damage is not visible from the outside. Mechanics have a tool called Chassis Ear, that may help sometimes, but not always.

A bad strut bearing can also cause a popping or creaking noise when turning the steering wheel at slow speed. The way the steering wheel turns may feel jerky too; like it jams and snaps free repeatedly. This happens when the grease inside the bearing dries out or there is some corrosion or wear.
Strut mount and bearing Strut mount and strut bearing.
Again, this type of noise might be difficult to diagnose, because many problems can cause a similar noise.
In some cars, a strut bearing comes with a strut mount as one unit; in other cars, it can be replaced separately, although the labor is the same.

Strut mounts are also replaced if they show excessive corrosion or if the visible rubber part looks ripped or badly worn. Rear strut mounts, for example, are often replaced because of rust damage.

Is it safe to drive with a bad strut mount? This question only your mechanic can answer, because it all depends on what exactly is the problem and how badly the mount is worn.

Strut mounts are not very expensive parts, but it takes a considerable amount of labor to replace them. When struts are assembled, the coil springs are compressed under great tension.
Rear strut mount Rear strut mount.
They can unwind with a lot of force and cause injury. We recommend getting this repair done in a repair shop. To replace a strut mount, a strut must be carefully disassembled using a special spring compressor. Replacing one front strut mount in an average modern car or crossover will cost from $220 to $380, plus the wheel alignment if needed.

It's not necessary to replace both strut mounts at the same time, but if one is bad, the other one might be worn out too. If struts are replaced for other reason and strut mounts show some wear or are known to fail in this vehicle, it makes sense to replace them at the same time.

Replacing both struts together with strut mounts will cost from $650 to $900 in an average car. In some cars, the wheel alignment must be performed after replacing front strut mounts or struts. The wheel alignment will cost $50-180 extra.

How long do strut mounts last? In some cars, strut mounts can last for the lifetime of a vehicle, in others they are known to fail sooner. It also depends on the quality of the roads you drive. Potholes and speed bumps can cause many parts of the suspension, including strut mounts, to wear faster.

Upper shock mounts
In some cars, top ends of the rear shock absorbers are connected to the car body through upper shock mounts.
Upper shock absorber mount You can find this type of shock mounts in many vehicles, including Mazda, Ford and Volvo.
They serve the same purpose as the strut mounts: to provide a connection point between the shock absorber and the car body without metal-to-metal contact.

In older cars, it's not uncommon to see upper shock absorbers mounts breaking off due to excessive corrosion like in this photo. This causes a loud knocking noise in the back of the car when driving. Obviously, it's not safe to drive like this. In some vehicles, the upper shock mount comes as a separate part; in others, it's sold as one unit with the shock absorber. Replacing a rear shock absorber in an average car will cost $140-220 for one side. Replacing only the upper shock mount will be slightly cheaper.