What you need to know about your vehicle’s shocks

What you need to know about your vehicle’s shocks
22 Jan 2016

There are several warning signs that your car’s shocks are on their way out. A couple of signs are excessive body lean in turns, or that the car’s front dives down hard when braking. Another example is your car bottoming out over railroad tracks (or other dips in the road) and continuing to bounce well after the fact. And it may not be so dramatic. Because shocks wear out over time, you might get used to these symptoms but deep down you know somethings wearing out. Here’s what you should know.

Shock absorbers do not actually absorb shocks

First, what we refer to as shock absorbers are really “dampeners,” they don’t really absorb “shocks”!  The devices in a vehicle’s suspension that absorb shocks and bumps are the vehicle’s springs. Shock absorbers are hydraulic or mechanical drives that prevent springs from bouncing around after a big bump. Shock absorbers serve as a kind of “dashpot,” a device that prevents a lot of motion from happening through applying a great amount of friction.  So, just to set the record straight “shock absorbers” don’t have to do with absorbing shocks!  That being said, they still can wear out and fail at dampening a car’s springs when driving, resulting in creating the symptoms we discussed.

How long should shock absorbers last?

Despite advice to replace shocks at specific intervals, like every 50,000 miles, when you need to replace the shocks in your vehicle will certainly vary. The folks at Thompsonmazda.com explain that if you frequently drive over rough, bumpy roads that put more stress on shock absorbers, then you will probably have to replace them more frequently than if you drive mostly on the highway. Carrying heavy loads also will wear out shocks faster than commuting to work does.

How do I know if they are bad?

If you suspect that the shocks in your car may need replacing, here is one way to test them. Place one hand firmly on each corner of the vehicle, give it a strong push, then let go and observe. If your car keeps bouncing a little after you release, your shocks probably need to be replaced. What it should do is “dampen out” quickly. Note that this test may require a large amount of strength and with many pickups and high-riding SUVs it is not easy to get the leverage you need to carry out the test. Instead, you should have a qualified car repair person check your shock absorbers when your car is on a lift, like when you have tires rotated. The mechanic would be able to see if there are major leaks (shock absorbers are full of fluid), bushing or worn mounts.

Final Remarks

Your vehicle’s shock absorbers perform an important duty for your car and for safety reasons they should be changed when necessary. If you suspect the shocks are worn out, bring your car to a professional mechanic and have them looked at. You do not want to put anybody at risk just to save a few bucks.

Thanks to: Thompson Mazda

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Thomas Elliot Young

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