When designers first invented cars, they were faced with a big question – how to minimize the vibration inside the car during its movement, especially when going through rough roads. The solution came in the form of shock absorbers, which soon became a central part in the car’s suspension system.
Shock absorbers are known as hydraulic pump-like devices which are designed to control the impact and rebound movement found in the vehicle’s springs and suspension. The main role of a shock absorber is to make sure that the tyres remain in contact with the surface at all times.
Popular opinions state that shock absorbers support the weight of a vehicle. However, that is only a myth, and shock absorbers actually do these two things:
- Keep your tyres in contact with the ground when moving
- Control the movement of the springs and suspension system
So, every time the tyre’s contact with the ground is reduced or missing, the ability to drive, steer, and brake is also compromised.
How do shock absorbers function?
Many see shock absorbers as oil pumps – their structure resembles a pump, where a piston is attached to the end of a piston rod, working against hydraulic fluid in the pressure tube. In this manner, shock absorbers take the kinetic energy of your suspension and convert it to thermal energy (or heat) which is dissipated in the atmosphere through heat exchange. These parts also adjust to different road conditions and speeds.
Main types of shock absorbers
Functionally, all shock absorbers work in the same way and do the same job. However, there are several different types based on different designs. They include the following:
- Telescopic shock absorbers: This is the most conventional type of a shock absorber which is typically replaced rather than repaired. It can be found on both front and rear suspension systems and is generally affordable.
- Strut type shock absorbers: Struts replace part of the suspension system and must be rugged to cope with vehicles that move faster and are heavier. The strut category of shock absorbers is divided into sealed and repairable units.
- Spring seat shocks: Spring seat is a hybrid type which has characteristics of both telescopic and strut type shock absorbers. These have a suspension unit and a damping device, but are not designed to be subject to high side loads. Spring seat shocks are also sealed and require full replacement.
Front and rear shock absorbers – are they different?
Every modern vehicle is equipped with two sets of shock absorbers (two each) – the front set and the rear set. Both sets perform the same tasks, but vary in size and performance, as well as their service life.
The front set of shock absorbers has a shorter lifespan because of its proximity to the engine (and its weight), which is why many car manufacturers use models where the spring and absorber are combined into one working component.
When to check your shock absorbers – and when to replace them?
Modern shock absorbers have a long life, which often exceeds 100,000 kilometers. However, if you are a more aggressive driver and frequently drive on rough roads, you should know that your shocks may wear out faster. Some of the common signs of potential shocks replacement include the following:
- Frequent bumpy rides where you lose control over the vehicle
- Leaking fluid on the exterior of the shocks/struts
- Uneven tread wear on your tyres
- Lack of stability when turning and/or braking
In the end, it’s worth mentioning that shock absorbers and struts are always replaced in pairs (front axle or rear axle), and it is even better to replace both sets (on all four wheels) at one time. This can help you get reliable handling and a consistent response on each side of your vehicle.
Once you get your suspension replacement, we recommend getting a wheel alignment too – changes in your suspension may also change your vehicle’s wheel alignment, and even the most minor tweaks can have costly consequences in the future.
Book your appointment at Stop&Go today and get both of these services done right by our experienced professionals. Contact us at 800-STOP-GO to schedule your replacement!