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26 Nov 2010 | Text by Richie Setiawan | Category: Car Maintenance Advice

Taking good care of shock absorbers is the key to achieving maximum comfort inside a car. Find out what you need to know about these vital components.


Most modern car owners usually feel very comfortable with their car. Their car may drive smoothly on various kinds of road surfaces leaving the passengers to feel pretty comfortable. But do they realise that they may lose such comfort if they don't take care of the shock absorbers? This is exactly why car owners are supposed to know the odds and ends of their shock absorbers. What are shock absorbers?

Car owners need to know that shock absorbers - as its name implies - are the component of their cars that are assigned the task of minimising excessive motion that the car receives due to uneven road surfaces.

How do shock absorbers work?

Every single time a driver hits a bump or knocks over a hole on the road, these particular components try their best in order to absorb the oscillation due to the motion that takes place when car springs move upwards and downwards.

In order to do this, the shock absorbers enforce a piston through oil so as to develop the required hydraulic friction. This is meant to eliminate the excessive suspension motion.

There are 2 ways in which shock absorbers work. The first is the one known as compression or the closing motion. Another one is the rebound or what is also known as the opening motion. It is by these 2 ways that shock absorbers are able to maintain the contact of the tyres with the surface of the road.

Types of shock absorbers available

There are various types of shock absorbers available, each serving a different kind of purpose.

1. Air shock absorbers

Also sometimes called a load-adjustable shock absorber. Air shock absorbers use compressed air to make the absorber stiffer. Compressed air is also used for the spring of the absorber. Loading more air will make the air shock absorber stiffer while removing air will make it less stiff.

2. Damper shock absorbers

Commonly called dampers, this particular shock absorber is designed for smooth deceleration for the vehicle, and comes in two variations: fluid or mechanical.

Fluid dampers lessen the shock to a vehicle through the use of compressed fluids, while mechanical dampers mimics the fluid design, but uses electric signals instead of just a fluid substance.

3. Shocks with reservoirs

Shocks with reservoirs, or reservoir shocks, are commonly used for off-road vehicles. Reservoir shocks uses nitrogen as an absorbing material, as their primary purpose is to improve bounciness when the vehicle is travelling through rough and bumpy surfaces.
4. Spring Shock Absorber

The most basic and commonly used shock absorber is the spring shock absorber. As its name suggests, it uses a rubber or elastic spring that can compress or expand when needed.

How durable are shock absorbers?

Unfortunately, it is often the case that most of the shock absorbers available in the market are relatively vulnerable to damages. This is especially true if the car's suspension system is often forced to work under extreme temperatures.

Yet, at this point of time, car owners may be asking how they are supposed to know if their shock absorbers need to be replaced.

Well, the easiest way car owners can approach is to drive their car to the nearest uneven roads that have lots of bumps or holes.

It is also important to keep in mind that even though oil leakage coming out of the shock absorbers are obvious indicator for replacement, there is a tendency for some to wear out even without the least amount of oil leakage.

Yet, it is also necessary for car owners to pay careful attention to any signs of dents visible on the body of the shock absorbers, ragged bushes, tiny holes visible in piston rod and also abnormal tyre conditions.


Shock wear indicator

Car owners also need to know how long shock absorbers have been in use so as to anticipate for possible damages or needs of replacement.

Some car owners make use of the count on mileage number as the indicator. Unfortunately, car mileage alone is not reliable enough. The reason is because there are shock absorbers that still work under excellent condition after having reached more than sixty-five thousand kilometres while some others wear out before even reaching thirty thousand kilometres.

It is also wise to perform a conventional bumper bounce test. This usually helps to ensure car owners whether or not their shock absorbers require a replacement.

Last but not least, another thing that car owners often misunderstand for shock wear indicator is the warranty offered by the dealers. Warranties are often meant to raise the sale value of the shock absorbers without necessarily indicating how long they have been in use. Even though warranty might free car owners from the replacement cost, it seldom offers free labour costs.
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