Your shock absorbers are probably not a major priority on your car parts list – but they should be. They often don’t get the credit they are deserved and aren’t checked as regularly as the brakes, tyres and engine parts. However, without working shock absorbers on your vehicle you could be in for more of a nasty surprise than just a bumpy and unpleasant ride.
What are shock absorbers?
Shock absorbers are an integral part of the vehicle’s suspension system, which ensure safe control at all times. They are essentially small oil pumps which are fitted near the wheels to control impact and minimise movement, absorbing the energy from the road. Your shock absorbers will automatically adjust to the road conditions, creating more resistance when needed – which is pretty awesome!
The most important job of the shock absorbers is to keep the vehicle’s tyres on the ground at all times. Without the connection to the road surface, tyres can lose control and the safety of the vehicle is compromised. This is why checking your shock absorbers regularly is important as they are as essential for safety as they are for protecting the vehicle from wear and tear.
When do I need to replace shock absorbers?
The terrain you drive on regularly will often have an impact on how often the shock absorbers need replacing. There is no guideline as such as to when they should be replaced, however with good handling and a smooth pavement we would expect most shock absorbers to last between 5 and 10 years. However, driving over potholes or bumps at speed, or with excessive loads which makes the car bounce, will shorten the life of your shock absorbers so keep this in mind.
As with all car parts, shock absorbers can suffer from general wear and tear and you should know the signs of them failing. If you notice an uncharacteristic bouncing, stiffness or feel that the handling of the car is off, then you may need to get the shock absorbers checked. They contain fluid so can be subject to leaks and other damage which require maintenance from a qualified mechanic.
Another thing to look out for while driving is longer braking distances, which of course can be very dangerous. The shock absorbers may need looking at if you’ve noticed any issues with braking, yet we often tend to blame other car parts first before even considering this part of the suspension. (According to Kwikfit, worn absorbers can increase braking distance by up to two metres when travelling 30mph). Driving with worn shock absorbers can also negatively affect the tyres, speeding up wear and tear.
However, it can sometimes be difficult to notice when there is a problem with an absorber or another part of the complex suspension system. This is because the loss of performance is gradual over time, so drivers often don’t recognise the difference in handling. This is why it’s a good idea to trust a mechanic to take a look at the shock absorbers, during other maintenance checks, and see if they are worn.
Replacing and repairing
There are a few different types of absorbers your vehicle may have, which will determine if they need to be replaced or repaired if damaged. A lot of shock absorbers can be replaced easily and inexpensively – so you shouldn’t have to worry about a big maintenance bill. Some only need a part of the absorber to be replaced and upgraded, saving on a full replacement.
However if you’re concerned about the shock absorbers on your vehicle then it’s also a good idea to get the entire suspension system checked out by a professional – a good mechanic will likely do this anyway just to make sure the whole system is in good working order. There are quite a few moving parts in the suspension system including coil springs, wishbones and bushes so it’s important to check for wear and tear.
How to check your shock absorbers
If you want to make sure your shock absorbers are in a good condition, you can try the bounce test on your vehicle. It’s really easy and takes seconds, so there’s no excuse! Simple press down on one corner of your car and then let go and see how the car responds. Count the number of bounces – if the vehicle bounces two or more times, this indicates there could be a fault in the suspension.
Repeat the test on all 4 corners of the car to see if there is any difference depending on where the impact comes from.
If you think you may have an issue with and part of your suspension system, bring your vehicle into Windmill Garage today. Even if it’s just for peace of mind, you’ll know that your tyres are safely connected to the road if your shock absorbers are in good working order and if they’re not, we can repair the suspension.