The Best Shock Absorbers (Review) in 2020

Your car’s shock absorbers, which are sometimes referred to simply as ‘shocks’, are a vital piece of equipment. Not only...

Best Choice
Bilstein Shock Absorber
Bilstein Shock Absorber
Premium Pick
Rancho Suspension Shock Kit
Rancho Suspension Shock Kit
Best Value
Monroe Monro-Matic Plus Shock Absorber
Monroe Monro-Matic Plus Shock Absorber

Your car’s shock absorbers, which are sometimes referred to simply as ‘shocks’, are a vital piece of equipment. Not only do they protect you from bumps and vibrations, they also help to maintain road contact and improve everything from safety to handling. With so much riding on this component, it’s important to choose the best shock absorbers possible.

To help you find the ideal shocks for your vehicle, we’ve compiled this handy guide. Below, we run through the best shock absorbers on the market right now. To help you work out which option is right for you, and get the most out of it, we’ve also answered some common shock-related questions. Whether you’re looking for the best shocks for trucks, or a set of off road shocks, we’re confident you’ll find the perfect option here.

The Best Shock Absorber

Kicking off our list are these Bilstein shocks. These rear shock absorbers are suitable for use with most heavy stock vehicles, including trucks, jeeps, and SUVs. Thanks to Bilstein’s gas pressure technology, they’re able to deliver excellent handling both on and off road, while also offering an impressively smooth ride. Each gas charged shock is able to remain stable even when strong forces are involved. Filled with inert nitrogen gas at 360 PSI, the shocks limit fade and resist shock fluid foaming.

Compared to other options, they’re easy to install, too, thanks to a custom fit design that works well with a variety of lift combinations. Thanks to a monotube design, the rod is especially suitable for rough and rugged terrain – even with heavy loads. This design makes the shock stiffer than its twin-tube counterparts, for improved wear resistance. Finally, an attractive chrome finish makes these shocks look great on any vehicle.

Key Features
  • Read shock absorber
  • Ideal SUV, jeep, or truck shocks
  • Designed to work both on and off the road
  • Offers excellent handling
  • Gas charged
  • Impressive fade resistance
  • Reduce the risk of shock fluid foaming
  • Monotube design
  • Attractive chrome finish
Specification
  • Brand Bilstein
  • Model 24-186742
  • Weight 5.75 pounds

The next components to find a place on our list are these Monroe shocks. Each half inch piston rod has been hardened and precision ground, for consistent performance and an impressive service life. Inside, the shocks feature all-weather fluid, carefully blended to reduce friction for consistently smooth rod reaction. Both the compression and extension cycles on each unit have been improved through valving range alterations, for a smoother, more comfortable ride.

The shocks make a perfect fit for Buicks and Cadillacs. If you regularly use your vehicle for towing or carrying heavy loads, these are the perfect rear shock absorbers for you. They’ve been carefully engineered to maintain your vehicle’s ride height, when loaded with up to 1,100 pounds of extra weight. For normal driving, the shocks can be adjusted to 150 PSI, so they’re great for day to day use, too. Thanks to a monotube design, these components are very hard wearing, even on challenging terrain. Drivers say that the shocks offer a fantastic ride and excellent value for money.

Key Features
  • Rear shock absorbers
  • Compatible with Buick, Cadillac vehicles
  • Ideal for towing and heavy loads
  • Monotube design
  • All-weather fluid reduces friction for a smooth, consistent ride
  • Maintains vehicle ride height with loads of up to 1,100 lbs
  • Adjustable for everyday driving
  • Hard wearing
Specification
  • Brand Monroe
  • Model MA822
  • Weight 11 pounds

The next shock absorber to earn a spot on our list is by ACDelco. The first front shock absorbers to make our list, these light duty components help to adsorb and dampen all the bumps and vibrations from the road, without weighing down your vehicle. If you drive a GM vehicle, these could be the perfect option for you – they’re specifically designed for use with GM manufactured cars and trucks. In fact, along with shocks and struts, ACDelco make a whole range of high quality GM-compatible components.

Each versatile shock has been carefully engineered to perform well with cars, light duty trucks, and even SUVs. Each shock comes with a 24 month warranty – regardless of how many miles you travel – so you can rest assured they’re built to last. Drivers say that these durable shocks helped their suspension system feel brand new again, significantly improving ride quality and handling for an overall safer, more comfortable driving experience.

Key Features
  • Front shock absorbers
  • Specially designed for General Motors vehicles
  • Suitable for cars, light duty trucks, and SUVs
  • Absorbs bumps and vibrations from the road
  • Lightweight design
  • 24 year warranty included (unlimited miles)
  • Improve ride and handling
Specification
  • Brand ACDelco
  • Model 580-435
  • Weight 8.6 pounds

These Monroe air shocks have earned the manufacturer a second spot on our list. Each high quality shock features a carefully blended all-weather fluid, which helps to reduce friction in the system, for smooth rod reaction. The components also utilise full displaced valving to deliver a consistent ride, that adapts to even the most extreme road conditions.

Meanwhile, fluon banded pistons offer consistent sealing between the piston itself and the pressure tube, for improved durability and increased handling control. If you often expose your vehicle to a wide range of surfaces and conditions, these shocks could be the perfect match for your lifestyle. They’re also a great option for towing and heavy truck bed loads – thanks to heavy gauge calibrated springs, they can maintain ride height even when the vehicle is loaded with up to 1,100 pounds of cargo. Drivers say these shocks are excellent value for money, and a simple but effective upgrade for almost any truck or SUV.

Key Features
  • Pair of heavy duty shock absorbers
  • Ideal for trucks and SUVs
  • Able to maintain ride height at loads up to 1,100 pounds
  • All weather fluid reduced friction for smooth rod reaction
  • Full displaced valving for a consistent, adaptable ride
  • Excellent value for money
Specification
  • Brand Monroe
  • Model 58620
  • Weight 2.2 pounds

Bilstein has also earned a second spot on our list, thanks to these monotube shocks. These rear shock absorbers are specifically engineered to improve the performance of your lifted truck, Jeep, or SUV. Featuring a monotube design, the deliver sturdy durability through gas pressure technology. Each component is finished with multi-layer zinc, for industry leading corrosion resistance.

For your peace of mind, the shocks also include a lifetime warranty – they truly are built to last. In use, the shock’s self-adjusting deflective disc valving ensures a consistent ride whatever terrain you tackle. Finally, with a little mechanical knowhow, these shocks are surprisingly easy to install. They can be directly bolted on, without the need for modification.  Drivers report that these shocks offer a smooth ride and effective handling. They’re attractive, too – fitted with black boots as standard.

Key Features
  • Rear shock absorbers
  • Ideal for lifted trucks, Jeeps, and SUVs
  • Monotube design
  • Multi-layer zinc finish
  • Lifetime warranty included
  • Self-adjusting deflective discs
  • East to install
  • Black boots pre-fitted
Specification
  • Brand Bilstein
  • Model 24-187374
  • Weight 5.65 pounds

If you need to replace all four of your vehicle’s shock absorbers, this suspension kit by Rancho could be the perfect solution. The RS5000 is a popular shock absorber, and for good reason – they perform excellently off the beaten path, without compromising on highway performance. Equipped with 10 stage high velocity sensitive valving, the shocks are carefully designed to provide different vehicles with specific tuning. Meanwhile, a 5.8 inch diameter piston rod improves strength and durability.

Each shock includes its own protective boot, preserving the component against dirt, dust and rain in its environment. Each set of Rancho shock absorbers includes a limited lifetime warranty, demonstrating the faith that this manufacturer has in their products. Drivers across the board were impressed with how the shocks stood up to potholes and other challenging road surfaces, noting a significant improvement in ride comfort compared to standard shocks.

Key Features
  • Set of 4 shock absorbers (2 front, 2 rear)
  • Rancho’s most popular shock absorber
  • Designed for excellent off-road performance
  • Don’t sacrifice ride quality on the highway
  • Equipped with 10 stage high velocity sensitive valving
  • Larger piston rod for improved strength and durability
  • Protective boots shield against dust, dirt, and leaks
  • Limited lifetime warranty included
Specification
  • Brand Rancho
  • Model RS5000
  • Weight 28 pounds

These Gabriel shock absorbers have also earned a spot on our list, thanks to their unique and reliable design. Founded back in 1907, Gabriel actually invented the original shock absorber, and continue to be the home of suspension innovation to this day. Each component carefully combines shock and spring technology, adding up to the perfect solution for heavy duty use – all at a budget friendly price point. The constant-rate front coil springs help improve stability, while also maintaining and restoring ride height. Meanwhile, variable-rate rear coil springs allow each shock to handle loads up to 500 pounds in weight.

Given that these are ‘Load Carrier’ shocks, this impressive capacity should come as no surprise. These components are the perfect option for towing trailers, or supporting heavy cargo in your truck bed or SUV. Suitable for both front and rear use, each shock absorber features a chromed piston rod, which effectively keeps corrosion at bay for a long and effective service life. Meanwhile, excellent seal lubrication ensures even wear, and helps improve durability.

Key Features
  • Front or rear shock absorbers
  • Ideal for load carrying vehicles such as trucks
  • Combines shock and spring technology for heavy duty use
  • Budget friendly price point
  • Each rear coil spring can handle loads of up to 500 lbs
  • Chromed piston rods keep corrosion at bay
  • Features excellent seal lubrication for even wear and great durability
Specification
  • Brand Gabriel
  • Model 43167
  • Weight 15 pounds

ACDelco have also nabbed themselves a second spot on our list, with these premium gas charged from shock absorbers. Each shock features a chromed piston rod engraved with unique ‘micro cracks’, for a surface that’s ultra-smooth, self-lubricating, and resistant to scratches and corrosion. Not only does this surface improve the shcock’s seal life, it also helps to extend the component’s overall lifetime.

Inside each shock, a drawn over mandrel (DOM) pressure cylinder provides excellent sealing properties, along with reduced internal friction. They’re also gas charged, significantly reducing fluid aeration. This in turn leads to improved responsiveness, less foaming, and more consistent control than non-gas charged shock absorbers can offer. Meanwhile, a self-lubricated multi-lip piston rod seal helps to keep dirt, dust, and other contaminants away from the rod’s interior, improving performance and service life. Like all ACDelco components, these shocks are made to a consistently high standard of quality, and specifically designed to work in harmony with General Motors vehicles.

Key Features
  • Shock absorber for everyday use
  • Specifically engineered to work with GM vehicles
  • Chromed piston rods feature unique ‘micro-cracks’
  • This ensures an ultra-smooth, self-lubricating, surface
  • Chrome is resistant to corrosion and scratches
  • DOM cylinders provide excellent sealing properties
  • Gas charged, reducing fluid aeration
  • Self-lubricated, multi-lip piston seal keeps debris out of the piston
  • Excellent value for money and long service life
Specification
  • Brand ACDelco
  • Model 530-301
  • Weight 4.35 pounds

KYB have snagged the penultimate spot on our list, thanks to their MonoMax shock absorbers. Designed to tackle heavy duty use, these shocks can improve your vehicle’s dampening by as much as 40% compared to standard shock absorbers, making for a smoother ride with improved control – an overall better driving experience. Although these shocks are compatible with a wide range of vehicles, they’re carefully tailored to work best with GM vehicles.

Trucks, Jeeps, and SUVs are all ideal candidates for these impressively durable shock absorbers. Thanks to their monotube design, each shock will consistently out-perform standard twin-tube options. This design also helps to improve the component’s durability, for an excellent service lifetime. The shock’s piston ring is constructed from zinc coated stainless steel – the perfect combination when it comes to keeping corrosion and staining at bay. Meanwhile, the included rubber boot helps to protect the shaft against dirt, dust, and debris, further adding to the component’s overall durability. If you regularly use your vehicle for towing, off-roading, or carrying heavy loads, this could be the perfect solution for you.

Key Features
  • Shock absorbers specifically designed for use with GM vehicles
  • Improve dampening by 40% compared to standard shocks
  • Monotube design allows heavy-duty use
  • Ideal for off-roading, towing, and carrying heavy loads
  • Excellent service lifetime
  • Zinc coated, stainless steel piston ring helps keep corrosion at bay
  • Included rubber boot protects the shaft against dust, dirt, and other debris
Specification
  • Brand KYB
  • Model 565104
  • Weight 5.7 pounds

Here comes Monroe, making its third appearance on our list thanks to its 31000 Monro-Matic Plus shock absorber. The component hinges on a 1/2 inch diameter piston rod are much wider than other options for ultimate hard-wearing durability. The rod has been nitro carburized for an extra-long service life, while a larger than average bore provides more efficient and consistent control.

Meanwhile, the shock’s all weather fluid contains modifiers specially engineered to reduce friction and ensure smooth rod reaction. The shock’s gas charged design, along with its velocity sensitive valving, combine to offer drivers of passenger cars a smoother ride and improved comfort – all at an affordable price point. Drivers who have tried the shocks say that these cost effective shocks are perfect for trucks, SUVs, and more, making for a much softer ride.

Key Features
  • Shock absorbers, suitable for a wide range of passenger vehicles
  • Ideal for trucks
  • ½ inch diameter rod for hardwearing performance
  • Features a nitro carburized rod
  • All weather fluid contains specially designed modifiers for reduced friction
  • Gas charged design
  • Features velocity sensitive valving
  • Highly cost effective option
Specification
  • Brand Monroe
  • Model 31000
  • Weight 2.6 pounds
Best Shock Absorber Buying Guide & FAQ

These 10 shock absorbers are the best of the bunch – whatever your vehicle, lifestyle, or budget, we’re confident there’s something on our list to meet your needs. To help you find the perfect shocks for you – and get the most out of them – we’ve put together this brief guide. Below, we run through how to spot a quality shock absorber, the different types available, and how to tell if yours should be replaced.

Maintenance of sedan car suspension shock absorber

What to Look for When Buying a Shock Absorber

When it’s time to choose new shock absorbers for your vehicle, it’s a good idea to watch out for the following features:

  • Appropriate Type

First and foremost, be sure to select the appropriate type of shock absorber for your vehicle, and your needs. Many manufacturers produce components with a specific type of vehicle in mind, so be sure to carefully check that the shock you purchase is compatible with your car. We’ll talk about the types of shock you’ll have to choose from in more detail below.

  • Good Service Life

Whatever we buy, we all want to get our money’s worth, and selecting a shock absorber with a long service life is highly cost effective. It can be difficult to tell how long a shock will last through specifications alone, but checking out customer feedback can be a big help. Besides this, look out for relatively thick pistons, strong materials, and a well-protected shaft. Many shocks use a rubber boot to achieve this level of protection.

  • Smooth Operation

A shock absorber’s job is to bear the brunt of vibrations and bumps from the road, helping to ensure constant road contact, and a smooth ride. To make sure your potential shock is up to the task, look out for low friction all weather fluid, and self-lubrication.

  • Quality Materials

A component is only as good as the materials it’s made from, so be sure to check that your new shock absorbers have been built from high quality metals. You can expect most shocks to be made from strong and durable steel, which is often preserved through a chrome or zinc coating. Look out for these materials, and you can rest assured the shock was built to last.

Why You Should Change Your Shocks

Even if your vehicle’s original shocks are functional, you might want to upgrade them for a few reasons, including:

  • Upgrading your shocks makes for a smoother ride – great for long journeys
  • Changing shock absorbers can better equip your vehicle for off-road driving
  • Reliable shocks can improve your vehicle’s handling
  • Upgrading your shock absorbers is a cost effective way to improve performance
  • Some new shocks allow your vehicle to better tow trailers and carry heavy loads
  • High quality shock absorbers help protect your car from potholes
  • Some shock absorbers heighten your vehicle’s ride for improved visibility
  • Switching out shock absorbers can improve your vehicle’s appearance

Close Up of shock absorbers

Types of Shock Absorbers

Shock absorbers typically fall into one of the following categories:

  • Gas Shocks

The ‘gas’ in gas shocks refers to the inert nitrogen with which this type of shock absorber is filled. They’re ideal for smaller vehicles, as they’re tough enough to handle plenty of bouncing around – typical for many passenger cars. Most new cars are fitted with this type of shock: they’re affordable, versatile, and last for around 100,000 miles.

  • Heavy Duty Shocks

As the name implies, this type of shock absorber is designed for heavy duty use, such as towing, off-roading, and carrying heavy cargo. Most of the shocks on our list fall into this category. Heavy duty shocks typically feature a larger center shaft than their standard cousins, and deliver a stiffer overall ride – great for heavy loads and trucks, but not so good for sedans or coupes.

  • Automatic Level-Control Shocks

These sophisticated shocks feature an air pump which activates to even out the vehicle’s weight distribution automatically. This helps to ensure a smooth ride, even when you’re carrying unusual loads. Unsurprisingly, these shocks don’t come cheap, and they’re typically found on luxury vehicles only.

  • Air Shocks

Air shocks can also be used to achieve even weight distribution in your vehicle, but they must be adjusted manually. If you haul often and are familiar with the adjustment process, air shocks could be ideal, otherwise, they may be more hassle than they’re worth.

  • Overload Shocks

Sometimes called ‘coil-over shocks’, this type of shock absorber features a spring coil fitted around the shock cylinder. This type of shock is best for off-road vehicles, such as dune buggies.

Best Shock Absorber FAQ:

Q: When Should I Replace My Shock Absorbers?

A: This will depend upon the brand in question, so always check the manufacuter’s advice. As a rule of thumb, shock absorbers should be replaced (in pairs) roughly every 50,000 miles.

Q: How Can I Test for a Bad Shock Absorber?

A: If one or more of your vehicle’s shock absorbers are failing, you’ll usually notice the following symptoms:

  • Unusual vibrations while driving
  • Unpredictable handling when you brake
  • Increased stopping distance
  • Uneven tire tread wear
  • Fluid leaking from the shock
  • Cracks in the shock

Q: How Do I Change a Shock Absorber?

A: The installation process will vary depending on the type of shock you choose, and you vehicle.

Generally, you can expect to work through the following steps:

  • On a level surface, jack up your vehicle using a designated jacking point
  • Remove the wheels, and locate the current shock absorbers – generally fixed in place with a vertical bolt
  • Spray the old shocks with metal cleaner – this will make them easier to remove
  • Remove the old shocks using a ratchet and socket to remove the shock tower bolts
  • Disconnect the shock from the vehicle’s suspension with a socket set or nut splitter
  • Remove the shock absorber all together by wiggling it off its bolts
  • Fit the new shock onto the suspension control arm
  • Screw the nuts tightly for a snug connection
  • Check the torque specs for your vehicle (listed in its service manual) to ensure everything is secure

For more detailed instructions and tips, check out this handy guide.

Related Posts: Best Off Road Jacks and Car Jacks

Our Top Pick

For us, this rear shock absorber by Bilstein is the best of the bunch. Thanks to its tough and durable design, this versatile shock is suitable for a wide range of vehicles – from trucks, to SUVs, to Jeeps. Its monotube construction offers excellent fade-free performance, keeping you on the road for longer.

Whether you’re hitting the highway or traversing gravel paths, this hardy shock will have you covered, thanks to gas pressure technology that enhances handling in practically any situation. Stiffer than its twin-tube counterparts, this component is ideal for challenging terrain. Its custom fit design can be adjusted to fit a wide range of lift heights, too, so you can rest assured it’s built to work with your truck or SUV. For heavy duty activities, it really is the perfect fit – with a lifetime warranty included, you really can’t go wrong.

Sources:

  1. Shock Absorbers Explained – Monroe Shock Absorbers
  2. Type of Shock Absorbers – Ruhani Rabin