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You should know by now that the car you drive is made out of more parts than just the engine, wheels, and body. There are parts as big as those and there are also ones as small as the brake calipers, rotors, and shock absorbers. Although these components differ greatly in size, they all play a vital role in keeping your car running at its peak condition. Unfortunately, there comes a time when these need to be replaced. For some, it happens often, while others last longer. Here’s a guide for you to figure out when to replace your car’s shock absorbers.

What’s a Shock Absorber for?

If you don’t know what a shock absorber is, don’t fret. Its function is actually quite simple, but important nonetheless. As the name implies, it absorbs the shock to the suspension so that it will not reach you and your passengers. Shock absorbers also keep your car running smoothly over bumps. When you step on the brakes, especially if you do so all of sudden, these mechanisms, which are basically just oil pumps, absorb most of that impact. If your car doesn’t have these, that stop would’ve been very uncomfortable. Shock absorbers reduce impact by converting the kinetic energy to heat. They only let a small amount of hydraulic fluid through to the piston, which reduces the movement of the suspension.

Types of Shock Absorbers

There are three main types of shock absorbers. The first is the conventional twin tube variety, which is the most common of the three. A basic twin-tube or two-tube shock absorber has a pressure tube and a reserve tube, hence the name. This works simply by moving the hydraulic fluid inside, which allows the mechanical energy from driving over bumps in the road to heat, which is then naturally dissipated. This type of vehicle shock absorber has evolved into gas-charged, position or acceleration sensitive, and coil-over varieties.

There are also mono-tube shock absorbers, which only comes with the pressure tube. However, this type of car shock absorber comes with two pistons – the working piston and the floating piston. These move in sync with how the car moves when it goes over a rough patch on the road.  Lastly, we have the spool valve. These are composed of oil passages within cylindrical sleeve. Spool valves are compatible with mono-tube, twin-tube shock absorbers, position-sensitive mechanisms. They can also be used with electronic controls.

When Should You Replace Your Car’s Shock Absorbers?

Unlike other car parts, shock absorbers don’t have a set expiration date or mileage. You’ll know if you need to replace your car’s shock absorbers if they start to feel off. By this, we mean if you experience the following when driving your car. First is if your car takes more time and a longer distance to come to a full stop. If your shock absorbers are faulty, it may take up to 20% more distance to stop your car. This may lead to a serious accident if you can’t properly approximate when you need to step on the brakes when you’re driving.

If your shock absorbers have gone bad, it may also cause your car to dive when you step in the brake pedal. Not only does this cause physical damage to your car, it can also be a hazard during wet or icy weather, so it’d be for the best if you replace your shock absorbers as soon as possible if you notice this happening. Your tires may also be unevenly worn down because of your car’s tendency to dive or squat. You may also feel your car vibrating as you drive it due to the now subpar shock absorption taking place. These vibrations may be subtle at slow speeds, but they may cause you to lose control as you get to faster speeds.

Not only do cars with worn down shock absorbers tilt to one side as you drive, they may also veer or slide uncontrollably to that direction as well. You may find this happening even when the winds outside are pretty weak – what more if they become stronger? Worn out shocks also make the ride quality poor because the car tends to bounce with each irregularity on the road. This results to an unstable ride.

It’s a no-brainer that you should replace your shock absorbers or get them repaired if this starts to happen. If you need new shock absorbers installed on your vehicle, you may also notice it rocking and rattling over the smallest things such as uneven surfaces or bumps on the road. Not only would this make for an unpleasant ride, but it also opens up your car’s other parts to unwanted damage.

Aside from knowing if you need to replace your car’s shock absorbers through feeling, there are also visual signs that appear when it’s time for you to get new ones. Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a certified car mechanic or a gearhead to take note of these warnings. The first and possibly most obvious, visual sign of a worn-down shock absorber is oil stains. These leaks occur because of a failing damper. This discoloration can most likely be seen on the suspension or behind the wheels. You should also watch for cupping on your car’s tires. This indicates suspension parts that have been bent, worn down, or loosely attached.

How to Replace Shock Absorbers

We advise you not to try DIY-ing your way through shock repair or replacement. To do this job right, you’re going to need specialized tools such as spring compressors, among others. You’re also going to need quite a bit of experience with fixing up cars to do this properly. Like with most car modifications, it’s better to have an expert do this. It is much wiser to spend a bit more money to get a good result rather than spend more when your do-it-yourself solution doesn’t pan out and only ends up causing more problems on your vehicle.

You should replace the shock absorbers of your car if you see and feel that they’re not performing to the best of their capabilities. Don’t waste a single moment if you notice any of the symptoms of a failing shock absorber. Contact a trusted mechanic and get work done on it as quickly as possible.

Sources:

  1. How to Inspect Shock Absorbers – Your Mechanic
  2. How long do car shocks last? – howstuffworks

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