The paved roads we use aren’t always perfect. Daily abuse, exposure to the sun, and weather causes ruts, cracks, and potholes. Car manufacturers deal with the challenge posed by such road conditions by equipping vehicles with a suspension system—and shock absorbers are a key part of that suspension system.
And when your shock absorbers go bad, you’re definitely bound to notice. But just in case you don’t know what to look for, we’ll discuss some of the most common signs of faulty or failing shock absorbers.
Bad Shock Absorber Symptoms
Your shock absorbers are subject to abuse, especially over extremely beaten terrain. Although developments have made them better than the options decades ago, shocks can still face wearing and issues.
Here are some common signs of bad shock absorbers:
Worn out shocks can make your car’s springs bounce up and down more than what is considered normal. The result is a rougher-than-usual ride when driving over bumps.
And an extremely uncomfortable car.
Shocks that are loose or have worn mounting bushings can create a clunking or banging noise while going over bumps.
One reason why the fluid depletes from inside your shocks is due to a leak. A hydraulic fluid leak can happen to any shock absorber and should never go ignored.
Fluid can easily be seen running down the sides of the shock absorber’s shell casing.
Irregular tire wear
You might be wondering what bad shocks have to do with your tires. Your car has shocks to control your wheels from bouncing due to the springs’ reaction from bumps. Faulty dampers cause the tire to bounce off of the ground harder.
As a result, the tire often develops high and low spots in the tread, known as cupping.
Reduced handling and braking ability
Bad shocks may cause your car to tip more to one side or the other when turning. Plus, the front of the vehicle may dip down in the front or rear. Any of these scenarios can negatively affect your car’s handling and braking characteristics.
What is a Shock Absorber?
Springs alone can’t handle bumps and potholes because they’ll compress and expand uncontrollably due to the laws of physics. They need to be accompanied by a device that serves as the stopping or slowing force to control the movement of the springs.
Inventors designed shock absorbers to address this problem.
Shock absorbers keep the spring from bouncing excessively through the dampening process, which transforms the spring’s kinetic energy into thermal energy. To dissipate this heat, dampers are typically filled with hydraulic fluid.
Without shocks, your car will continue to bounce until it dissipates the energy from the impact of hitting a bump. Excessive spring movement will cause you to lose control of the vehicle. Damage to your tire’s sidewall and tread can happen when you hit a deep pothole and your faulty shocks cause the tire to scrape your car’s fender liner.
In short, shock absorbers keep your car maneuverable despite irregularities on the surface of the road.
2 Types of Shock Absorbers
Different suspension system designs, and varying vehicle applications, resulted in the invention of two different shock absorber types. There are two main types of shocks: mono-tube and twin-tube.
Both have different variations to choose from.
A mono-tube shock absorber has all of its components confined inside a single tube. It consists of a piston valve, a shell that acts like a cylinder, and hydraulic oil.
Mono-tube shock absorbers have a floating piston that compresses the oil and lets it pass through the piston valves. This setup allows the shock absorber to compress slower over tiny bumps and faster with bigger ones.
The twin-tube damper is the most common type of shock absorber and is relatively inexpensive compared to the mono-tube. It features two cylinders; one acting as the shell and the other as the inner tube.
The inner tube houses the piston valve and oil reservoir, while the outer shell holds the oil being pushed by the piston valve and the low-pressure gas. The tiny holes in the piston, as well as the presence of a base valve, restricts the flow of oil entering the outer tube to better control the wheels.
Twin-tubes tend to overheat due to the rapid movement of the piston over very bumpy terrains. The heat causes the oil to foam, which then lessens its effectiveness in dampening the springs.
Can I Drive with a Bad Shock Absorber?
Driving when there are issues with your car is never the smartest idea. Technically, you can still drive with worn of faulty shocks, but you certainly don’t want to risk the consequences.
Consider consulting your trusted mechanic. Getting replacements for your failing shock absorbersis the best thing you could do to avoid future inconvenience.
Shock absorber replacements roughly cost around $200 to $800, while performance shocks typically cost upwards of $1,500. Still, these prices are relatively less expensive than having to deal with multiple problems that could arise after failing to address the issue.