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Shock absorbers or shocks absorb the force from the springs. Without them, your vehicle would bounce and bob more, making driving more difficult, especially when turning, braking, or accelerating. To avoid that, you must ensure your shocks are always in great shape, and one of the best ways to do that is to test them by hand.

How to Test Shock Absorbers by Hand

If you feel that your vehicle is becoming less stable while driving, there might be something wrong with your shocks. Here’s how to test your car shock absorbers by hand to determine whether it’s time to replace them.

Park Your Vehicle

Before testing your shock absorbers, park on a flat and even surface far from other vehicles. Your garage is perfect, but if you have to test your shock absorbers while you’re out on, some distance from the road.

Check Your Vehicle’s Balance

After parking, go to your vehicle’s front and check its overall balance. You can tell something’s wrong with your shock absorbers if your vehicle bends or tilts to one side.

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More often than not, the side of the vehicle that’s lower has a faulty shock absorber. If you don’t trust your ability to eyeball it, you use a tape measure to check and compare the two sides.

Test the Shock Absorbers

If you’ve confirmed that your vehicle is unbalanced, place your hands on top of the hood’s sides and press your weight down.

Your vehicle will bounce only once before returning to its former position if its shocks are fully functional. If it bounces several times (thrice or more), your shock absorbers might be faulty.

This video shows exactly what this looks like:

Signs You Need to Replace Your Shock Absorbers

Besides testing your shock absorbers by hand, watch out for the signs that could mean it’s time to replace your shocks.

Fluid Leaks

You can tell when your shock absorbers are leaking if they look wet and oily from hydraulic fluid. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your shock absorbers are broken, but it is a sign that it’s worth inspecting them for damage or issues.

leaking strut on the left rear of a 2007 ford expedition
The leaking strut shown in the photo is on the left rear of a 2007 Ford Expedition. | Image Source: Richard McCuistian

Difficulty Controlling Your Vehicle

As your vehicle’s shocks wear down, you might find it harder to control your vehicle when driving. Some problems you might experience due to failing shock absorbers include reduced braking, handling, and steering.

General Mileage

Experts recommend replacing shock absorbers every 50,000 miles. Your shocks might need replacement earlier or later than that, depending on their service life. Check your manual’s recommendation to be sure.

What Are the Dangers of Driving With Bad Shock Absorbers?

If you put off replacing your bad shocks, your tires and suspension system wear out faster. As a result, you might have to deal with the following while driving:

  • Reduced braking efficiency and responsiveness
  • Increased risk of skidding on slippery roads
  • Reduced handling and maneuverability
  • Higher risk of hydroplaning at lower speeds
  • Less control in difficult driving conditions
See also  How Long Do Shocks Last?

What Are the Types of Shock Absorbers?

There are two types of shock absorbers: telescopic and spring seat shock absorbers. Struts perform like shocks, but they technically fall under a unique classification.

Telescopic Shock Absorbers

Telescopic shock absorbers are the most common type used in vehicles. They’re available in different sizes, affordable, and easy to maintain.

Spring Seat Shock Absorbers

Spring seat shock absorbers combine suspension units and damping devices. Unfortunately, this unique specialization comes at a cost because these shocks can’t sustain heavy loads.

These shocks are also sealed units, meaning they’re not repairable. If they take damage, you must replace them.

Struts

Although struts aren’t technically shock absorbers, they perform the same function: absorbing the rebound of the springs and suspension system.

They’re built inside the suspension system, making them sealed units that need a complete replacement when they get damaged.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can You Make Your Shock Absorbers Last Longer?

Keep your tires inflated and avoid driving over potholes and bumpy terrain to extend your shock absorbers’ service life. If you one of them fails, replace it and its pair to ensure consistent performance.

Similarly, it’s also a good practice to stick to your vehicle’s maintenance schedule. Let licensed mechanics check your ride. They can pinpoint, prevent, and resolve any issues in your shocks.

Can Bad Shock Absorbers Cause Your Tires to Wear Unevenly?

Yes, bad shocks can cause uneven tire wear. Shock absorbers keep your vehicle from bouncing, so the unnecessary movement caused by bad shocks can cause some tires to wear out faster than others.

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Do Faulty Shock Absorbers Make Any Distinct Noises?

Sometimes they do, depending on the terrain and how much damping has been lost as the shocks are wearing out. Worn-out shock absorbers often make heavy clunking noises akin to metal knocking when driving on bumpy terrain. Faulty shocks make those sounds when they fail to absorb impact, causing the shocks to hit the metallic components.

Where to Get Shock Absorbers for Your Car

Driving around with damaged shocks is a recipe for disaster. Faulty shock absorbers make your vehicle hard to control, increasing your risk of getting into an accident. For your own safety, you should replace them as soon as possible. Luckily, getting brand-new shock absorbers is fast and easy with CarParts.com.

CarParts.com offers a wide selection of shock absorbers sourced from only the most trusted manufacturers in the industry. With just a few clicks, you can order high-quality shocks that fit your vehicle. Use our vehicle selector to easily browse through all the available parts that are compatible with your ride. If you need any help with your order, don’t hesitate to reach out to our customer service staff, who provide round-the-clock support.

Don’t wait until your shock absorbers completely fail before replacing them. Check out our catalog of high-quality shock absorbers and strut assemblies at CarParts.com and order one today!

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

File Under : Suspension , DIY Tagged With :
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