- The shock absorber is a mechanism that dampens, shakes, and bounces when driving on rough and uneven roads
- The suspension strut is a damping mechanism basically acts as a shock absorber that provides structural support by carrying the weight of the vehicle
- OEM replacement shock absorber and strut kits can cost anywhere between $30 and $3,300
- These kits are available individually, but it is recommended to replace them in sets of two or four.
Shock absorber and strut kits are simple mechanisms that work to provide a smooth ride and handling to a car. As part of the suspension system, they help vehicles adjust to varying road conditions while minimizing unwanted motions.
In a nutshell, this component controls the up and down movement of the wheels so the car’s body doesn’t bounce excessively. Each assembly is made from shock absorbers, struts, and springs. The shock absorber and strut kit combine these three important parts into one easily serviceable component. To understand what this kit is for, let’s take a closer look at what these parts are and how they function in a vehicle.
What are the shock absorbers?
The shock absorber is a component of a vehicle’s suspension system that plays a key part in improving ride quality. As its name suggests, it is a mechanism that dampens, shakes, and bounces when driving on rough and uneven roads. It is commonly confused with springs because they have a similar use yet they function differently.
Springs vs shock absorbers
Springs work by storing energy, while shock absorbers work to dissipate energy. Let’s say you made a quick turn and your car leans on one side. Without the shock absorber, the spring will store the energy and push the car to lean on the opposite side.
Dampening the movement and dissipating the energy keeps your car stable and prevents rolling from one side to the other. The resistance from shock absorbers also depends on the velocity of movement. Quick movements are absorbed more, while slow movements are absorbed less.
How does a shock absorber work?
Over the years, engineers have innovated on the design of shock absorbers and have developed several kinds of valves. However, its basic design has remained unchanged for almost a century.
Shocks are basically hydraulic chambers with an internal perforated piston and rod. This sealed chamber can either be hydraulic or pneumatic. Hydraulic chambers are filled with hydraulic fluid, while pneumatic ones are filled with compressed gas.
When a car drives over uneven surfaces, the shock causes the piston to move into the chamber. This movement is dampened by gas or fluid in the chamber. This resistance controls the movement of the rod as the gas or liquid it is forced to pass through the piston’s tiny holes.
Types of shock absorbers
This type of shock absorber is most commonly found in cars, SUVs, vans, and light trucks. As its name suggests, it is made up of two cylinders: an inner cylinder where the piston moves and an outer cylinder which acts as a reservoir for the hydraulic fluid.
The monotube design is comprised of a single cylinder which is divided into sections. The chamber is split into two separate areas that hold gas and fluid. The internal piston of monotube shock absorbers is wider than that of a twin-tube.
What are Struts?
The suspension strut is a damping mechanism basically acts as a shock absorber that provides structural support by carrying the weight of the vehicle. It is mounted inside a coil spring, combining the spring and shock absorber into one component. The strut also plays a role in the car’s alignment and steering system.
Most of today’s cars are fitted with a MacPherson strut suspension. This type of strut is connected to the body of the vehicle and the hub carrier. It is normally used on the front wheels because it doesn’t take up a lot of space horizontally, unlike a double-wishbone suspension. For such a simple mechanism, it has a significant role in making a car’s ride smooth.
How much do shock absorber and strut kits cost?
OEM replacement shock absorber and strut kits can cost anywhere between $30 and $3,300. These kits are available individually, but it is recommended to replace them in sets.
Advantages of having a good shock absorber and strut kit
The benefits of having a good shock absorber and strut kit can be described by 3 C’s.
Unlike tires that make a certain number of rotations based on mileage, your suspension system will go through countless compressions in a single mile. The condition of your shocks and struts affect its ability to absorb vibration and imperfections of the road. Having a good kit installed gives a car a smoother ride, and lessens bouncing even when driven over bumps and uneven terrain.
One of the functions of a car’s suspension system is to help the tires maintain contact with the road. Shocks and struts maintain vehicle stability by controlling how weight is shifted between the wheels. When a car puts all its weight on one side during cornering, it doesn’t roll over because of the force of the shocks on the other side which pushes the wheel out towards the road’s surface.
Most importantly, good shocks and struts help in improving a vehicle’s handling. This means that the car can brake without the front-end diving onto the pavement.