What are the symptoms of a bad or damaged shock absorber?

Wondering if it’s time to replace your shock absorbers? Or, need to know what the symptoms of a failing shock absorber are? Before we dive in to answering those questions, you need to know how a shock absorber is designed.

Shock absorbers keep your tires on the ground on bumpy roads so you can maintain control of the vehicle. They are consist of a cylinder filled with hydraulic fluid, another tube called the pressure cylinder (within the first cylinder), a piston that travels through the inner cylinder, and valving that measures the flow of fluid from one side of the piston to the other as bumps in the road are encountered. Shocks are attached to the vehicle using bolts and rubber bushings, serving as a link between suspension components. Like all parts of your vehicle, the suspension will wear out over time and require replacement.

Here are a few things that can go wrong with your shock absorbers, and how to fix them:

Fluid Leaks

Leaks are usually the earliest indicators of a problem. If the seals surrounding the shock’s shaft begin to leak, the fluid will run down the side of the shock towards the ground. If you notice fluid leakage from the shocks or struts, you should check to see if the bodies are dented (or otherwise physically damaged), and examine the bushings for corrosion or other damaged. If not, call your mechanic and ask them to take a look.

Tire Wear

A worn shock is unable to keep the tire firmly on the road surface. The part of the tire that is coming in contact with the road will wear but the part of the tire that is not in contact with the road will not, causing uneven tire wear.  If your tires are unevenly worn or show abnormally flat areas, you should investigate the cause. Give your mechanic a call your mechanic and ask them to take a look.

Excessive bouncing

If you drive over a big bump, pothole, or a patch of rough road and your vehicle continues to bounce your car may need a shock or strut replacement.

Front “Nose-Diving”

If the front end of your vehicle (otherwise known as the nose of your car) dives toward the ground when braking, your shocks and struts need to be replaced or at least evaluated.

You might also notice that it takes extra time for the vehicle to stop. This happens when the shock is struggling to take up all the piston rod length and, in turn, extends the stopping distance required to come to a complete stop. This

Rear “Squatting”

Another common sign that your shocks or struts require service is if the rear end of your vehicle “squats” toward the ground as you accelerate. Additionally, if you make a turn and the vehicle dips drastically to one side, your shocks or struts may need to be replaced.

Instability at High Speeds

And as it wears, the suspension may not perform as well as it originally did. You may notice less control when steering, that the car wanders slightly from side to side, increased bouncing, or “nose-diving” when braking. All of these symptoms are indicative of a serious problem.

At V&F

Well-maintained shocks and struts are critical to the overall safety and stability of your vehicle’s steering and suspension. We highly recommend having shocks and struts serviced regularly and replaced well before there is an issue. If you observe any of these symptoms while you are in your vehicle or looking under the hood, it’s time to bring your vehicle in.

Written by Nicole Palange

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