Shock absorbers also called shocks, are integral vehicle components that need to be maintained and monitored regularly. Shock absorbers wear out gradually, and the degree of wear depends on some factors, such as road and climate conditions, how you drive, and the load carried by the vehicle. You don't want bad shock absorbers; the vehicle's overall performance is affected when worn out and, if left unchecked, may lead to an accident.
How do you know if your shock absorbers are worn? By being aware of the changes in the behavior of your vehicle. This article will discuss knowing when your shock absorbers are worn, the necessary actions to take after discovering bad shock absorbers, and what to do to ensure they don't wear out too fast.
Common Signs that Show Your Shock Absorbers Are Getting Worn Out
Safety-critical suspension components are known for wearing out over time, and shock absorbers are no exception. Your vehicle's behavior changes when they are getting worn out, and it affects the steering, stopping, and stability of your vehicle. It is important to know these signs and know where to look.
Here are some of the signs you have bad shocks.
Nosedive Occurs When You Brake
The front end of your car dips towards the ground when you hit your brakes, indicating worn shocks. This is detrimental and makes the brake ineffective because your vehicle stops later than usual, especially on wet or slippery roads.
Unusually Bouncy Vehicle
When you hit a speed bump, the vehicle is supposed to settle if the shocks are functional, but instead, they continue to bounce off the road and make your usually smooth ride uncomfortable.
When you go round a corner, it feels as if the vehicle is swaying; this is a result of worn shocks – the ability of the shock absorbers to control weight transfer and balance the vehicle dissipating produces this effect. This means you must apply more pressure on the steering wheel than usual to navigate a corner.
Notice some fluid seeping from the shocks? This is due to the seals failing, mostly caused by sand particles accumulated by driving on rough roads getting into the seals, and inadvertently damaging them. This hydraulic fluid is essential to the working of the shocks; the less there is, the more the shocks become dysfunctional. They would need to be replaced immediately.
Uneven Tire Wear
This results from excessive bouncing of the vehicle, which is an effect of worn-out shocks. The bouncing leads to accelerated tire wear because there is a reduction in the road's holding force, causing the tire's rubber to be gouged out.
Vibration in the Steering Wheel
Although the steering wheel normally vibrates while driving over bumpy roads, it is unusual when it does so on smooth roads. That could be a sign your shocks are getting worn out and need to be replaced.
If noises are heard when your vehicle goes over a bump or a pothole, this is the effect of a loose shock with bad bushings or one whose fluids are leaking from a broken seal. A rattling or knocking sound persists until the shocks are fixed or replaced.
When you discover any of these, it is time to make an appointment with a professional to perform a checkup on your vehicle and facilitate a replacement. All four have to be changed to ensure proper functionality.
Things to Look Out for When Examining a Vehicle for Worn-Out Shocks
Worn or Damaged Bushings
This component is responsible for reducing noise and vibration; any damage to it automatically affects the shocks. Damaged bushings put additional strain on other components and affect the alignment of the shocks. Damage on bushings is inconspicuous most of the time, so ensure you contact your service provider to examine the bushings regularly.
Worn and Overheated Fluid
Over time, the hydraulic fluid in the shocks, which controls unwanted spring motion as the piston moves vertically, loses its viscosity or overheats and can no longer lubricate the internal components. Consequently, the internal parts get coated with a sticky film of oil that hinders smooth operation.
Aging or Degraded Components
Internal components of shocks may lose their damping effectiveness due to repeated use over time or as a result of impact or accident. As soon as you discover this, a replacement is the only solution – you cannot repair damaged or worn-out components.
Factors that Contribute to the Wearing Out of Shocks
Driving on Rough Roads
Since shocks are responsible for stabilizing a vehicle's movements, driving on roads filled with potholes, bumps, and dirt takes a toll on the shocks and wears them out faster than usual. Continual driving of your vehicle on roads like these can cause dirt and sand particles to enter the seal of the shocks, damage them and wear out the pistons, which leads to leakage and affect the overall performance.
Hauling Heavy Loads Regularly Over Long Distances
The weight of the load carried by a vehicle determines the amount of strain put on the shocks, as it increases the work it has to do to control and balance the vehicle. Continuous exposure to this strain and stress will wear out and crack the bushings. Worn bushings generate noise and cause excessive bouncing and poor handling.
The more distance you drive, the more your shocks deteriorate. Moving at high speeds means your shocks have to work faster, inadvertently putting a strain on the internal components and causing wear. Traditionally, shocks wear out every 50,000 to 100,000 miles driven; if you are a speedster, they will wear out faster.
Recommendations and Precautions for Replacing Your Worn-Out Shock Absorbers
When you discover that your shocks have worn out, ensure that you buy quality shocks when you get a replacement. Shocks also differ: some are stiffer for better cornering, while others offer better comfort with driving and steering. So, your preferences must be considered while purchasing your shocks. Ask your technician for proper advice on the best shocks for your needs.
For the overall health of the vehicle, you may need to replace all four shocks: go all out, as focusing on only the affected ones is worse than continuing with the worn-out shock(s). Replacing only one can lead to worse handling than with worn-out shocks. If you can't replace all four shocks due to financial constraints, you should replace one end, either two shocks for the right side or the left side, to guarantee equal handling.
After choosing your new one, you may also have to replace other parts connected to your worn-out shocks. The worn-out shocks' corresponding parts (bearing mounts, rubber bump stops, etc.) could be worn out too. You should complete an overhaul to ensure proper functionality after replacing your shocks.
Do not try to fix the shock absorbers unless you are a certified mechanic with experience. It's too risky to try to fix it without any training. As soon as there are hiccups with your vehicle, it is highly recommended that you take it to a well-equipped garage for diagnosis. The garage will confirm your vehicle's issues and complete the necessary repairs and maintenance.
Shock absorbers will inevitably wear out: the duration is what differs. Try to watch out for the signs listed above to know if your shocks have worn out, or you consult a professional to perform regular checkups on your