Car shocks: Functions, symptoms, and tests

I once came across a definition of “a complex machine” somewhere and it was extensive. While I can’t recall it exactly, it essentially referred to it as a collection of various important small and larger parts that come together to make a working whole, and a bug in any of the parts causes a certain degree of inefficiency to the whole machine.

Car shocks are one of those parts. If shocks are absent from your vehicle, it will make for a rather bumpy ride. It’s no wonder that manufacturers include them as part of the suspension system in every car. It accounts for your comfort on the road and makes sure your tires are in measured contact with the road. This article seeks to inform you of the essential functions and importance of car shocks.

What are car shocks?

Car shocks are also popularly known as a shock absorber or a damper. A shock absorber is a mechanical device designed to absorbs shock impulses. If your car happens upon a bad spot on the road, the spring will automatically coil and uncoil, transferring the spring’s energy to the shock.

Shocks convert the generated kinetic energy into heat energy and it’s gotten rid of accordingly through the hydraulic fluid. They are essentially an oil pump placed between a car’s frame and wheels. Shock absorbers don’t bear the weight of your vehicle.

Primarily, the function is to manage the general movement of spring and suspension. This thereby also helps to prevent the rate at which vehicles bounce or sway. Shock absorbers functions to maintain control of your vehicle and not just facilitate a smooth ride.

How car shocks work

As has already been mentioned in this article, shocks are essentially oil pumps and they work using the principle of fluid displacement. A piston is attached to the piston rod’s end, and this creates the much-needed resistance force against the hydraulic fluid inside the pressure tube. In the process where the suspension is moving up and down, some amount of hydraulic fluid is sent out through the orifices (valves) in the piston.

Like this, only a minute amount of fluid goes out of the valves. This process slows down the piston, which consequently reduces the movement of spring and suspension. As a rule, the level of resistance car shocks can produce is directly determined by the number as well as sizes of the valves in the piston and the suspension speed.

Manufacturers now build shock absorbers to be velocity-sensitive hydraulic dampening devices. What this means is that the higher the suspension speed, the higher the resistance the shock produces. Shocks automatically adjust to road conditions.

Shocks and struts

strut and shock

A strut is an indispensable component of the structure of the suspension system. Struts are designed to mainly take a much larger load and often less space as they are generally fused with the coil spring. Shocks, on the other hand, don’t bear the load of the car.

Similar to car shocks, however, struts also produce resistance to help manage the movement of the spring and suspension. In addition to this, struts also offer structural support for the suspension of the vehicle by supporting the spring and aligning the tires.

How often should car shocks be changed?

There’s a mileage limit often given by manufacturers. It dictates that a shock absorber may be changed for every 50,000 miles. It’s reported that by that point, your shocks are calculated to have undergone 88 million oscillations.

More so, how often you change your shocks can also be dependent on your driving habits. For instance, someone who drives their car over bumpy roads will naturally change their car shocks more often than someone who plies good roads.

Signs for worn-out shocks

Worn car shocks

Worn car shocks[/caption]Considering the critical importance of car shocks and how worn ones can quickly render any ride uncomfortable, it’s good sense to learn how to determine when your shock absorbers are worn and need changing. The easiest way to learn this is to look out for the symptoms of worn. They are listed as follows:

Car veering

If you’re not riding out a storm, there’s no reason your car should be exhibiting unsteadiness and sliding. When this happens, it could be an indication that your car shock is bad.

Uneven wear on tires

uneven tire wear

This is always a big deal. All four car tires are supposed to maintain a uniform grip on the road, but worn car shocks tend to be unable to keep your car tires firmly on the ground. And this is how the tires unevenly wear.

These uneven wear may increase the risk of your car hydroplaning, which could expose your vehicle to a random flat. After making in-depth research into the relationship between wheels and tires, I have put together an article that will help you understand the concept behind car tires. And also the wheel and tire exchange.

Vibration in the steering wheel

Excessive vibration in the steering wheel is another symptom. Surely, driving your car over a bumpy road surface can ordinarily cause vibration in the steering wheel, but only a little and it should stop the moment you land on a smooth surface. If the vibration remains, you might want to check your car shock.

Swerving and dipping at brake application

If the front end of your car dips considerably or, worse, swerves when you apply your brake, a worn shock absorber may be responsible. When you notice this, change the shock as soon as possible as it could be potentially dangerous during wet weather.

Rattling and rocking

If as you drive through some minor road patch, your car shakes a little too much, rocks and rattles, your car shock might be worn.

How can I test car shocks?

Here’s the most efficient way to do it: Once your car is parked, push down on the front end of the car and then release when you have pushed as far down as possible. If it requires more than a couple of bounces to get the car to rest, the car shocks might be worn and thus due for a change. You can also use the rear of the car.

Testing car shocks

Key takeaway

Car shocks are important to the general functioning of any vehicle. Also, a shock absorber or a damper is a mechanical device that damps as well as absorbs shock impulses in cars. With such an important role, it’s essential that stays working all the time. This is why it’s crucial to always be on the lookout for worn.

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