Shock Absorbers: A Comprehensive Description

Shock absorbers (also known as dampeners) are an essential part of your suspension system. They are devices that help to regulate, limit, and control the impact and reaction of the spring and suspension of your vehicle. This, therefore, smoothens and cushions bumps and vibrations.

Various Shock Absorbers

What does the shock absorber do?

As you drive your car, you may come across rough grounds, uneven terrains, or even climb over objects on the road. When you don’t see them, especially while speeding, they can cause a rough shake of your vehicle, thereby causing severe discomfort.

However, when there is a shock absorber, it absorbs and dampens the shockwaves to keep them from rocking the car and create discomfort. Another key function of the shock absorber is to make sure the tires of your vehicles are pressed against the surface of the road at all times.

This function is important to make sure the handling of your car is good. These include braking, accelerating, and steering. All this is to ensure a smooth and comfortable ride.Other functions of the shock absorber are:

  • Limiting the movement of the body of your vehicle.
  • Improving the stability of the vehicle
  • Improving the control of the vehicle
  • Reducing wear and tear of the vehicle parts.
  • While navigating sharp bends during driving, the shocks maintain the balance of the car
  • The comfort of the vehicle is greatly improved

Types of shock absorbers

Presently, we have three common types of shocks available and they all serve different purposes for different vehicles. Here is the breakdown of these types and their uses:

Conventional or telescopic shock absorbers

This is the commonest and most basic type of shock absorber. They are replaced rather than repaired when they are damaged or become very weak due to wear and tear. It can be fitted to both the rear and front suspensions and is very affordable. Some types are:


Monotube shock absorbers have a very design compared to other types of dampeners and uses minimal parts for fabrication. But it uses heavy-duty components and demands more precision during the build process. It is very likely to be more expensive than the twin-tube shock absorber.

The monotube shock absorber is typically found in vans, trucks, or vehicles used for heavy-duty tasks like bulldozers, etc that are driven in areas where harsh road conditions are common.

 Monotube and twin tube Shock Absorbers


This type of shock absorber is very common in cars and smaller SUVs. It sports a second cylinder which contains houses internal fluid. The inside of the twin-tube is different from a monotube cylinder, but both share a similar exterior look, this makes it difficult to differentiate between the two judging by appearance.

twin tube shock absorbers


Coilover shocks are available as a towing or performance upgrade in some vehicles. They are mainly used in vehicles with double wishbone or multilink suspension systems, Coilover shocks are often confused with struts since a coil spring is mounted around these shock absorbers.

Coilover Shock Absorbers

Strut type shock absorbers

Struts are different types of shock absorbers. They perform the same function as others but in a better way. The struts actually replace part of the suspension system which means they are built stronger in order to manage heavy loads and forces.

The strut-type shock absorbers come in both sealed and repairable units. Sealed units are designed to be fully replaced, while the others can be repaired and reused.

 Strut Shock Absorber

Spring seat shocks

The spring seat type of shock absorbers combines qualities of telescopic and strut type of shock absorbers. Similar to struts, a spring seat shock is both a suspension unit and damping device all in one. However, they are not built to sustain heavy loads as the strut-type. In addition, once damaged, you will have to replace the whole unit.Learn more about shock absorbers here

Why shock absorbers are important?


Since the job of the shock absorber is to absorb external disturbing forces, the components and parts of the vehicle including the engine are protected and metal to metal jamming is greatly reduced. This preserves and extends the life of the vehicle


Safety is paramount in the design and implementation of any car model. To the average car owner, trying not to over speed and buckling up safely is safety.  To car manufacturers and auto mechanics, having a perfect suspension system means safety.

The shock absorber is one of the most important components of the suspension system and its major role is to provide vehicular and steering stability. Their presence is one of the main reasons vehicles do not sway or dance in windy conditions.


Comfort and luxury is arguably the most peddled aspect of life. Companies spend millions and billions to improve them, while consumers spend thousands and millions to buy them. In the case of cars, it isn’t different.

To enhance comfort, shock absorbers were created. Aside from providing vehicular stability, they ensure the comfort of all passengers. They absorb and cushion the vibrations emanating from the car’s engine and the imperfections experienced on the road.


Stability is another important role of the shock absorber. Most ground surfaces cars ride on daily basis are not impeccably smooth.  Even with improved technology and practices in road tarring, subtle flaws still manage to creep up.

These flaws cause some up and down movement to the wheel while driving but shock absorbers absorb all that upward energy thereby preventing them from hitting the frame of the vehicle so stability is maintained. They also boost the friction between the car tires and ground thus ensuring a smoother ride.

Why should I Check my Schock Absorbers Often?

Like all mechanical machines and components, shock absorbers will wear out as time goes by. Driving with worn-out shocks makes drivers more detailed with things they can easily neglect. This can also be dangerous.

For example, trying to avoid a bump on a two-way road can make you veer into the lane of an oncoming vehicle. There would also be an uncomfortable movement of the vehicle while cutting corners, bouncing, or bottoming out when going over speed bumps or other uneven road conditions.

It is important to perform some casual tests like a bounce test by applying downward pressure on your bonnet or rear, if bouncing continues after letting go, it is likely the shocks are worn out. This ensures your safety and rides quality.

Indications your shock absorbers are failing

Tire wearing out unevenly

When a shock absorber becomes weak, its ability to keep the tire on the road surface is greatly reduced. This causes a slight bounce while the vehicle is moving and an uneven contact of the tire on the road. Due to this unevenness, the part of the tire that touches the ground more will wear out more rapidly than the other part.

This, in turn, results in uneven wear of the tire so the tire has to be replaced quicker than it normally would be. This also results in unnecessary expenditure to replace them on the part of the car owner.

 tire wearing

Nose diving or Jumping off the vehicle

If the shock absorber is lacking hydraulic fluid, acceleration or braking would be met with extreme reactions by the car. This means that if the car is accelerated it is met by a downward thrust of the rear part of the vehicle and when the brake is applied there is a downward thrust of the front of the vehicle.


In similar conditions where the shock absorber is bad, taking turns or negotiating bends becomes more tasking for the driver. This is due to the car placing more weight on the opposite side whilst turning, for instance, if the car is making a right turn, the weight is shifted harder to the left and vice versa, the driver will try to correct it causing a swerve.

Swerving caused by faulty suspension

Braking the car to a stop takes longer

While braking longer time is taken to bring the car to a halt. This is because in the absence of hydraulic fluid the entire length of the piston rod of the shock absorber has to go in for the vehicle to react. This adds a few more seconds to the braking process

Vibrations while driving

If while driving, even on smooth surfaces, you begin to notice the vibration in your car. This could be a result of a bad shock. When the piston seal which traps hydraulic fluid inside the shock absorber is wearing out, the shock absorber is emptied. When this happens, the slightest bump or unevenness of the road is exaggerated by the car. This will be felt even by the driver on the steering wheel.

Cracked bushing

To be able to blot shock absorbers to a car, something called bushings is attached to the end of the shock. Bushings are made of rubber and are pointy. This rubber can crack and the result would be an unstable shock absorber.

This decreases the shock absorber efficiency. When a bushing is cracked, you hear a tapping noise when you hit a bump or ride on bumpy roads. Basically, it rattles inside as it is not held down as firmly as it should.

Cracked bushing

Fluid Leaks

When a shock absorber’s seal is worn, fluid can leak. This decreases the shock absorber function and causes many of the symptoms on this list. Look out for leaking fluid on the road. Also, look out for fluid leaks on the side of the shock absorber. Watch this to learn more about fluid leaks on your Shock absorbers.

Can I drive with bad shocks?

Ignoring bad shocks and driving the vehicle around for months or years is a dangerous thing to do. This is because you not only put your life in danger but the lives of other road users as well. On the contrary, driving and managing it for a few hundred miles until it can be repaired is okay. The speed of the vehicle should be kept under 30–45 miles per hour until your Shocks are repaired.

How often should I change my shocks?

Manufacturers of shock absorbers recommend replacing them after every 80,000 kilometers, but this guideline is more in their interest than yours. Normally, the lifespan of a shock absorber is determined by many variables. It could be the type of terrain you are constantly driving over (whether bumpy or smooth) and how fast you drive over them, the weather conditions, etc.

Your shock absorber would last longer if you regularly drive over very smooth tarred surfaces while its lifespan would reduce if you regularly drive through rocky areas. Wet conditions and colder temperatures will have an adverse effect on your dampeners and corrosion will occur faster, leading to cracks and breakages.

Change your shock absorbers in pairs

Shock absorbers are one of the few vehicle parts that wear out at an even rate. In other words, if they wear out and you decide to only change one of your shock absorbers,.

it may actually lead to most of the problems listed above such as a loss of control whilst negotiating a bend; an uncomfortably uneven ride; as well as oil leaks from the opposite shock absorber due to an unbalanced load. Therefore, it is advisable to change your dampeners in pairs, to avoid any handling problems which might arise due to an imbalance.

Replace shock absorbers in pairs

What would it cost to replace shock absorbers?

If you choose to replace an individual shock absorber the cost would be within the range of $133 and $439, but this is strongly discouraged. To replace both dampers the cost would be within the range of $239 and $818.

After the shocks are changed the wheels should be realigned. Your auto mechanic will likely recommend it. This is because, swapping out the struts can alter your vehicle’s ride height, and you will need to have the wheels realigned to ensure it drives smoothly.To know more about the replacement prices of Shock absorbers, click Here

Key Takeaways!

  • Pay attention to unusual movement while driving
  • Take note of the  nature of the route you take most when driving to determine the lifespan of your shocks
  • Check your shocks occasionally to ensure they are in good shape
  • Changing them may take some money but it’s worth it.
  • The shock absorbers are paramount in ensuring our safety and making sure we enjoy our driving experience.
  • Pay attention to them and drive safely!

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