Your car’s shock absorbers are an integral component of the suspension system, and their wear has a significant impact on the safety of your vehicle.
Despite their name, shock absorbers don’t absorb shocks. That is actually the job of the springs in the suspension system. Shock absorbers, also called dampers, are mounted next to (or inside) the springs at each corner of the vehicle. Their job is to provide resistance to the movement of the spring. It does this by taking some of the energy that is being used to compress the spring and turning it into heat. It is this conversion of energy that keeps your vehicle’s body from bouncing more than once or twice, allowing for a controlled ride and keeping the tires in contact with the ground. If you have worn shock absorbers, the vehicle will end up bouncing down the road after every bump until all the energy is used up. In serious cases, the bouncing could result in the tires coming off the ground, making it so that you can no longer control the vehicle.
The shock absorbers can last up to 80,000-100,000 miles in newer model vehicles. However, they do degrade slowly throughout their life, so a shock with 60,000 miles on it won’t perform as well as a new one. When your shock absorbers are worn, it can affect the way your wheels touch the road. This could result in hydroplaning, deteriorated performance, compromised road handling and holding, and dangerous swaying.
When the shock absorbers are wearing out, your vehicle will give you several clear signs to help you determine if it is time to go to the shop. Here are six things you should pay attention to in order to be safe on the road:
- Nose Dives and Swerving When Braking
If your vehicle dips or swerves when braking, you need to have your shock absorbers checked as soon as possible. These symptoms can limit your control over your car which can be very dangerous, especially in inclement weather.
- Prolonged Stopping Distance
One difference you will notice between driving an older car and a new one, besides the smell, is how well the vehicle comes to a stop. This is because of the shock absorbers. They are at the top of their game in a new vehicle. Independent testing demonstrates that by replacing your shocks and struts after 50,000 miles, your vehicle’s stopping distance could improve by up to 10 feet.
- Vehicle Rocks and Rattles Over Bumps
When you go over bumps like railway tracks or any uneven surface, is your vehicle rocking and/or rattling? If so, it is highly likely that your shocks are extremely worn and are in dire need of replacement. Not only will this make for an uncomfortable, bumpy ride, this rocking and rattling places unwelcome pressure on other components of your vehicle which could result in further, costlier damage.
- Vehicle Veers or Slides
Is your vehicle veering or sliding across lanes in cases of just mild wind? This is a clear sign that the shocks are worn and need replaced.
- Vibrations in the Steering Wheel
Feeling vibrations through the steering wheel indicate a problem with the shock absorbers. When they are working properly, the shock absorbers should keep the tires in contact with the road, so there shouldn’t be any vibrations.
- Uneven Tire Tread Wear
Uneven wear or bald patches on your tires generally means your tires are not making optimal contact with the road, which can be caused by worn shocks. Tires not making contact with the road can have a significant effect on handling control and tire grip, which is a major safety issue. If you have uneven tread wear, get your vehicle inspected right away.
At Virginia Auto Service, we love to help you with your vehicle and safety in any way we can. If you notice any of the above complications, don’t hesitate to give us a visit. Combined with a new set of tires, replacing the shock absorbers can transform a high-mileage vehicle with poor handling and a bouncy ride, returning much of the crispness it had when new. Virginia Auto Service is your go-to in Phoenix, AZ for reliable, high-quality auto repair services. Call (602) 266-0200 or schedule an appointment online.