A car’s suspension components include a coil spring and a shock absorber (AKA a dampener). These shocks and springs work together to dampen down and cushion the vehicle by absorbing the impact from potholes and other minor imperfections in the road. This keeps your vehicle stable and your tyres firmly in contact with the road surface for the maximum amount of time which is essential for your brakes to work effectively.
Worn shock absorbers can add up to 2 metres to your braking distance when travelling at 30mph as tyres have less contact with the road. So, inspection and maintenance of a vehicle’s suspension system are vital if you are to gain the optimum comfort, stability and handling characteristics from your vehicle.
Questions and Answers
What do shock absorbers do?
Shock absorbers do two things. Apart from controlling the movement of springs and suspension, shock absorbers also keep your tyres in contact with the ground at all times. At rest or in motion, the bottom surface of your tyres is the only part of your vehicle in contact with the road. Any time that a tyre's contact with the ground is broken or reduced, your ability to drive, brake and steer is compromised.
Can you drive a car with a broken shock absorber?
Never drive a car with a broken shock absorber at highway speeds and avoid sudden turns or stops; in the long run, a broken shock will need to be replaced.
What are the symptoms of bad shock absorbers?
Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Shock Absorber:
- Vibrations while driving.
- Swerving or nose-diving while braking.
- Brakes take more time to stop the car.
- Uneven tyre wear.
- Leaking fluid.
- A cracked bushing at attachment points.
- Try the "bounce test".
What is the bounce test for shock absorbers?
This is not a scientific test and is somewhat subjective. But it can be helpful when taken in conjunction with other checks made. Stand in front of the car and carefully place your foot on the bumper, or your knee on a surface that won't dent or bend; it doesn't have to be in the centre. Shift your weight onto that point, pushing the car down. Then quickly remove your foot or weight. The car should bounce up and return to its original position rather stiffly, without continuing to bounce. If it bounces more than a couple of times, this is an indication that perhaps the shock absorbers are weak.