Shock absorbers do exactly what the name says they do – they absorb the shock, or dampen the ride of your vehicle. Your car undergoes all manner of bouncing and shaking from the road, including potholes, speed bumps, quick starts and stops, and more. Shock absorbers help to smooth out the ride so you’re not bumping your head against the ceiling every time you hit a pothole.
Shock absorbers work by connecting the springs to the wheels, by way of the frame and the axles. As you drive your car, the springs bounce according to the terrain you are traveling over. If the bounce is not controlled, the chassis will respond according to each action of the spring, which can result in a very bumpy ride. When you add in the fact that the tires rebound differently than the springs, you have a situation where it is likely that the driver would lose complete control of the vehicle. Shock absorbers perform by assuring that the springs and tires don’t cause the driver to lose contact with the road.
Get the right type of shocks
It’s always critical to ensure that you’re buying the correct kind of shocks for your vehicle, and there are a number of different kinds of shocks: gas shocks, standard shocks, heavy-duty shocks, automatic level-control shocks, air shocks, and overload shocks. With these few tips, you will know which shock absorbers are right for your vehicle:
Gas shocks: Gas shocks are generally provided as the original shocks that will come on your car. They are created with nitrogen gas and oil sealed inside, and that is what cushions your ride. This particular type of shocks will last longer on smaller vehicles than standard shocks, as they can handle the extra bouncing that smaller cars tend towards.
Standard shocks: Standard shocks are also generally provided with your vehicle when you purchase it. They are basic and standard, with no special features, these shocks will rarely last past 100,000 miles.
Heavy duty shocks: Heavy duty shocks have a larger center shaft, beefed-up attachment points and a larger diameter than standard shocks. These shocks are made with trucks, vans, and SUVs in mind – and vehicle that is going to carry a larger load. They deliver a stiffer ride until the load is heavier, in which case they even out.
Automatic level-control shocks: Automatic level-control shocks have an air pump that activates to level out the weight distribution in the vehicle and are usually found only on luxury vehicles. Any driving with a full complement of passengers or extra trunk weight causes the air pump to add pressure to the shocks in order to compensate for the added load.
Air shocks: Air shocks are more of a manual process, though similar to automatic level-control shocks in nature in that air must be added to the shocks by the driver in order to dampen the drive.
Overload shocks: Overload shocks, also known as coil-over shocks, have a spring coil fitted around the outside of the shock cylinder. This coil helps off-road vehicles such as rock climbers, and dune buggies stiffen the reflex action of the shock.
There are a wide variety of different styles of shock absorber on the market today, and making sure you purchase the correct kind for your particular need is important.
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This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Buy a Good Quality Shock Absorber and was authored by Valerie Johnston.