Air shocks are a type of suspension component and system that is found on many newer vehicles. They are similar in function to conventional oil-filled suspension shocks, however, instead of using hydraulic fluid and pressure to absorb the road shocks, they use air and air pressure to suspend the vehicle and absorb road impacts. Because they are subject to the harsh impacts of the road and weight of the vehicle, the seals in air shocks can eventually go bad and begin to leak, reducing their performance.
Bad air shocks can not only reduce performance and handling, they can also compromise the safety of a vehicle. Usually, defective air shocks will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver that there is a problem that should be serviced.
1. Noticeable change in the ride quality
One of the first signs that your air shocks may need attention is a noticeable change in the vehicle’s ride quality. When the shocks fail, the weight of the vehicle is no longer being supported as firmly. As a result, the vehicle may experience a decrease in ride comfort and an increase in harshness. Without the cushion provided by the air shocks, the impacts from road imperfections like bumps and potholes will be directly transferred to the frame of the vehicle where they can be felt by the driver.
2. The nose dive effect
Another symptom of bad or failing air shocks is what is referred to as, “the nose dive effect.” The nose dive effect occurs when the shocks have failed and can no longer support the weight of the vehicle during sudden takeoff or braking. Sudden takeoff or braking causes the weight of the vehicle to transfer completely to one end, which will cause that end of the vehicle to lean and nose dive. In more severe cases, the nose or rear bumper of the vehicle may even come in contact with the ground from the amount of lean from bad air shocks.
3. Leaning when turning
Leaning during turns is another symptom that indicates the air shocks may need replacing. If you notice that your vehicle is leaning excessively, or is significantly less stable when going around corners, then that may be a sign that the air shocks need attention. A vehicle that leans due to bad air shocks will be significantly more difficult to steer than one with a firm suspension. As a result, the car will be less safe to operate.
As air shocks are what support the weight of the vehicle, they are very important to the overall handling and safety characteristics of the vehicle. If you suspect that your air shocks may need replacing, or your air shock system may require attention, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic. They will be able to replace the air shocks, or make any other repairs that are needed to return proper handling, performance, and comfort to the vehicle.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Symptoms of Bad or Failing Air Shocks and was authored by Ed Ruelas.