Shock absorbers are an essential component of a car’s suspension system that should be checked regularly. Like other vehicle components, shocks eventually wear out from continuous use and no longer function as designed. In addition to worsening the quality of the ride, worn shocks pose a safety hazard because they adversely affect a car’s handling characteristics, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle. The following list will help owners determine whether their shocks are worn-out and should be replaced.
Worn shock absorbers magnify the jarring effects of road imperfections, speed bumps and other changes in the pavement. In addition to an unpleasant ride, insufficient shock absorption places excessive pressure on other car components. Inspect the vehicle by finding a location on the corners of the car where pressure can be applied without damaging the surface. Lean on the vehicle and then press it down. Quickly release the pressure. Without bouncing more than a few times, the vehicle should quickly return to its original position. Excessive bouncing is a sign that the vehicle needs new shocks.
Abnormal Car Body Movement
Defective shock absorbers can cause erratic vehicle movements. The nose of a larger vehicle may dive lower when the brakes are applied. Braking distance can increase, and there may be a temporary loss of steering because worn shocks are incapable of handling the weight of the vehicle. Owners may also notice that the rear end squats lower when the vehicle accelerates because worn shocks cannot withstand the change in momentum when the vehicle’s weight is transferred to the rear end. The car may roll from side to side after a turn.
Uneven Tire Wear
Like a poor alignment, malfunctioning shock absorbers can cause uneven tire wear, including bald spots. A weak suspension system will not maintain proper contact with the road surface. As the car bounces up and down, a small amount of rubber is scraped off when the tires intermittently lose and regain contact with the road. This wear is called scalloping and cupping. Uneven tread wear reduces a car’s performance and handling as well as the life of the tires.
Shock absorbers are not easy to replace. If a vehicle is exhibiting warning signs that it needs new shocks, take it to an experienced automotive technician for service. A professional mechanic can inspect the vehicle and determine whether the shocks need to be replaced.