When to change car shock absorbers?

Shock absorbers are one of the most important parts for the safety of our car. A correct suspension of the vehicle serves to keep the car safely on the road and allows us to gain comfort. Therefore, it is key to know when to change the shock absorbers of our car.

Among the elements that are part of the active safety of our car are the shock absorbers. This set is responsible for absorbing the irregularities of the road on which we circulate and giving us extra security when making any trip. Something that goes much further than the idea of ​​many drivers, who think that this system is just another component and that it only serves to gain comfort.

However, the reality is very different from this misconception. Let’s ask ourselves a question: a shock absorber in poor condition, what consequences can it have? Well, the first one is an increase in the braking distance, which will be 35% greater than what would be necessary under normal conditions. If you are driving at 100 kph, this is equivalent to using about 30 meters more than usual to brake your vehicle.

On the other hand, damping in poor conditions means that, in curves, the vehicle does not follow the path that we establish through the steering, which is also a considerable risk of an accident. All this without forgetting the discomfort of bouncing with any small bump.

To avoid all these problems, it is enough to change the shock absorbers when necessary. Now, when should we do it? This question leads us to a much broader answer than the one offered by the vehicle manual. For this reason, we are going to learn a little more about both the different types of shock absorbers that exist and the ways to assess their condition, which allows us to have a better response when proposing those changes than complying with a mere mileage.

Types of shock absorbers

Currently, when buying car shock absorbers we have two main formats. One of them is the double tube shock absorbers, which are the most used by current vehicle manufacturers. These shock absorbers consist of two tubes that, joined by an internal component, are responsible for absorbing potholes and other problems on the ground. In the middle of both tubes we can find only oil, in non-pressurized models, or oil and a gas that fills the rest of the space, in pressurized models. The latter would be the best shock absorbers that we could use for passenger cars and other similar vehicles, as they give better performance, more stability and greater comfort.

The other main design is for monotube hydraulic shock absorbers. These products have a single tube divided into two main chambers, one containing oil and the other nitrogen. The chambers are separated by a piston, which floats between them and absorbs shock. This product is considerably more expensive and is usually found in sports cars and other high-end vehicles.

How to check shock absorbers

To know the state of the shock absorbers, we can do a couple of tests at a domestic level. One of them consists of pressing the hood of the vehicle as much as we can and releasing it suddenly. Depending on the response of the dampers, it is possible to estimate their state. If only bounce occurs, then the shocks are good. If multiple bounces occur, then something is wrong. This same process can be repeated in the trunk, to test the rear shock absorbers.

Another check that we can do is the visual one, for which we will resort to a pit or a car ramp (if you click here, you will find several products to choose from), where to raise the vehicle. The idea is to access the lower part of the vehicle and check that the shock absorbers do not show deformations, oil leaks, rust and other signs of wear or deterioration, which would recommend changing them.

Finally, it is always possible to visit a workshop, so that a professional can verify the condition of our shock absorbers. Something that is also carried out every time we pass the ITV, where these elements are part of those that are subject to examination.

When to make the change

With all this information, we can now answer the question we left at the beginning. In general, even when the user manuals indicate certain mileages for changing the shock absorbers, the current consensus indicates that, more than a matter of kilometers, the change should be due to wear. 

In other words, if some shock absorbers have reached the end of their theoretical mileage life, but are still working properly, why change them? Something especially important considering how much it costs to change the shock absorbers. An operation that, depending on the vehicle, can cost close to 1,000 euros, for the complete set. However, what you should do is frequently check the condition of the vehicle’s shock absorbers, just as you check the condition of the tires or the oil, for example.

By the way, already involved in changes, it should be known that the shock absorbers must be changed by axles and never individually. Therefore, if due to an accident you break a shock absorber in the front area, you will have to change all the front shock absorbers at the same time, but never just one. The same goes for the butts, which must also be changed in pairs.

other vehicles

Although we have mainly talked about cars, there are other vehicles that include shock absorbers, such as motorcycles, mountain bikes or road bikes. In this last type of product, the arrival of cushioning is a novelty that is not yet very widespread. However, it is possible to find racing bikes at interesting prices that include this damping system.

When it comes to the technical aspect, changing the suspension of a bicycle is somewhat complicated, so you should only do it if it really is completely broken. In the rear suspensions, it is enough to disassemble the old shock absorber and place the new one, adjusting the screws in its place. For the front, it is convenient to change the entire fork, since changing only the shock absorber requires cutting tubes and making some complex adjustments, which do not always look good. 

As for motorcycles, we have left it for last, since it is not usually an element that needs to be changed, as it happens in cars. However, it is necessary to check these suspensions frequently, in order to verify that they do not lose oil, do not have leaks or other defects that require our attention.

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