Improve Handling, Tire Wear With New Shock Absorbers

bumpy road
bumpy road

Sometimes drivers just feel their vehicle is not behaving properly. Do you feel every bump? Does the vehicle float or act “mushy” when negotiating a turn?

The culprit may be your vehicle’s shock absorbers, especially for vehicles which have logged more than 160,000 kilometers.

“Their main purpose in life is to absorb energy, to smooth out the ride,” said Tony Molla, vice president at the Automotive Service Association and former certified mechanic. “Shock absorbers also play a part in the way a car handles on the road.

“If shocks need replacement, the vehicle may feel mushy or sloppy going through a corner. It should be steady and crisp throughout a turn.”

Drivers who encounter a lot of potholes and curbs or gravely roads may need replacement early. Look for tell-tale signs such as mushy ride around corners and a rough ride over bumps and uneven roadways.

How do you know it’s time to replace shock absorbers?

According to Molla, the most obvious sign is high mileage. Have shock absorbers inspected when your vehicle reaches 160,000 kilometers.

For severely worn shock absorbers, your vehicle may have exhibited a “long rebound” when it hits a bump. That is, it may “float” for a second or two then rock up and down.

Unusual tire wear also may signal time for shock absorber replacement. Check with your local repair shop if you notice unusual tread wear patterns on one or more tires.

Also, replace shock absorbers showing signs of leaking.

Are there different types of shock absorber replacements?

“There are all kinds of high tech suspension systems,” Molla said, referring to those used for sports vehicles as well as tricked out cars. “Generally, we recommend replacement with parts that meet or exceed original equipment.

Should they be replaced two at a time?

“Shock absorbers are replaced in pairs--either front or rear. If you have more than 200,000 kilometers on your car, I would recommend you replace all four shocks.”

How do driving habits change the lifespan of shock absorbers?

Extreme driving conditions, like off-road excursions, can wear out suspension components more quickly due to the heavy use.