British roads aren’t known for their high levels of maintenance and smooth surfaces – quite the opposite, in fact. Every few yards, you’re almost guaranteed to run through a pothole, puddle or practically fall off the edge of a country lane with an extreme camber. To counteract this, cars use a selection of components that, when combined, form the suspension. One of the most important parts of this system is the shock absorber. But what exactly does it do?
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How Does a Car Shock Absorber Work?
To explain how shock absorbers do their thing requires a bit of scientific language; it’s all to do with different types of energy. The shock absorber is locked in place, meaning the piston rod can only move up and down vertically when the vehicle reacts to any bumps on the surface of the road.
Using the hydraulic fluid and this up-and-down piston within it, the ‘shocks’ will absorb the kinetic energy generated as the car travels over uneven terrain and convert, then dissipate it as heat energy. In plain english, this means that the shock absorber takes the energy from the energy from the bumps in the road and turns it into heat, which is then sent out of the car and into the surrounding air.
How Long Do Shock Absorbers Work In a Car?
As with any part of a car, there’s no concrete answer to this question. Some would say that you should get your shock absorbers replaced after 50,000 miles and if you tend to push your car hard and drive erratically, they could be showing signs of wear and tear by then. On the other hand, you’ll find people with shocks that are well into six-digit mileage and still swear that they’re working fine and passing MOTs with flying colours.
To give an average, 100,000 miles is generally considered long enough for shock absorbers to start to lose their effectiveness and impact the performance of your vehicle. At this point, if not before, you should certainly keep an eye on them and watch out for any of the telltale signs that they need changing.
How Much Is a Shock Absorber In a Car?
Once again, this varies depending on the car you own, the shocks you choose and of course, the garage you pick to do the work for you. However, it’s fair to expect a pair of shock absorbers to come in at a few hundred pounds. “Hold on” we hear you cry, “I only need one!” This is the regular frustration for many drivers when it comes to shock absorbers – you should never replace just one. The front and back shocks should be replaced as pairs to ensure that left and right individual absorbers aren’t operating at different levels of wear and tear, and by extension, performance too.
So, in total, the price for a full set of new shock absorbers could run up to around £500-£1,000. It might be more, it might be less, depending on the factors mentioned above.
How To Test Car Shock Absorbers
Problems with shock absorbers are best left to the professionals, but what can you do to figure out if that even is where your car’s problem lies in the first place? There are a few tests and examinations that might help determine if your shock absorbers need to be replaced.
- Examine the front end – With the car parked on as flat a surface as possible, take a look at it from one side. Does the front or back appear to be sitting lower than the other end? If so, you might have an issue with your suspension.
- Lean on it – Gently lean on each end of the car, then suddenly remove your weight from it. If the ‘bounce’ back into place seems unusual or erratic, your shock absorbers may need further examination.
- Look for leaks – Check around the wheels and underneath the car for signs of leaking hydraulic fluid. If you see this, get the car checked out professionally.
- How does it feel? – Does your car seem to bounce down the road, or shift side-to-side excessively when cornering? This is another sign of inefficient shocks.
- How does it sound? – If your vehicle also makes loud clunking or knocking noises when you’re driving, it could be that metal parts are banging together when the shock absorbers should not be allowing them to.
- Uneven tyre wear – One tyre on either the left or right side of your car could go some way to show that a shock absorber is faulty, with more stress being put on the side with the worn rubber.
If you have any doubts about the state of your shock absorbers, it’s highly advised that you get them looked at as a priority, perhaps even as part of a standard service. Poor shock absorber performance can not only make your journeys bumpier, but will also have an effect on your braking distances. Therefore, it’s an issue that’s not to be taken lightly.
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