Do you know exactly what the shocks on your car do? Silly question, everyone knows they absorb the bumps that occur when you drive your car! Well, as it turns out, they actually have little to do with absorbing shocks. The springs on your car or truck, either coil or leaf-style, on each wheel of your car absorb the shocks and bumps – not the shock absorbers! What the shock absorbers do is dampen the bouncing of the springs so your car doesn’t bounce up and down after hitting a bump. Technically, shocks should be called “spring dampeners” not “shock absorbers” as they currently are.
So, back to your shocks; are they worn out? There are many warning signs to consider when driving. When you hit a bump, does your car bounce up and down several times before settling down? Other signs are exaggerated body lean in corners, or your front end dives downward when you apply your brakes hard.
There is another way to test your shocks with your car stationary and turned off. Place the palm of your hand on the corner of your vehicle, front or rear, and push down hard and do this several times in a row. If your car body continues to bounce up and down for a few cycles after your initial push, your shocks may need replacing.
Look for Oil Leakage
Another thing to do is look for leakage. Shock absorbers are filled with a thick oil-like fluid and this fluid leaks past the shock seals and dribbles down the shock housing. This usually means that they need replacement, although technically they still might work. They won’t, though, soon.
By the way, there really isn’t a specific mileage point when shocks wear out. It all depends on the vehicle, the brand of shocks you have, and your driving habits. A general rule of thumb, though, is around something like 50,000 miles or so that shocks will be worn out. If in doubt, the way your car or truck feels will tell you, as well as doing the “bounce test” we outlined above.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to get the opinion of a professional auto repair technician.
This article was originally posted on April 2015