Car shock absorbers are essential components of your vehicle’s suspension system. They’re responsible for reducing excess vibration and motion, giving you a smoother, more comfortable ride.
Table of Contents
Now, let’s take a look at what these important parts look like and how they function.
How Do Shock Absorbers Work?
Shock absorbers prevent the car from bouncing excessively when it goes over bumps or uneven surfaces.
They consist of two main parts:
- the outer housing
- and the inner piston.
The outer housing, or body, is a durable metal tube filled with hydraulic fluid.
The inner piston rod slides through the fluid, which is responsible for dampening the energy from the motion of the wheels.
What Do Car Shock Absorbers Look Like?
Shock absorbers are usually cylindrical in shape and can be found connected to the car’s wheels and frame.
Externally, car shock absorbers often have a matte or metallic finish, and you might find some brand or part information printed or stamped on the side. The top and bottom of the shock absorber feature attachment points so they can be securely fastened to the vehicle’s chassis and wheel assembly.
Some shock absorbers also include a separate fluid reservoir, which can be located away from the main body. This design helps improve heat dissipation and allows for additional fluid capacity, enhancing overall performance.
Shock absorbers are also sometimes called “struts”, “damper”, or even “shock dampeners”.
Do All Cars Have Shock Absorbers?
All modern cars have shock absorbers, but they might not be standalone components. In some vehicles, shock absorbers are integrated into a more complex suspension assembly called a strut.
Struts are key structural elements in a car’s steering system, and they include not only a shock absorber but also other suspension parts. When people refer to “shocks” or “struts,” they’re often talking about the same primary function: maintaining consistent handling and braking of the car for a comfortable ride.
Shocks are often cylindrical and can be found connected to the frame and the axle, whereas struts are more extensive and integrated into the car’s suspension system.
Where Are the Shock Absorbers Located in a Car?
Shock absorbers are found alongside a separately mounted spring. Just beside the wheels you’ll find the shock absorbers.
Typically, the shock absorbers can be accessed or seen by getting underneath the car. Though, you might have to remove some parts like the tire and wheel assembly or other suspension components to gain better access to them.
How Long Do Shock Absorbers Last?
A shock absorber normally lasts at least 50,000 miles before you need to have it replaced. The lifespan of your shock absorbers depends on a few factors:
Where you drive: If you do a lot of off-road driving or spend a significant amount of time on dirt roads, your shocks will wear out much more quickly.
How you drive: The more aggressively you drive, the more movement and kinetic energy slams through those shocks, potentially shortening their lifespan.
Road conditions: Uneven surfaces, gravel, and hills can all add to the stress on your vehicle’s shocks, potentially reducing their typical 50,000-mile life expectancy.
If you notice your car bouncing more than usual, taking longer to settle after hitting bumps, or you see visible leaks from the shock absorbers, it might be time for a replacement.
How Much Do They Cost?
New shock absorbers cost from $25 to $350 each, or you might opt for used ones from a scrap yard, which could be more budget-friendly.
To give you an idea of the costs involved, let’s break down the prices for both new and used shock absorbers:
|Part||New Price||Scrap Yard Price|
|Standard Shock Absorber||$25 – $150||$10 – $75|
|Performance Shock Absorber||$150 – $350||$75 – $175|
Keep in mind that the cost of replacing your shock absorbers can also be influenced by labor charges if you choose to have a professional mechanic complete the job.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace Shock Absorbers?
A mechanic will charge between $100 and $300 for replacing shock absorbers.
The labor costs differ based on multiple factors, like your vehicle’s make and model, local labor rates, and the complexity of the job. Suppose your vehicle has a more complicated suspension system – in that case, you could potentially face higher labor expenses.
What Happens When a Car’s Shock Absorbers Break?
Faulty shock absorbers can cause vibrations while driving, as the worn-out components may not keep the wheels properly in contact with the road. You might feel these vibrations through the steering wheel, making it more difficult to maintain control of your vehicle.
Leaking fluid is another common sign of worn shock absorbers.
If the seals within the shocks break down, essential fluids may escape, further weakening the shock absorbers’ ability to maintain control and stability. You might see this fluid behind your tires, indicating that there’s an issue with your suspension system. Additionally, unusual tire wear, such as wavy patterns, can develop due to the tires not being held securely against the road.
Can You Keep Driving With Faulty Shock Absorbers?
Technically you will often be able to continue driving with a broken shock absorber or two. However, driving with faulty shock absorbers is not recommended.
Although your car won’t come to a screeching halt the moment your shock absorbers break, the car’s performance will be heavily compromised.
Continuing to drive with broken shock absorbers can lead to bigger, more expensive issues down the road, like damage to other suspension parts, increased tire wear, and decreased handling capabilities.
Can You Replace Shock Absorbers Yourself?
Sure, replacing shock absorbers yourself can be a manageable task if you have some basic mechanical knowledge and the right tools.
Before you start, make sure you have all the necessary tools and equipment like:
- a car jack,
- jack stands,
- and gloves.
First, you’ll want to jack up your car and place it on the jack stands.
Begin by removing the bolts that attach the shock absorber to your car’s suspension system. You can now slide out the old shock absorber and replace it with the new one.
After you’ve installed the new shock absorber, it’s time to reconnect the bolts and tighten them to the right torque specifications. Check your vehicle’s manual for the correct torque specs.