A shock absorber that is functioning properly ensures vehicle stability, handling, and rideability. Most motorists fail to notice gradual changes in the operation of their cars as a result of worn shock absorbers. Some common indications of shock absorber failure follow:
- Steering and handling are more difficult
- Braking is not smooth
- Bouncing is excessive after stops
- Tire wear patterns are unusual, especially cupping
- Springs are bottoming out
Vibrations set up by a worn shock absorber can cause premature wear in many of the undercar systems. They can cause wear in the front and rear component parts of the suspension system, the linkage component parts of the steering system, and the U-joints and motor or transmission mounts of the driveline. Also, vibrations can cause unnatural wear patterns on the tires.
To inspect your vehicle's shocks on the ground:
- Push down on each bumper to check resistance of the shocks.
- Do not press on the fenders. They can become greasy and might get dented when you press them.
- Normal shocks will allow the spring to rebound only once.
- This is a cursory check of shocks.
- A more complete check can be done to shocks while the car is in the air.
To do an undercar shock inspection:
- Inspect that shock absorbers for leaks or signs of physical damage.
- Inspect the rubber bushings and mounting bolts for signs of wear or looseness. The appearance of a slight amount of moisture at the shock absorber seal is normal. But the outside of a shock should not show any drips or be entirely wet.
- Physical damage to a shock is cause for replacement of both shocks on the vehicle. Shocks are always replaced in pairs.
- If there is a reason to question the condition of a shock, unbolt it from the bottom. Then, push it and pull it through its regular travel. Resistance should be felt in both directions, through the entire travel of the shock.
Worn or damaged rebound bumpers often indicate a need for shock absorber replacement. Check to see if they have come in contact with the frame of the vehicle.