Shocks and Struts

By Brandon Baldwin

              Shocks and struts: they put a damper on your ride, but believe me, you’ll like it. 

              I’m going to refer to both shocks and struts as just shocks for the sake of wordiness here.  They both dampen the same way.  A  shock  is  basically an oil pump.  It’s not rotational, it’s bidirectional: up and down in your car.  It’s there to dampen the bounce  rate  of  the vehicle.  Without  shocks,  your  car  would continue to bounce up and down after  any  bump  or  uneven surface in the road.  It’s there not only for a comfortable ride but safety too.  If you have ever seen a car with no shocks or completely worn out shocks, you may  have  even  noticed  the  tire  will  bounce  off  the  road  surface.   Consider that when the tire is in the air, it no longer  can  stop  the  car.   This  means  that shocks in poor condition will increase your stopping distance.  Don’t we want to stop in a shorter distance?  Of course we use different shocks for different conditions and different types of vehicles.  For example, the shock used on light, off-road vehicle would be expected to have long travel and increasing dampening with increased shock rod depression (the shock compresses).  On the other hand, if you had a 1-ton truck you would have shorter travel with greater dampening  all the time.  Greater loads will overcome shock pressure easier, therefore, you need a heavier duty shock with more weight.  In addition, some will install heavier duty shocks on   performance   vehicles  that  perform  in  a  straight  line.   Remember  earlier  that  we  talked  about  traction?  The shifting of weight can work to your advantage by use of the right shocks  for  the  application  you  intend  your  car  to  be  in.  For example, shocks that are too stiff may not allow enough weight transfer to the rear wheels, therefore, giving up traction. 

It’s  amazing how much improvement in ride quality is noticed  with  new  struts  or shocks.  Old shocks are typically unnoticed as a problem as the driver doesn’t notice as they wear slowly.  It’s like the frog story in the pot of water: put a frog in a pot of water that is on the stove and slowly  increase the  heat: he will  never  get  out  because  he  doesn’t  notice  the   slow increase.  Just as most drivers don’t notice the decline of their own shocks, until they fail completely.  But, once they have new ones installed, the car often rides like new again. 

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