Over the next few blogs we will look at the entire suspension system, from wheels, tyres to shock absorbers. We will highlight what each component does, what checks you can take to ensure your vehicle is road worthy, including what to look out for and when to get it looked at.
To start with we will look at the shock absorbers, what they do and how they work and what signs to look out for that might suggest they need attention. Not only are they a key element of the MOT test, they are critical to the vehicle’s handling and safety.
What is a shock absorber?
A shock absorber is a part that controls the unwanted movement of a vehicles body, by controlling movement in the wheels. The two main components of a shock absorber are springs and dampers, together they work to offer a smooth drive and importantly, stop tyres losing contact with the road surface.
Springs: These are designed to absorb the bumps in the road surface
Dampers: These control the wheels, stopping them from bouncing up & down uncontrollably
How do they work?
As the wheel encounters a bump, it forces the wheel upwards, compressing and storing kinetic energy in the spring (it is the compression of the spring that absorbs the bump). The compressed spring now contains energy that needs to be released and it will do this by trying to extend back to its original shape, pushing the vehicles body upwards. This sets off a cycle, where the weight of the vehicle pulls it back down, compressing the spring, then and so on until all the stored energy in the spring has been used.
Enter….. The Damper, these are the ride attendants in this bungee circus. They provide resistance to this movement in the spring. They do this by converting some of the compressed kinetic energy stored in the spring into heat. With less energy to use’ the spring will need no more than a couple of bounces before it has returned to its shape, providing a safe and controlled ride and keeping the tyres in contact with the road throughout.
A failed damper will not be able to control this movement and any unregulated movement can cause discomfort and potentially loss of control.
Signs that a shock is in need of attention:
- Stopping distances: A worn out shock can increase the stopping distance by up to 20%
- Swerving and nose-diving: the vehicle will dip and swing, this will cause a loss of control in the steering
- Vibrations: you will get a vibration travel through the steering wheel while you drive along
- Sliding and veering: you might feel the vehicle moving across the road in mild winds
- Rocking and rattling: you might hear this when you travel over bumps in the road
- Uneven tyre wear: you might start seeing bald patches appearing, this is a sign that they don’t have optimal contact with the road
If you are experiencing any of the above don’t hesitate to contact us, we are here to offer advice and help.