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Don't Swerve: 8 Must-Know Signs of Shock Absorber Damage and Wear

It looks like in 2022 Europe, your car will automatically force you to slow down if you go too fast. Thanks to new laws and new tech, speeding will be harder to do. Blasting over potholes and wreaking havoc on your shocks and vehicle and traffic flow will be limited too. Good thing! We want you, your car, and everyone to be safe.

But here we are in the present day, and you're blasting over potholes or not, no tech yet. And you want your shock absorbers to be functioning at their best.

So, how do you know if your shock absorber function is in good shape, you ask? How do you know if your car's handling is up to par?

To help, we've put together eight signs of shock absorber wear and tear you need to know about. Keep reading these shock absorber basics to know when your shock absorbers need fixing or replacement.

Shock Absorber Basics

How do shock absorbers work, you ask? Here's a quick rundown before we hop into the eight signs your shocks are not doing their thing.

Automotive shock absorbers manage the shock and rebound action that your car's springs and suspension experience. They're hydraulic pumps that use oil. The makes your ride more smooth and, most importantly, keeps your tires touching the road. Your car needs tires on the surface of the road to function. Brakes, steering, and overall driving are impaired when tires don't touch the ground.

Shock absorbers are little oil pumps that have a piston inside. They work hand in hand with the suspension and springs. As the car's suspension goes up and down, it is slowed by the piston fluid as it's pumped out of the piston. The spring is slowed too.

If the car is going fast and the suspension is moving fast, the shocks adjust to the road condition and push back with resistance.

Eight Signs Your Shocks Are Worn or Damaged

If your shocks are worn or damaged, the suspension doesn't work right and tires don't rest properly on the road. Let's look at eight signs that'll tell you if something is wrong.

1. Your Tires Wear Down Unevenly

Your shocks keep your tires connected to the road. When they're not doing their job, tires roll unevenly and wear unevenly. The bald spots are uneven. This is a huge warning sign and easy to spot.

2. Fluid Leaks

When a shock absorber's seal gets worn, fluid can leak out. This decreases shock absorber function and causes many of the symptoms on this list. Look out for leaking fluid on the road. Also, look for fluid leaks on the side of the shock absorber.

3. Your Car and Steering Wheel Vibrate on the Road

Fluid can get out of control if the shock's inner valve or piston seal is worn and not sitting right. Fluid gets past the seal and every time you hit one of those potholes or even a minute bump, your shocks overreact. You'll feel it on the wheel.

4. You Swerve or Nose Dive When You Stop

Again, if the fluid can flow out past the seal, it will gush at a slight turn, stop, or other movement and cause the piston to move in extremes. So if you turn left, a bigger then usual movement to the left will happen and you'll swerve when you correct for it.

When you hit the brakes, the car will dive forward for the same reason. This is dangerous in rain, so get it taken care of fast.

5. It Takes Longer to Stop

Because of the worn seal, fluid overflow, and out of control piston movement, it takes longer for the car to take in the piston. This slows its functionality, and it takes the car longer to stop.

6. Harder Bumps

Your shock absorbers work to minimize impact when you hit a bump. They also lessen vibration when working right, as mentioned. So if your shocks are worn and you hit a bump, boom! You'll feel the impact much more strongly. And if you hit a bunch of little bumps, as you do when traveling down the road, your car will continuously rattle and move and bump and vibrate a lot.

7. Your Car Veers Left and Right

This is like the swerve. When your shocks are leaky or worn, and you turn, your call will lean hard in that direction. If you slightly move the steering wheel to one side, even a little, the car veers in that direction because of the big piston movement. If your car is constantly veering, take note.

8. Your Car Makes a Tap Tap Tap Noise 

At the end of each shock absorber is something called a bushing. It's rubber and pointy. It is where the shock absorber gets bolted to your car. The rubber can crack which makes your shock unstable and decreases shock absorber function.

When a bushing is cracked, your cat goes tap, tap, tap when you hit a bump or bumpy spot. Basically, it's rattling inside as it's not held down as firmly as it should.  

Shake, Rattle, and Swerve

Do any of these shock absorber symptoms sound familiar to you? If so, it's time to hit the garage. Your mechanic will take a look at your suspension and shocks and let you know if you need to replace anything.

Give us a call today even if it's just to ask questions. It's better to be safe than sorry with your shocks and your car in general. But you know that!

Also, keeping your shock absorbers functioning prevent those other costly and dangerous symptoms, like balding, patchy tires.