shock absorber

If you’re like most people, when you think about shock absorbers, you’re just thinking about a smooth ride.

In reality, these also play an important role in providing safety while driving. To maintain a safe and smooth ride for longer, there are some things you should be doing to maintain your shock absorbers.

Keep reading to learn more about how you can keep each and every shock absorber in tip-top shape.

What Does a Shock Absorber Do?

Before we go too much further, it’s important to understand how shock absorbers work. Simply put, shock absorbers are hydraulic pumps between the upper frame of your car and the wheels.

As your car hits bumps, the axle moves upwards. Rather than your entire car moving up with it, only the fluid in your shocks moves. As the axle moves back down, the fluid moves back into place.

Shock absorbers also put downward pressure on your car to keep the wheels on the road. Since you need contact with the pavement to brake and turn, this is essential for your safety.

Next, we’ll get into eight ways you can maintain this part of your car to keep you safe on the road.

1. Keep Your Shock Absorbers Clean

When any part of your car gets dirty, it won’t work as well. Dirt, grime, and debris can get into the rubber seals and cause them to wear out faster.

Be sure to use a rubber-safe soap and avoid power washers which can force water into the shock. Regularly getting your car’s undercarriage washed at most car washes can help keep these clean.

2. Check for Leakage

While you’re cleaning your shock absorbers, you should be checking for leakage. It’s considered normal for there to be some misting of oil on the unit, but if there’s dripping, it’s a sign of a leak.

If you do notice your shock absorbers are leaking, you should get them checked by a professional as soon as possible. This is also true if you notice oil stains beneath your car after it’s been parked.

3. Avoid Driving Carelessly

There are many reasons to drive carefully. Shock absorber maintenance is only one of them. It will also keep you safe as well as any passengers you may have.

As you drive too fast over bumps, make sudden stops, and generally put more wear and tear on your car, this also translates to extra damage to your shock absorbers.

Basically, if you want your car to last, drive like your grandma is on board.

4. Maintain Your Tires

When your car has over- or under-filled tires, this can put additional pressure on the shock absorbers. Poorly-aligned wheels will do the same thing.

For this reason, you should be regularly checking your tire pressure and making sure your tires are properly aligned. This will also prevent you from having to replace your tires early, too.

This will also allow you to inspect your tires for unusual wear and tear. Scalloped marks indicate a problem with shocks or struts, so if you notice this, it’s a good time for an inspection. 

5. Look for Loose Bolts

Something else to check while cleaning your shock absorbers is loose bolts and any other signs that this part isn’t attached as it should be.

This can be extremely dangerous as loose bolts are a sign that your shock absorbers are no longer secured in place. The last thing you want to happen while you’re driving are for your shocks to fall off when you hit a bump.

6. Know When to Replace Shocks

Shock absorbers contain rubber which prevents them from moving too much. While they’re built to withstand a lot of wear and tear from your vehicle, the rubber itself will start to break down over time.

This is why you’ll want to avoid using original shocks when restoring a classic car. Even sitting in a box for years will have caused the rubber to degrade.

Check the manufacturer’s recommendations on how long you should have your shock absorbers before replacing them. Make sure you do so when they’re old enough. Otherwise, the rubber will start to crack and cause problems.

Typically, you’ll want to replace them every 50,000 miles but you need to check your car’s manual to be sure.

7. Replace Both Absorbers

Speaking of replacing shock absorbers, when you do need to do this, it’s important to replace both of them. This is because you want both sides to have equal levels of wear and tear on them.

If you have one that works well and another that is starting to break down, this can put unnecessary pressure on the new shock absorber which could shorten its lifespan.

8. Get a Professional Inspection

If at any point you suspect your shock absorbers aren’t working the way they’re supposed to, you should immediately have them checked by a professional mechanic.

Here are some signs that your shock absorbers need to be fixed or replaced:

  • The ride is bumpier than usual
  • The car sways or leans around turns
  • Difficulty steering or stiffness in the steering wheel
  • The car lurches or acts up when braking
  • Unusual tire wear
  • Oil spots beneath the car

Because of how dangerous it is to drive with worn out shock absorbers, it’s important to get this checked out as soon as possible. The longer you wait to have your shocks checked, the more likely a big problem could occur.

Want More Car Maintenance Tips?

Now you know eight shock absorber maintenance tips to have a safe and smooth ride. As you can see, by following these tips you can expand the life of your shock absorbers and save some cash as well.

For more helpful tips to help you maintain your vehicle, check out our blog. We have a ton of information about car maintenance.

Check out our post on tire maintenance to help expand the life of your tires and wheels. As we already mentioned, this will also help your shock absorbers last longer.