What do they do?
Apart from controlling the movement of springs and suspension, shock absorbers also keep your tyres in contact with the ground at all times.
At rest or in motion, the bottom surface of your tyres is the only part of your vehicle in contact with the road.
Any time that a tyre’s contact with the ground is broken or reduced, your ability to drive, steer and brake is severely compromised.
Despite popular belief, shock absorbers do not support the weight of a vehicle.
In more detail…
Firstly, a little bit of science.
Shock absorbers work by taking the kinetic energy (movement) of your suspension and converting it to thermal energy (heat) that is then dissipated into the atmosphere through the mechanism of heat exchange.
But it’s nowhere near as complicated as it may sound.
As mentioned, shock absorbers are basically oil pumps.
A piston is attached to the end of a piston rod and works against hydraulic fluid in the pressure tube.
As the suspension travels up and down, the hydraulic fluid is forced through tiny holes inside the piston.
Because the orifices only allow a small amount of fluid through the piston, the piston is slowed which in turn slows down spring and suspension movement.
Shock absorbers automatically adjust to road conditions because the faster the suspension moves, the more resistance they provide.
Types of shock absorbers
Although all shock absorbers do the same job, different types of vehicles and suspension designs require different types of shock absorbers which can appear radically different.
No matter the application, they fit into one of three broadly defined types:
- Conventional telescopic shock absorbers
- Struts or spring seat shocks