Every car needs a shock absorber to enable easy control. It basically absorbs impact or dampens compression.
However, when shock absorbers get bad, it can be difficult to drive safely. But before that happens, you need to keep yourself enlightened.
Get to know the various symptoms and signs of bad shock absorbers and useful maintenance tips that would help in this article.
How do I know if my rear shocks are bad?
You know your rear shocks are bad when you start having issues with ride quality – it becomes poor.
First, you hear unusual knocking sounds, then you experience poor vehicle handling, compromised suspension system and steering wheel, followed by bad tires, and eventually other driving issues.
That is why it is often recommended that you observe your shocks regularly to detect wear or leakage.
How can you tell if your shock absorbers need replacing?
If you have worn shocks, you need to replace them immediately.
You may not pay attention to the signs at first but when you discover that the front part dives more than usual, that means the rear absorbers need changing.
You can replace the vehicle’s shocks all by yourself or at any auto repair shop near you.
Signs Of Worn Shock Absorbers
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the various signs of worn or bad shock absorbers.
1. Unstable Driving at Highway Speeds
One of the many symptoms of bad shocks is unstable driving.
If you are driving on the highway at normal speed, you may have a problem with stability if the shocks helping to maintain control are faulty.
The effect may not be great but the difference in movement will not go unnoticed.
2. Longer Stopping Distance
Another sign of worn shocks is longer stopping distances.
Shocks and struts are designed to keep the tires on the ground throughout any journey. However, if they get faulty, they won’t exactly be able to do that.
Instead, the wheels start bouncing, while maintaining minimum grip with the road. Eventually, the tires find braking difficult as ever.
3. Steering Wheel Vibrations
Generally, if there is a problem with a vehicle, one of the many ways to know is from the steering wheel – you will notice strange vibrations.
You may notice them if you drive on rough roads. However, if it persists on normal paved roads, then there is a problem with the shock absorbers.
4. Unusual Noises
On many occasions, various problems with a vehicle have been associated with strange noises.
Now, you may not exactly be sure where the noise is coming from. But if you do, you should take some time to distinguish what kind of noise it is.
If you hear a knocking sound, that means there is a problem with the shocks or struts. The sound is often produced if the movement of the suspension and coil is compromised.
Besides, a shock absorber dampens vibrations through the rubber bushings at either side. If the bushings wear, the shocks will not prevent the vibration anymore. Eventually, they start to make noise at different sides.
5. Poor Control or Handling
The purpose of a shock absorber is to help maintain control and ensure that you can drive a vehicle properly on the road.
However, if the shocks wear or become damaged, they won’t function properly, as expected. Slowly, you start experiencing poor cornering, handling, and eventually, your vehicle swaying uncontrollably in the wind.
6. Uneven tire wear
Uneven tire wear could also be one of the symptoms of damaged shocks.
On several occasions, tires become unevenly worn when there is a problem with the suspension or rims/wheels. However, that isn’t all, the shock absorber could be the cause of the problem too.
If you’ve checked out the other parts and you notice there aren’t issues with them, the shocks and struts shouldn’t go unchecked.
As this tire wear persists, hydroplaning becomes a safety issue that your car faces and that is never good during winter conditions.
7. Front End Nose Diving While Hard Braking
When you have a bad or worn shock absorber, fluid flows out through the seals, causing the piston’s movement in the cylinder.
Now, the front end of your car’s nose dives with braking because the weight is higher than usual (i.e., when it was still controlled by the shocks).
8. Squatting of the Rear Ends
As there is front-end nose-diving, there is an automatic effect on the rear side.
You start getting rear squats when you hit the gas pedal. If that happens, there is definitely a problem with the shock absorbers. They are leaking fluid through the seals.
9. Excessive Bouncing of Tires
As aforementioned, the wheels bounce when there is a problem with the shocks or struts. However, it becomes excessive on a bumpy road, which is definitely a sign that something is truly wrong with your shocks.
As a matter of fact, the bounce could come with a clunking noise.
10. Leaking Shocks and Struts
The list of worn shocks and struts symptoms is incomplete without mentioning fluid leakage.
If you notice oil on either side of the shocks or a patch on the ground, then you have a leaking shock absorber.
When that happens, your vehicle’s springs and chassis will not have their oscillations controlled properly. In the end, you start having problems with handling, and it becomes very uncomfortable to drive.
11. Broken Shock Absorber Bushings
Finally, on the symptoms of bad shocks and struts, you will notice that the bushings are broken.
Bushings are features at either side of a shock absorber and are vulnerable to harsh weather conditions.
If they are broken, they won’t do their proper function, i.e., cushion shock mounts from suspension attachment. In that case, it becomes difficult to drive on rough terrains.
And if the strut bottoms are out, there is metal-to-metal contact which often results in strange noise coming from the vehicle’s wheels.
What happens if you drive with bad rear shocks?
Driving with damaged shocks can automatically affect your ride quality.
First, you won’t have a well-functioning suspension system, making it almost difficult to control speed and direction.
Secondly, you will find handling and steering a lot of difficulty.
Finally, the unsettling noise can make you uncomfortable on the road.
How do you check rear shock absorbers?
If you don’t want to encounter a serious problem with your shock absorbers, then you need to know how to check for faults.
There are four ways to do that, and they include:
1. Visual Check
When you park your car flat on the ground, view from a distance if it leans on one side than the other.
If it does, you need your shocks replaced.
2. Bounce Test
It involves pressing one corner of the car down and bouncing it at least three times. If after you stop, you discover your car moves up and down for some time, you should consider a shock or strut replacement.
3. Test Drive
You can also drive around in your vehicle to see if the shock absorber is bad or not.
Drive over a distance at a safe speed and hit the brakes swiftly. If the front part dives, the shocks are worn.
4. Visual Inspection
One more way to tell if your vehicle needs shock replacement is to inspect various components.
Look out for fluid leakage, dents on the shocks, and the tire for uneven wear.
Shock Absorber Maintenance Tips
If there are a few maintenance tips you should take to protect your shock absorber, they include:
- Never drive on rough roads too much. You should also do well to avoid bumps.
- Always inspect your shocks or struts regularly
- Test the shocks and struts often
- Buy good car products from reliable stores or brands.
If you can tell the various signs of a bad shock absorber, you would be able to protect your vehicle from different problems it may encounter now and in the future.
And while you are doing that, invest in your car’s maintenance because nothing beats driving comfortably on the road when you know all the parts or components are in good condition.