Skip to content Skip to navigation menu

How to check your shock absorbers

Tom Vondrasek | 23rd Feb 2024 | 4 minutes to read

The shock absorber is a critical part of your vehicle’s suspension system. It does exactly what it says, absorbs the impact bumps and dips have on the vehicles body when travelling down a road.  It works hand in hand with the spring to make your ride comfortable.

Colloquially, they are known in the Australian industry as shocks and as dampers in other parts of the world.

While the spring does the heavy lifting the shock absorber assists it. When you hit a bump the spring compresses and the shock absorber controls the rate at which it compresses to reduce the violence of the bump. When the spring uncompresses the shock absorber stops it oscillating as the spring releases its energy.

They are found close to the spring and one end connects to the vehicle body, the other to the suspension. It is a rod that slides inside an oil filled tube like a plunger with valving to control compression and rebound. They have rubber mounts at either end to help cushion their action.

Some shock absorbers are integrated with the spring and come as an assembly known as a strut. They are common and can be disassembled to replace the part that is worn or damaged.

To properly inspect shock absorbers on a vehicle, individuals can follow these step-by-step guidelines:

  1. Visual Inspection
  2. Bounce Test
  3. Road Test
  4. Steering Response
  5. Tyre Wear
  6. Professional Inspection

Visual Inspection

Begin by visually inspecting the shock absorbers for any signs of leakage, damage, or excessive wear. Look for oil stains or wetness around the shock absorber body, as this could indicate an oil leak. Also, check for physical damage such as dents, cracks or rust. Chewing out the rubber mounts is common so check for crushed, cracked, or missing rubber bushes.

Bounce Test

Conduct a bounce test by pressing down firmly on each corner of the vehicle and releasing it. The vehicle should rebound once and settle. If it bounces excessively or continues to oscillate, it could indicate worn-out or faulty shock absorbers.

Road Test

Take the vehicle for a test drive on various road surfaces, including smooth roads, rough terrain, and speed bumps. Pay attention to how the vehicle’s suspension responds to bumps and dips. If there are unusual noises, excessive bouncing, or instability, it might signal a problem with the shock absorbers. Braking and cornering may also be impacted.

Steering Response

Evaluate the vehicle's steering response while driving. Worn-out shock absorbers can lead to reduced steering precision and control, causing the vehicle to feel less stable or wander on the road.

Tyre Wear

Unusual tyre wear or degradation may be caused by worn or damaged shock absorbers.

Professional Inspection

If there are concerns about the shock absorbers' condition or performance, it's advisable to seek the expertise of a qualified mechanic or technician. They can perform a more comprehensive inspection using specialised tools and equipment.

Regularly inspecting and maintaining shock absorbers are essential for ensuring a vehicle's stability, control, and overall safety on the road. It is recommended to check shock absorbers during routine maintenance intervals or if any of the symptoms above are observed.

Like most things on a vehicle, they can wear out slowly so you may not realise there is an issue until symptoms become more pronounced. That is why routine maintenance checks are important.

Check out our range suspension categories:


Struts
Struts

Shock Absorbers
Shock Absorbers

Suspension Bushes
Suspension Bushes

Ball Joints
Ball Joints

Sway Bars & Links
Sway Bars & Links

Coil Springs
Coil Springs

Check out our Shock Absorbers

Related Know How Guides:

Become an Repco Rewards Member

Repco Rewards

Earn Points. Get Rewarded.