Shock absorbers, everything you wanted to know and did not dare to ask

If there are some elements of the car that deserve our attention and that tend to stay away from basic scrutiny, they are the shock absorbers. There is a tendency to believe that shock absorbers can withstand in perfect condition almost the entire useful life of the car, but the truth is that they have to be periodically reviewed, and our safety depends to a large extent on their perfect maintenance condition, and to a large extent, also, our comfort.

We are not one of those who sacrifice comfort, but above all, we will never skimp on safety. The dampers are part of a group of vital elements for safety in the car, with his fellow sufferers tire and brake system. With this triangle of systems in perfect condition, we can be sure of having an effective and reactive car.

What is the function of the shock absorbers?

The shock absorbers are mechanical elements whose mission is to keep the four tires glued to the asphalt for as long as possible, ensuring traction on the road, and “holding” the car during maneuvers: braking or cornering, for example. . Those are the two easiest situations for shock absorbers.

When they are put to the test of truth is absorbing irregularities such as bumps, bumps, bumpscurbs (but no one should undertake a curb, right?), Or loading the car for the holidays (in excess sometimes something that should be corrected if is that it happens to us some time). The shock absorbers have a lot of endurance and must be like that to last many kilometers, but all the mechanical elements have more or less resistance to use.

Some shock absorbers in good state of maintenance and conservation allow us to:

  1. Braking effectively (minimizing stopping distance) in any condition, be it dry or wet, smooth or bumpy asphalt (and on any terrain).
  2. Keep the car stable under braking, that is, without tipping erratically, for example.
  3. Keep the center of gravity controlled , that is, counteract the effect produced by any change in the car’s mass distribution (example: if we brake hard, the masses will tend to approach the front end; if we take a closed curve, the inertia will take the center of mass to the opposite side to the direction of the curve).
  4. Absorb any (reasonable) unevenness in the terrain, preventing the tires from losing contact with the road, so that driving will be comfortable and safer.

On the contrary, with shock absorbers in poor condition the car will not be able to maintain stability. Let’s think of the car as a plane that sits on four wheels. Under normal conditions, this plane will be stable, suppose parallel to the ground. If the shock absorbers work correctly, when braking the plane will lean forward, but both sides will do it at the same time, without any strange drift.

If the shock absorbers do not perform their function correctly, there will be an unforeseen drift that will make braking not completely stable, from the slightest to the emergency. That is why it is very important to know how to detect any sign of deterioration of this element, and we will explain how.

How to detect any abnormal degradation of the shock absorbers

As we said before, the main function of the shock absorbers is to absorb the irregularities of the ground as soon as possible, returning to its original position, of rest, in the shortest possible time. Therefore, if we come across an obstacle, the shock absorbers must neutralize it, and not transmit new ripples.

For this reason, to know if a shock absorber is in perfect condition , we can do a very simple home test. This test consists of compressing each shock absorber “by hand” and releasing it, to observe its behavior. We will do the following:

  • We place ourselves on the shock absorber that we are going to test, and we place both hands on the plate, to exert pressure.
  • We press against the ground, using the weight of our body to do so, so that we achieve the greatest possible compression.
  • When we get as low as possible, we take the pressure off and observe the behavior.
  • If the shock absorber returns to its original position and we do not observe successive rebounds, it is a good sign; If, on the other hand, we observe successive rebounds that are losing amplitude, we should take the car to have it checked, because the shock absorbers may have worn out.
  • As the shock absorbers are independent, we will repeat the operation with the rest, until we check all of them.

It’s good to check your dampers this way, but you don’t need to do it every month. When we notice that the car is softer than usual, or that it “bounces”, let’s check it. With each annual review, it may be reviewed (it would be logical, but just in case we could review that response every year, approximately). It is not something to be taken lightly, because shock absorbers in poor condition are not going to respond perfectly in delicate situations, such as emergency braking, for example.