Automotive shock absorbers do more than contribute to a smooth ride – they ensure quality vehicle handling, extended tire life, and long car suspension life. That said, worn or bad shocks can turn any ride into an uncontrollable, unsafe nightmare. What many drivers need to know is that shocks and struts wear out so gradually that the adverse effects aren’t easy to recognize in normal driving conditions.
Well, while shocks wear out gradually, your car will, at some point, give you signs that your shocks need to be replaced. Whether your car bounces when you step on the brake pad or feels out of control when negotiating corners, here are signs of bad shocks.
1. Instability at high speeds
Shocks play an indispensable role in stabilizing your vehicle’s movements and enhancing control when driving at highway speeds, negotiating corners, braking, and whenever you encounter uneven road surfaces.
With faulty shocks, your car will constantly move up and down, especially at highway speeds, and, sadly, it will never feel stable. If your shocks are significantly worn out, you are also likely to notice when driving slowly on highways.
2. Bouncy ride
Coil springs help dampen energy transfer when you hit a bump, potholes, or drive on uneven roads. On the other hand, your shocks control the springs’ movement so that bouncing stops almost immediately after hitting a bump.
With bad or worn shocks, your car’s tires will lose contact with the road, which results in excessive bouncing.
3. Uneven tire wear
Bad shocks cannot keep the tires firmly on the road surface, which causes your car to bounce constantly when driving. During these slight bounces, the part that remains in contact with the road will wear faster than the rest of the tire. In addition, the contact area keeps on changing as the tire rotates, which manifests in excessively worn patches.
Notably, uneven wear leaves you more prone to hydroplaning and flat.
4. Nose diving when braking
Another common sign of faulty or worn-out shocks is nose-diving – the front end of your car dips quickly towards the ground when you hit the brake pad. The front end dives because your car’s weight swings more than it would if the movement was controlled by shocks.
Nose diving is dangerous and potentially increases stopping distance.
5. Longer stopping distance
Bad or worn-out shocks let fluid flow out through the seal, causing the piston to move excessively in the cylinder. This definitely means that it takes extra time for your car to take up all the piston rod length, resulting in a longer stopping distance.
Worn automotive shock absorbers can increase stopping distance by 20%, which in many cases could mean the difference between a safe stop and an accident.
6. Rear squats during acceleration
A squatting rear can be a sign of lousy rear shocks.
When shocks are in good condition and functioning correctly, they keep your car stable during acceleration. On the other hand, bad shocks cause the rear of your car to squat excessively every time you hit the gas pedal.
7. Excessive steering wheel vibrations
It is perfectly normal to experience a few vibrations when driving over rough terrain, and the vibrations should disappear immediately when you reach a smoother road surface. However, if vibrating doesn’t stop on a smoother road surface, then you’re likely to be having bad shocks.
To be sure that shocks are the issues, your car will overreact when you hit tiny bumps. Also, vibrations tend to intensify at highway speeds, hampering your ability to control your vehicle.
8. Unusual rattling noise
Rattling noise is another telltale sign of a suspension system that requires service. Because faulty or worn-out shocks cannot properly support your car’s weight, they bottom out, causing metal-to-metal contact. When the metal surfaces rub against each other, you may hear knocking, rattling, and other unusual sounds.
Shock absorbers also dampen vibrations through the bushings, meaning bad shocks won’t prevent vibrations. The result is usually vibrations and bizarre sounds when driving.
9. Leaking shock absorber fluid
Excessive hydraulic fluid on the exterior of shocks and an oily patch on the ground are sure signs that your shocks are wearing out. Leaking shocks are useless, plus they cause handling issues and tiring rides.
If your seals are broken, it means that the internal fluids that help your shocks function properly are escaping, necessitating an immediate replacement.
10. The car sways or rolls when cornering
Similar to how a car dips or squats when braking and accelerating, its stability can be compromised during cornering. Bad shocks make your rides uncontrollable – you will feel like your car is rolling when turning. Mainly, this is because your shocks cannot control the rate of weight transfer when going around corners.
Worn shocks may necessitate increased steering input to navigate small turns.
11. Swerving in the wind
Shocks stabilize your vehicle movement, meaning if your car sways in winds (unless you’re driving through a tornado), you could be dealing with bad shocks.
If your car slides when driving through winds and you suspect your shocks, the best bet is to replace them.
12. Broken attachment points or shock absorber bushings
Each automotive shock absorber has points that allow for bolting. These attachment points usually have rubber bushings that do an excellent job of dampening vibrations. However, like anything else, these bushings wear and deteriorate because of the harsh conditions they are exposed to.
If your bushings are worn or broken, they will not cushion the shock mounts, resulting in uncontrollable rides. As a result, you may need to replace shocks to continue enjoying smooth, quiet, and safe rides.
Shock absorbers are an essential component of any vehicle and perform an indispensable function – ensuring you have smooth and comfortable rides. All in all, like any other vehicle component, they can be faulty, raising safety concerns. With the above-listed signs of bad shocks, you will easily know when your shocks need to be replaced. Replacing bad shocks will always bring your car back to life and ensure controllable rides.