When talking about suspension parts, the mention of suspension shock absorbers cannot be avoided. Automotive shock absorbers control coil and leaf spring movements and improve passenger comfort and vehicle drivability. The damping action of shocks also helps to prolong the lifespan of tires and several other components.
For a car shock absorber to work properly, it should satisfy certain requirements. These range from material of construction, dimensions, to design. Shock absorber manufacturers make these devices in different types.
It is essential to consider shock absorber specifications when choosing the type and brand to buy. And how they match your type of vehicle. This article contains all that information.
Read on to learn what features matter in shock absorbers for cars. We also included a section about how to buy shock absorber parts.
Here are the shock absorber specs every buyer ought to be aware of.
1. Shock Absorber Material
The materials used to make a shock absorber can affect its performance. Different materials are used to make the body of these devices, the most common being steel and aluminum.
The best shock absorber material should suit the type of vehicle, driving conditions, and other requirements.
Steel shock absorbers do not cost a lot, which makes them a good choice for most vehicles.
However, they are heavier than aluminum shocks and do not suit applications such as race cars. Steel shocks also do not allow for adjustments.
Despite these shortcomings, shock absorbers made from steel are a popular option.
Aluminum shocks are more expensive than those made of steel. But then, the performance they offer is higher. Aluminum shock absorbers are lightweight and allow for adjustment. As a result, they fit tough applications, such as racing cars.
The materials for shock absorber manufacture do not concern its body only.
Other parts matter, too. These include bushings, seals, springs, and other components.
For shock absorber spring material, steel makes the best choice. The material possesses excellent tensile properties and does not lose elasticity easily.
The shock absorber material used for seals should provide adequate protection from leaks, withstand pressures, and last the lifetime of the shock absorbed.
Synthetic rubber or polyurethane suits that description. Synthetic rubber is also used for the shock absorber bushings.
2. The Design of the Shock Absorber
Vehicles use different types of shock absorbers.
The shocks feature different designs and produce varied performance characteristics. Some shock absorber designs are more popular than others- and for a reason or reasons.
Working mechanisms also vary. Here are the kinds of shocks available today.
Mono tube shock absorber– this type of shock uses a single cylinder. Inside the cylinder is a piston that pushes the hydraulic fluid to control spring and vehicle suspension motion.
The design produces high-performance shocks that produce excellent results in tough driving conditions.
Monotube shocks also work both ways and can be installed facing any up and down direction.
Because of the simple design, mono tube shocks do not need valves. All the passage of fluid happens at the piston. These shock absorbers are usually long due to the single cylinder design.
In most modern types, there is usually a second piston that separates the oil chamber from a gas filled chamber in the same cylinder. The gas (nitrogen) helps prevent foaming in the oil.
Twin tube shock absorber- as the name implies, a twin tube shock uses two different cylinders; the inner one to store the pressure fluid and the outer excess fluid.
The upper part of the shock contains the pressure piston and the piston rod. A base valve at the bottom of the shock controls the movement of compression fluid.
The twintube is the most common shock absorber design today.
Shocks of this type are less costly, plus they fit normal road conditions.
Unless high-performance characteristics are needed, such as off-road and racing applications, a twin tube shock is an excellent choice.
Variations of the twin tube automotive shock absorber design include:
Position sensitive damping shock absorber– a version of twin tube shock absorber, this design offers better performance characteristics.
PSD shock absorbers feature tapered grooves in the compression chamber.
The gloves offer more movement of the hydraulic fluid, but without compromising firmness as to make the shock ineffective.
By tuning the grooves to fit the application, optimal ride quality levels can be achieved. PSD shocks adjust to changes in road conditions quickly. To changing weights also.
Acceleration sensitive damping shock absorber- this is another variation of the twin tube shock absorber. To adapt to changing road conditions almost instantly, the shock uses unique compression valves. ASD shock absorbers are not made by many companies.
As a result, they are rare to find in a vehicle and only sold as aftermarket auto parts.
Coil over shock absorber- coil over shock absorbers look like struts.
However, they are not struts but a type of car shock absorber design. The design features a shock with a helical spring all around.
Unlike struts, coil over shocks do not form a structural part of the suspension. These shocks are meant for performance vehicles.
They allow for fine-tuning to suit different requirements. It includes changing ride height, among other preferences.
3. Shock Absorber Dimensions
The size of a shock absorber should match the travel of the suspension. If the length of the shock compresses fully before the end of suspension travel, the result could be damaged shocks.
There are many reasons to want to determine shock absorber length. You may be looking to increase or decrease ride height, or buying new shocks to replace old ones.
How do you tell right shock absorber size or length? There are several ways to do so.
How to Measure a Shock Absorber Length
Shock absorber sizing involves taking measurements for both the collapsed and extended lengths.
You do not need many things to measure shock absorber length- only a tape measure for the dimensions and flat ground on which to park the car.
To find the extended length, remove the shock and allow it to extend on its own.
You may also pull it gently but firmly. Once the shock is fully extended, measure the distance from the center of the upper mount to the base.
Next, compress the shock absorber and take measurements to get the collapsed length.
Measuring the Suspension
If you cannot measure the shock length for any reason, consider finding the dimensions from the suspension.
Use a jack to compress one side of the vehicle. Alternatively, you can drive up a ramp to compress one side fully.
You will need to subtract a haft inch from the value you get.
To measure the extended length of the suspension, remove existing shocks. Jack up the body of the car until the wheels just touch the ground then take the measurements.
How to Buy Shock Absorbers
After you have determined the shock absorber size or length, the next step is finding the design or type that suits your car.
We have already covered that in the shock absorber design section.
Armed with all that information, you are now ready to purchase your new shock absorbers.
What is the best shock absorber? It is a question that many buyers ask, especially considering that there are many shock absorber manufacturing companies on the market.
Here are shock absorber buying tips to help you shop wisely.
Let driving conditions inform your decision- road conditions should determine which shock absorber is the best for your car.
If you drive on mostly even roads, a standard twin tube shock will do.
Off-road or overly bumpy conditions require heavy duty or high-performance shocks.
You may want to consider the mono tube type and gas-filled types.
Ascertain specifications- shock absorber makers will have many different shocks in their inventory.
The variations include size differences, designs, materials, and more.
To ensure the shock that you buy matches your vehicle’s requirements, have with you the specific features you are looking for.
Choose a trusted brand- shock absorbers smoothen rides and provide for safe driving. Therefore, you need quality ones.
While that would be difficult to determine, choosing a reputable shock absorber company would be advisable.
Remember, every shock absorber manufacturer will claim their products are quality.
Do your homework by researching the company extensively, especially online.
Compare prices- shock absorber prices vary across different manufacturers and resellers.
Choose shock absorber suppliers who do not hike prices unnecessarily.
As a rule of the thumb, scout around for the best offers before making a purchase.
Shock absorbers come in many types. Each design has its advantages and downsides. Your choice determines many things, chief among them drivability and the ride quality achieved by your car.
Using the information provided in this article, you will, no doubt, make the best buying decision.
Remember, auto shock absorber manufacturers make all types of shocks.
It is upon you to determine the kind that suits your vehicle.