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If you’re looking for a smooth and comfortable driving experience, it’s vital that your shock absorbers are in good condition. Shock absorbers, or struts, as they’re sometimes called, are an essential part of your car’s suspension.

shock absorbers
shock absorbers

Shock absorbers, as the name suggests, absorb shock from road defects like bumps and potholes to keep your tyres firmly on the ground. As well as making sure that you and your passengers have a smooth ride, they’re critical for safety and protect your car from damage. 

But your shocks can only absorb so much before they start to wear down. Here at YMF Car Parts, we know all of the signs to look out for to tell if shock absorbers are worn out and need replacing. 

What Do Shock Absorbers Do? 

Before you can start to work out whether your shock absorbers are wearing or have worn out, it’s helpful to know precisely what they do. 

When you’re driving, your car’s springs and suspension go through a lot with potholes, speed bumps and all sorts of other road defects. Your shock absorbers manage any rebound and shock from these defects to make sure your tyres are touching the ground and give you a comfortable driving experience. 

Shocks are small oil pumps with a piston inside that controls the suspension and springs. As your car’s suspension rises and falls, the oil in the piston pumps to slow the springs and coils. Even if you’re travelling at speed and your suspension is moving quickly, your shock absorbers will adapt to the conditions and counter the movement with resistance, ensuring a smooth driving experience.

How to Tell if Shock Absorbers Are Worn Out: Signs to Look For

Now that you know what your shocks do, it’ll be easier to spot the signs of wear and learn how to tell if shock absorbers are worn out. If they’re damaged or worn, your suspension won’t work correctly, and your tyres won’t sit on the road properly. You might notice some of the warning signs as you’re driving, but it’s good to know what to look out for. 

1. Shock Absorbers Leaking

This is one of the most common signs that your shocks are shot, and it’s an easy one to spot. Have a look at the shocks and suspension, check if you can see any oil; if you notice any, it’s a good idea to get some professional advice. 

Usually, a leaking shock absorber will need to be replaced immediately and more often than not, once one goes, the rest will follow shortly after. If you can, replace all four at once as a single replacement can make your car’s handling worse. 

What Causes Leakage in Shock Absorbers?

Shock absorbers are small oil pumps with a piston inside. They’re filled with oil and usually have a rod that goes through the top of the shock. The top of the shock has a seal that stops any leakage, but this can get damaged, and the oil leaks out over time. The oil is vital for dampening bumps on the road, and the shocks will stop working if it runs out entirely.

2. Uneven Tyres

Your shock absorbers help to keep your tyres firmly on the road. If they’re not working correctly, then your tyres will wear unevenly. This is an easy sign to see and even more apparent if the uneven wear has caused bald spots on your tyres. 

If you detect any uneven tyre wear or bald spots, take the car to a qualified mechanic. If you continue to drive on faulty tyres, you can be fined and get points on your license. 

3. Bad Vibrations

If you’re driving along and picking up bad vibrations, there’s a good chance that your shocks are worn. You’ll feel a lot of the vibrations through the steering wheel. They’re usually caused by fluid escaping past the seal on the piston, which makes the shocks overreact to suspension movements.

If you’re starting to feel vibrations through the steering wheel, get your shocks checked at a local garage.

4. Stopping Takes Longer

This is one of the easiest ways to find a faulty shock absorber, as you’ll notice it naturally while you’re driving. There are a few reasons your car can take longer to stop, but damaged shocks are one of the leading causes. 

If you’ve got a worn seal on your shock absorber, it can cause fluid overflow. The piston movement can get out of control, meaning that the shock doesn’t work as quickly as it should, and the car takes longer to stop. 

5. Swerving, Nose Diving and Veering

Again, this is an easy one as you’ll notice it as you’re driving. If the fluid in the shock absorber is getting past the seal, it will leak out when you turn or stop the car, causing the piston to move in extremes. This will mean that your vehicle may swerve and sometimes lurch forward when using your brakes. 

The same issue can also cause your car to lean in one direction, meaning it’ll veer in that direction when you move the steering wheel. This can be a severe issue, especially in wet weather, so get it checked as soon as you can. 

6. Knocking Noise

Shock absorbers have bushing at each end. They’re made from rubber and can easily crack, destabilising your shock absorber and stopping it from working correctly. Most of the time, when you’ve got a broken bushing, your car will make a knocking or a tapping sound when you’re going over a speed bump or a pothole. 

Your shock absorber itself might be ok, but if you hear a rattling or knocking noise, it’s not being held in place and can cause more damage. It’s wise to get it checked and replace the bushing as soon as you can. 

7. Bumpy Rides

You hardly notice when your shock absorbers are working correctly. They are always working hard to lower the impact of every bump and pothole you hit and reduce the vibrations caused. But if they’re worn or wearing out, you’ll quickly know about it as you’ll start to feel every bump on the road. 

If this starts to happen, check for any other signs of wear and tear and then get your shocks checked by a qualified mechanic. 

What to Do if Your Shock Absorbers Are Worn Out

Those are the main signs to tell if shock absorbers are worn out, but with all the bumps and potholes on the roads, you’ll quickly notice if they’ve started to wear. It’s inevitable that they will wear out over time and need replacing, and it’s wise to get them replaced as quickly as you can. The problems that worn shock absorbers can cause may damage your car further and potentially cause an accident. 

If you think your shocks need replacing, it’s always advisable to replace all four simultaneously. Replacing a single shock absorber can cause worse handling than with a worn one. If you can’t replace all four at the same time, we recommend replacing the shock from the same end of the vehicle as the worn one to give equal handling. 

Unless you’re a qualified mechanic or have the experience and skills to replace your shock absorbers, we always recommend taking your vehicle to a garage for repairs. They will be able to confirm the issue and carry out repairs safely. 

At YMF Car Parts, we make it as simple as possible to find the car parts you need. If you need new shock absorbers or bushings, enter your car’s registration number on our shock absorbers page. There you’ll be able to see all the parts for your vehicle and order the products you need. We offer free delivery on all orders over £30, with a no-quibbles returns policy.