Just like the clutch or the brakes, shock absorbers are essential to the safety of a vehicle since they contribute to its good road handling.
These shock absorbers press the wheels to the ground so that the vehicle’s tire sticks to the road wherever it goes.
Signs of shock absorber wear
Shock absorbers are difficult to see and wear out gradually. The driver may not notice it right away and may become accustomed to the defects as the miles go by.
However, it is important for the safety of the driver and the longevity of other vehicle parts not to prolong the life of shocks in poor conditions.
Certain visual examinations can indicate a possible defect of these:
oil leaks (in the shock absorbers)
traces of corrosion;
important dissymmetry between the axles.
Clues while driving
On the other hand, you must remain attentive to the behaviour of your vehicle and detect certain warning signs:
Vibrating steering wheel (the spring is working, but the shock absorber is not);
vehicle sensitive to side wind (the vehicle may even sway under the effect of side wind);
Difficulty in handling when changing direction, turning, driving over speed bumps, aquaplaning;
difficulty in braking:
either an increase in braking distance;
or the vehicle tends to dive forward when braking;
steering of the car, which becomes very imprecise;
Slamming noises on rough roads.
Shock absorber service frequency
In any case, it is best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and have your shock absorbers serviced on average every 20,000 km.
However, your type of driving and the characteristics of the roads you drive on can vary this figure.
Please note: a shock absorber at the end of its life wears out very quickly.
Shock absorbers must be checked and verified by professionals, but what about replacement?
Shock absorbers are part of the components covered by the technical inspection.
What tests are required at the technical inspection?
During the technical control:
The vehicle is inspected only visually.
Only cases of oil leaks, traces of corrosion or cracks lead to a second inspection.
The symmetry of the axles is not checked; their “significant deterioration” does not lead to a second inspection.
On the other hand, a garage must put your vehicle on a test bench before changing them.
Tip: Have your shock absorbers checked regularly.
Changing your own shock absorbers
There are many different types of shock absorbers:
Front and rear shock absorbers are different.
Moreover, the shock absorbers are changed in pairs to avoid any imbalance in the car.
Before removing a shock absorber:
the vehicle must be raised because the shock absorber is compressed when the car is stopped;
it must be completely relaxed for the operation to be possible.
To perform this operation, you will need the following:
a hex wrench;
either a screw spring compressor or a professional crank compressor, suitable for intensive use but much more expensive.
Price of checking and changing shock absorbers
If the verification can sometimes be free, the price of changing a pair of shock absorbers represents a more considerable sum of money.
The price is all the higher since it is recommended:
to replace the shock absorber cups at the same time;
to have the front axle aligned.
Don’t delay to avoid paying even more
However, postponing this change is not a good idea since it will damage other vehicle parts.
The price is proportional to the size of the car and the prices offered by the professional, whether it is a manufacturer, an auto center, or a car mechanic.
It is best to compare what is offered online and what the various parties offer.