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Shock Absorbers: Tech Overview of Off Road Shocks

Shocks may not get the attention of other, more recognizable off road parts like lift kits or tires, but shock absorbers are actually one of the most essential off road components you can upgrade.

Sure, plenty of vehicles may have a suspension lift or some large tires for looks, but who knows how well these rigs perform off road without the right set of shocks.

Naturally, being outside of the spotlight means that shocks may not get as much tech attention as other parts. So for the inexperienced beginner, we present a quick glance at shock absorbers.

Most popular shocks: Bilstein Shocks | Pro Comp Shocks | Fox Shocks | Rancho Shocks | Fabtech Shocks | King Shocks

Back to TopShock Tech

Shocks - Shock Tech

Shocks or "struts," are parts within your vehicle’s suspension that work in conjunction with springs and other components to help dampen impact and vibration during driving while also making sure that the tires are always in contact with the ground.

In other words, as your vehicle drives over all the bumps, lumps, and uneven surfaces on the ground, shock absorbers minimize the impact and vibration to your suspension. A working set of shocks successfully lessens the wear of your suspension, wheels, and tires.

In essence, situations where there is an increased level of ground variation -- such as racing or off road driving -- require shocks that are built for significantly greater impact dampening.

Upgrading your shocks can provide a variety of benefits, ranging from better vehicle stability, to improved control, and in some cases, a smoother ride.

Back to TopA Common Misconception

Dampening impact and vibration may seem like easy enough concepts to grasp. However, many tend to make the mistake of misinterpreting the true function and purpose of shock absorbers.

Many believe that upgrading to premium shock absorbers will give a vehicle a softer, smoother, and all-around better ride feel. While this may be the general consensus, in actuality ride quality is dependent on a number of factors and components other than just the type of shocks you have.

While upgrading your shocks may offer a different or improved ride quality, the truth of the matter is that shocks are created more for improved drivability, control, and vehicle stability, but these conditions are terrain-dependent.

On one hand, a set of shocks that performs well on the highway won’t handle off road terrain very well. Conversely, off road shocks won’t perform at their peak on the highway. This is, of course, assuming that adjustments aren’t made to your shock absorbers when switching terrain.

Thus, while the fundamental intent of shocks is to improve your ride quality, shock absorbers serve a variety of purposes, so pinpointing a measurable definition of the amount or type of improvement is difficult.

A Brief History of Shock Absorbers

All shocks are designed as hydraulic devices to some degree; that is, they require the movement or motion of some form of liquid in order to operate.

In fact, early units were pure hydraulic shocks, meaning that they contained only fluid. Unfortunately, these designs offered restricted performance, as the liquid inside shock absorbers tended to foam or form bubbles, thus reducing the effectiveness of the shock and accelerating wear.

Now thanks to advancements in technology, shocks contain pressurized nitrogen gas in addition to hydraulic liquids. Not only does nitrogen gas offer significant improvements over pure hydraulic predecessors, but it is inert and completely safe as well.

Back to TopCommon Types of Shocks

Although there are many different types and combinations of shocks, this guide will focus on a few of the more common and abundant types, particularly when it comes to off road vehicles.

Shocks - Twin Tube Shocks

Twin Tube Shocks

Intended as a factory-style replacement, twin tube shock absorbers have remained a dependable and long-lasting option for several decades.

The base design revolves around hydraulic oil and nitrogen gas. The oil dampens shock while nitrogen gas is pressurized (100 PSI or lower) to help prevent foaming of the liquid. Softer valving also makes these shock absorbers more cost-efficient to make.

All in all, Twin Tube Shocks represent an excellent value for the street grinder or occasional mild off road enthusiast, and are often known to be factory original equipment in many domestic passenger cars and trucks.

Popular Twin Tube Shocks include: Pro Comp and Rancho.

Shocks - Monotube Shocks

Monotube Shocks

These shocks offer closer tolerances in a monotube design that produces both cooler operation temperatures, and better resistance to the rigors of racing or off road driving.

Monotube shocks are typically high pressured around 200-350 PSI, while hydraulic fluid and nitrogen gas are relegated to separate chambers, divided by a floating piston to reduce foaming.

The end result is a set of shock absorbers with more controlled valving, making them ideal for racing and off road use, and are even used in many professional racing circuits like NASCAR and Formula One, and are quite common in performance vehicles.

Popular Mono Tube Shocks include: Bilstein, Pro Comp, and Fox.

Shocks - Reservoir Shocks

Reservoir Shocks

Reservoir shock absorbers offer many of the same benefits and features as Monotube shocks, but with a few extra twists.

Built with an added fluid reservoir, these shocks offer less cavitation with enhanced cooling ability. In essence, these shocks will maintain top-tier performance for extended periods, even in hardcore off road situations.

As an added bonus, nothing beats the look of Reservoir Shocks. The impressive and slick dual shock-mount look is a surefire style statement of any off road enthusiast.

Popular Reservoir Shocks include: Bilstein, Pro Comp, Fox, and Fabtech.


4 Wheel Parts offers a vast assortment of high performance shock absorbers for your off road-tuned rig. Choose from all the best and hottest name brands, including Pro Comp, Bilstein, Rancho, Fox, Fabtech, and more.

Whether you’re looking for an exceptional value to replace factory shocks, or a set of premium shock absorbers to conquer off road terrain, you’re sure to find exactly what you need thanks to 4 Wheel Parts’ unrivalled selection of shocks.

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