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what to look for in a shock

Signs Your Shock Absorbers Need Replacing & The Best Buying Options

Have you ever wondered why your vehicle has shock absorbers? What’s their purpose, and why do some off-roaders have massive ones with chunky springs wrapped around them, showing off their structure in bright colors. Most importantly, you may be wondering how to tell if you need new shock absorbers. Do you simply go by the manufacturer’s recommendation, or are there warning signs to watch out for? We will explain it all right here. Please note that we are not talking about air springs or air suspension systems in this article, as that’s enough for a whole new article on its own.

07 Fox Remote Reservoir Performance Elite Series 2.5 Adjustable DSC Shocks Jeep Gladiator Front

What Are Shock Absorbers?

Shock absorbers are oil or gas-filled pistons that work in tandem with your vehicle’s springs to cushion out impacts. In engineering terms, a shock absorber is a damper that absorbs excess energy and allows it to dissipate in a controlled fashion. Shock absorbers and springs are a marriage made in heaven; without springs, your vehicle would sink to the ground, and without shock absorbers, it would ping-pong around for ages every time you hit a hump or pothole.

Shock absorbers have a finite life, and their lifespan is generally much shorter than springs, hence why you commonly see shock absorber replacements rather than spring replacements unless one has incurred a severe impact that has bent or broken a spring. Another situation in which one might replace springs is in the area of aftermarket modifications, although this is typically done together with an upgraded shock absorber as well.

06 Pro Comp Aftermarket Gas Charged Shocks Rain Stability

Signs You Need New Shock Absorbers

How do you know that you need new shock absorbers? Should you just follow the manufacturer’s recommendations? Are there any signs that you should look out for? Yes, and yes. While following the manufacturer’s advice is a good idea, there are signs you should be aware of, especially when it’s getting close to the manufacturer’s recommended change mileage or if your commute involves rough roads regularly. Here are some of the signs you should look out for.

Your Vehicle Feels Unsettled on the Highway

Does your vehicle feel a bit unsettled on the highway? Does it want to pogo up and down after hitting a bump or pothole? Do you feel like it’s a bit difficult to control and appears to be a lot ‘looser’ than usual? If so, worn-out shock absorbers are a prime suspect.

You Can See Oil or Damage

It’s not hard to view at least a part of your shock absorbers, especially on an off-roader – simply look inside the wheel wells or jack up one wheel at a time and have a look. If you can see noticeable damage, or signs of oil seeping out, it’s time for replacement pronto.

Your Vehicle Leans More in Cornering

Every off-roader will lean a bit under moderate to hard cornering, as it’s an inherent characteristic of having a suspension system soft enough to tackle on- and off-road driving. However, if you notice excessive lean while taking corners at a gentle speed, it’s a sign that your shock absorbers are getting tired and need replacement.

Unusual Tire Wear Patterns

A bad shock absorber will also cause a tire to bounce about more when it meets a bump or pothole, resulting in wavy wear patterns rather than the consistent pattern you’d expect to see. Since it’s recommended to rotate your tires every 5,000 miles or so, this is a prime time to check for unusual wear patterns, as well as eyeball your shock absorbers themselves as we’ve suggested above.

Excessive Diving and Squatting

A vehicle with shock absorbers in good condition will not excessively squat (lean backward) when you punch the gas, nor will it excessively dive (lean forwards) when you stamp the brakes. If your vehicle is doing this and it’s very noticeable, chances are the shock absorbers are on the way out.

Excessive Noises in the Suspension

Excessive noises such as crashes, clunks, or creaks in the suspension typically result from worn out bushes and rubber parts, but these can be linked to a weak shock absorber, so don’t disregard any unusual noises that you may hear on your daily commute, no matter how trivial they feel. For example, the sound generated by hitting a bump or pothole with a worn shock absorber is different from that created when hitting the same obstacle with a good shock absorber.


Best Shock Absorber Replacements

We at 4 Wheel Parts carry a wide range of shock absorber replacements, ranging from new shock absorbers at OEM spec, to upgrades. You’ll find several hundred SKUs from brands such as ARB, Bilstein, Crown Automotive, Fabtech, FOX, Icon, Omix-Ada, Pro Comp, Rancho, Rough Country, Rugged Ridge, TeraFlex, Trail Gear, Warrior and more. Be sure to check out our own brand of 4 Wheel Parts shocks and shock-spring solutions known as coilovers – we’ve got stuff for the current generation Ford Bronco and Toyota Tacoma at the moment.

A final tip is when changing your shock absorbers, take the opportunity to change all the associated rubber components such as bushings, dust boots, and protective covers. You’d be surprised how much road and off-road detritus these items face, and even if they are in decent condition, changing everything at once will save you repeated workshop visits and related labor costs.

10 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Front Suspension

Shock Absorbers, Suspension Systems and More from 4 Wheel Parts

You’d be hard-pressed to find a retailer that carries such a comprehensive range of high-performance parts like we at 4 Wheel Parts do. In fact, our inventory stretches across thousands of items from hundreds of renowned brands, and we’re bound to have something for everyone, whether it’s a performance part, cosmetic enhancement, or off-road lifestyle product. 

With a network of over 90 nationwide stores to cater to physical shoppers and a robust website backed by six distribution centers for those who like to shop from home or office, we’re ready for you. Throw in a price matching policy, comprehensive warranties where applicable, and easily accessible expert advice, and you’ve got yourself an unbeatable package. Choose 4 Wheel Parts, and you’ll never have to look back with regret, only forwards with enthusiasm.