Do you know what the shocks on your car do? Silly question, right? Everyone knows they absorb the bumps when you drive your car! Well, as it turns out, this isn’t actually true. They really have little to do with absorbing shocks. Our technical source at Holden Dodge of Dover, DE explained to us that the springs on your car, either coil or leaf-style, on each wheel of your car absorb road bumps (i.e.not the shock absorbers.) What the shock absorbers do is dampen the bouncing of the springs so your car doesn’t bounce up and down like a kangaroo after hitting a bump. Technically, shocks should be called “spring dampeners” not “shock absorbers” as they currently are. Go figure.
Does your car bounce when you drive?
So, back to your shocks, are they worn out? Well, there’s a few ways to judge this. First, when you hit a bump, does your car bounce up and down several times before settling down? If so, there’s a good chance that shocks are worn out and need to be replaced.
Can you make your car bounce?
Another easy way to judge if your shocks are worn out is done with your car stopped and turned off. Place the palm of your hand on the corner of your vehicle, front or rear, and push up and down hard for a few cycles. Now release your hand. If your car body continues to bounce up and down, your shocks may need replacing.
Are your shocks leaking?
Another thing to do is look for leakage. Shock absorbers are filled with a thick, oil-like fluid and when a shock absorber is worn out, the fluid can leak out past the shock seals and trickle down the shock housing. This usually means that they need replacement, although technically they still might work.
How old are they?
By the way, there really isn’t a specific mileage point when shocks wear out. It all depends on the vehicle, the brand of shocks you have and your driving habits. A general rule of thumb, though, is around something like 50,000 miles or so that shocks will probably be worn out. If in doubt, the way your car or truck feels will tell you, as well as doing the “bounce test” we outlined above. And, of course, it’s always a good idea to get the opinion of a professional mechanic.