“Shocks and Struts—The Shocking Truth….”
The shocks or struts on your vehicle are vital components of its suspension and handling.
All vehicles have either shocks or struts on the front or rear of the vehicle. Contrary to popular belief, they do not primarily perform or control the weight-bearing function of the chassis—that’s the job of the springs. (Although, struts do provide structural support for the suspension and bear much of the side load.)
The vital role shocks and struts play in the safe, steady, effective handling and running of your vehicle is not to be underestimated.
The main purpose of the shock absorber is to control spring and suspension movement. It turns the kinetic energy of suspension movement into thermal energy that gets dissipated through the hydraulic fluid.
A shock is basically an oil pump: A piston attached to the end of the piston rod works against hydraulic fluid in the pressure tube. As the suspension moves up and down, the hydraulic fluid is forced through tiny holes inside the piston, allowing a small amount of fluid through the piston, which then slows down the spring and suspension movement.
The number and size of the holes in the piston determine the amount of resistance the shock delivers. Modern shocks are velocity-sensitive dampers; this means that the faster your suspension moves, the more resistance your shock provides. This allows shocks to adjust to road conditions and reduce the rate of sway, bounce, brake dive, and acceleration squat.
The strut is the more advanced technology improvement on the shock absorber. Most of today’s front-wheel-drive vehicles, as well as some rear-wheel-drives, are equipped with struts, which are a major structural component of the vehicle’s suspension.
The strut is lighter and takes up less space than the shock, and it performs two vital functions: a damping function, like a shock; and structural support.
Internally, a strut is very similar to a shock: a piston attached to the end of the piston rod works against hydraulic fluid to control spring and suspension movement, and the valving generates resistance to forces created by the up and down motion of the suspension. And like the shock, the strut is velocity-sensitive; so the amount of resistance can increase or decrease depending on how fast the suspension moves.
Unlike shocks, however, struts provide structural support for the suspension, support the spring, and hold the tire in an aligned position. They also bear much of the side load placed on the suspension. So they affect riding comfort and handling in addition to steering, braking, wheel alignment, vehicle control, and suspension wear.
Whatever your vehicle has, shocks and struts are key components to its safe, smooth, solid handling. If you start to experience any warning signs that these suspension components may be damaged or wearing out (rough handling, excessive sway, bouncing, dipping when accelerating, etc.), you should have an experienced expert inspect your suspension to see if it may be time to replace.
Feel free to contact us today for a free inspection, or to answer any questions you may have.