The truth is, no matter how good your tyres or brakes are, worn shock absorbers are as dangerous, and frequently the most overlooked safety critical part of vehicle maintenance.
Your tyres are your only points of contact with the road and contrary to popular belief, a shock absorbers primary function is not comfort but rather that of maintaining tyre to road contact. This is arguably the most important factor in vehicle control.
A shock absorber, in reality, a shock "damper", is a complex hydraulic device with about 40 internal components that make a shock absorber work. It is designed to absorb and damp shock impulses by converting the kinetic energy of the shock impulse into another form of energy (typically heat) which is then dissipated.
How shocks and struts affect breaking distance.
Shocks and struts play an important role in helping your vehicle stop. A bouncing wheel breaks surface contact and reduces tyre to road friction under breaking. Worn shocks affect brake control, reduce the efficiency of Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESP) which can increase the stopping distance by 4 meters when stopping from 80 km/h, and by 6.5 meters when stopping from 110 km/h, quite possibly the distance between life, death or serious injury!
How do you know when your vehicle needs new shocks or struts?
As a driver, it’s pretty obvious when you have tyre failure, you can hear the noise created by a puncture or feel the damage while driving. Most drivers don’t notice when their shocks or struts fail because it happens gradually. Instead, drivers tend to adjust their driving habits without realizing they are compensating for extra roll or bounce.
There are 8 signs of worn shocks that as a car owner or driver should look out for, namely a vibrating steering wheel, nose-diving when braking, excessive bounce, uneven tyre wear, poor control in side winds and during cornering, a dented and damaged housing and oil leaking from the shock.
Replacing your shocks at intervals will help keep your car performing like new, but choosing the right shocks can make a big difference. Equally, choosing a reputable brand like Gabriel will give you peace of mind in the knowledge that you have a product with pedigree and experience of more than 100 years.