The truth is, no matter how good your tyres or brakes are, worn shock absorbers are dangerous, and often the most overlooked vehicle safety part critical for vehicle safety and maintenance.
Your tyres are your only point of contact with the road and contrary to popular belief, a shock absorber’s primary function is not comfort but rather that to maintain effective tyre-to-road contact. This is arguably the most important factor in vehicle control.
A shock absorber, in reality, is a shock "damper". It is a complex hydraulic device with about 40 internal components that make a shock absorber work. It is designed to absorb and dampen shock impulses by converting the shock absorber’s kinetic energy 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 when braking. Worn shocks can affect brake control, reducing the efficiency of Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESP) which can lengthen the stopping distance by four meters when stopping at 80 km/h, and by 6.5 meters when braking at 110 km/h, quite possibly the distance between life and serious injury or even a fatality.
How do you know when your vehicle needs new shocks or struts?
As a driver, it’s pretty obvious when you have a tyre failure. You will 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 realising they are compensating for the extra roll or bounce.
There are eight 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 of 80 000km will help keep your car performing like new, but also choosing the right shocks can make a big difference. Equally, choosing a reputable brand like Gabriel will give peace of mind in the knowledge that you have a product with pedigree and experience of more than 100 years and is locally manufactured to meet our local conditions.
It is important to regularly inspect your shocks for signs of damage or oil leaks. Dented or damaged shocks can be caused by stones which can impede the shock’s performance.