How Shock Absorbers work
First, shock absorbers don’t absorb shocks. That is the job of the springs in a vehicle’s suspension system.
Despite being in use since the early days of the automobile, they are not well understood by the general driving public. Even automotive enthusiasts will neglect and often ignore the shock absorbers on their car, degrading the car’s handling performance and ride comfort.
Understanding the situation
As a wheel encounters a bump, the wheel moves upward, compressing and storing the energy of the bump into the spring. This compression is actually what absorbs the shock of the bump.
But now that the spring is compressed, it contains potential energy that must be released. The spring does this by bouncing back to its original uncompressed length, at the same time pushing the vehicle’s body upward. In an example of the old adage “what goes up, must come down,” gravity pulls the weight of the body back down, recompressing the spring. If the shock absorbers are worn, the vehicle ends up bouncing its way down the road after every bump until all of the energy is used up. In the worst cases, this bouncing can actually pull a vehicle’s tires off the ground, making the vehicle uncontrollable.
Bring on the dampers
Shock absorbers, more properly called dampers, are mounted alongside (or inside) the springs at each corner of the vehicle. A shock absorber’s job is to provide resistance to the movement of the spring. Technically speaking, it does this by taking some of the energy that is being used to compress the spring and turning it into heat. So whether the vehicle is bouncing up or down from a bump in the road, that motion is held in check by the shock absorber, and once again some of the kinetic energy released by the spring is changed into heat by the shock absorber. This conversion of energy keeps the vehicle’s body from bouncing more than once or twice, providing a controlled ride and helping to keep the vehicle’s tires safely in contact with the ground.
How do shock absorbers work?
If you have ever waved your hand back and forth through water, then, in principle, you know how a shock absorber works. The resistance to motion you feel with your hand changes with speed – the faster you move your hand, the more energy it takes to push against the resistance of the water.
A shock absorber works much the same way. Inside the shock absorber there’s a piston that moves inside a tube that is filled with oil. As the piston moves, the oil is forced through tiny holes and valves within the piston, precisely controlling the amount of resistance to movement.
Take good care of the shocks as worn shocks can be dangerous, especially during the severe maneuvers that might be necessary to avoid an accident.
Take a look at the different shock absorbers we offer today:
Stay tunned to our next post if you want to know the difference.