If you've ever ridden down a rough road on your bicycle, you know how hard a ride it can be. Yet drive down the same road in your car, truck or SUV and it miraculously will smooth out the ride. That's because it is equipped with shock absorbers. They are built to dampen impacts from road irregularities. But after taking hundreds of hits from potholes, railroad tracks and curbs, your shock absorbers can wear out. Besides the rough ride that can cause, there are other ways your vehicle's performance can be affected.
When it comes to braking for example, you may take a longer distance to stop. That's because shocks help keep your tires in contact with the surface of the road. If the shocks aren't working properly, the tires won't make contact like they should. So when you slam on the brakes, your vehicle will take longer to stop.
Consider what worn out shocks are doing to your tires. Since the bumps aren't being dampened as much, your tires can bounce up and down more. That can produce a problem of uneven wear called cupping.
And when you start out from a stop, your vehicle may not have the traction it should since the shocks aren't keeping them down on the road as you accelerate. If you have front wheel drive, you may lose some steering control on acceleration. Obviously, many of these things involve safety concerns.
Pay attention to any deterioration in your vehicle's ride quality. If your vehicle is starting to bounce up and down and its ride feels bumpier than before, head on over to your vehicle service facility and get your suspension checked out. Do the same if steering response isn't as good as it used to be. Notice that your vehicle nose dives when you brake? Are your tires wearing in an unusual manner? All are signs that your shocks may be on their last legs.
If the last time you replaced your shocks was 50,000 miles/80,000 kilometers ago, a technician should evaluate them. Don't be "shocked" if it's time for new ones.
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