Is Your Shock Absorber Bad or Failing? Consider the Symptoms

How do you know if your shock absorbers need to be replaced? Many people aren’t sure of what the symptoms are for a bad/failing shock absorber, so they put off getting it taken care of, which can cause severe damage to the vehicle and could be cause for serious injury to yourself or passengers.

The first thing is to learn how absorbers are designed. Their purpose is to keep the tires connected to the ground on bumpy roads, so you stay in control of the car. The shocks and struts are designed similarly, though the strut holds the weight of the vehicle while the shock links both suspension parts. Shocks have a cylinder (reserve tube) filled with hydraulic fluid, a second tube (pressure cylinder) within the reserve tub, pistons traveling through the pressure cylinder, and valves to control fluid flow from one area of the piston to the next when bumps are encountered.

Many issues can arise with shock absorbers over time, so it’s a good idea to know the signs of a failing or bad shock/strut to ensure that you know when to get service or get them replaced.


If your piston or valve seal inside the shock wears out, it may not sit correctly, which allows fluid to uncontrollably flow through the piston or valve seal. Therefore, the tiniest bump can cause the system to overreact, which you feel as vibrations through the steering wheel.

Nose-Dive or Swerving

When you press on the brake, your vehicle should efficiently slow down to the point of being stopped. If you notice that the car seems to swerve slightly on its own while riding down the road or that the front of the vehicle seems to dip downward when you press on the brake, it means that the valves or piston seals can wear out, causing extreme movement when you turn the steering wheel slightly or apply the brake.

More Time to Stop

While it’s a little tricky to tell at first, your vehicle should take the same amount of time to stop. If you notice that you have to slam on the brakes or press more firmly, it could be a sign that the shocks aren’t working correctly. Because the fluid can flow freely, it takes more time for the piston to go the full rod length, adding time to the stopping distance.

Uneven Wear

Worn shocks cannot keep the tire on the road firmly, which means there is a slight bump when the vehicle moves over that particular surface. The tire part that’s in contact with the road wears, but the part not in contact with the road doesn’t wear the same, which cause uneven wear of the tire. Of course, tires rotate with that particular contact point at varying times, and the changing contact point shows up as an excessive worn patch on the tire’s tread.

Cracked Bushings

Shocks have points on each end that help it get bolted to the vehicle and stay in place. The attachment points use rubber bushings which can break or crack over time when the vehicle goes over bumps, especially when the shocks are failing. If you hear a tapping while going over bumps, it could be a sign that both the bushings and shocks are failing. You should have this, or any other symptom mentioned checked out by a trained technician at your earliest convenience.

What Do You Think?

Is Your Shock Absorber Bad or Failing? Consider the Symptoms

log in

reset password

Back to
log in