These Are the Most Common Symptoms of Worn Shock Absorbers

Bilstein shock 4 photos
Bilstein Performance SuspensionWorn ShocksLeaking Shock Absorber
Our cars are built using thousands of parts that do not last forever, even if we would like them to. That is especially true for components of the suspension system, which take a lot of beating daily.
Shock absorbers are an integral part of the suspension system. As the name implies, they absorb shocks, keeping the car’s tires in contact with the road while maintaining a comfortable ride for the passengers.

Like many other parts, they have a limited lifespan. Some experts theorize that they last about 4 to 5 years or 50,000 miles (80,467 km) on average, but in practice, those numbers can vary depending on the type of vehicle, driving style, and road surfaces. One thing is certain, they will eventually fail.

When they do, your car will let you know. The most obvious symptom is that your once agile and smooth-riding vehicle now feels like a saggy little boat in the middle of the Atlantic during a storm.

If you drive around a corner and notice more body movement than usual, that means that the shocks are worn or have failed completely, and the coils are doing all the work.

Worn Shocks
Photo: Eibach - via YouTube
You will also notice this while braking. The car will swerve or nosedive when you apply the brakes a bit more vigorously. It will also need more time and space than usual to stop, which can be extremely dangerous.

Another symptom appears at high speeds when the car becomes unstable. Unless other parts of the suspension system have also failed, the excess body movement won’t be dramatic, but it will be noticeable, especially if you are familiar with how the car behaved when the shocks were working properly.

The excess body movement will take a toll on other suspension components and your tires. This is yet another symptom; if you notice that the tires are prematurely and/or unevenly worn and the car is less stable than it once was, check and replace the shocks.

Hydraulic fluid leaks on the side of some types of shocks can often indicate a problem, but keep in mind that most of them seep out a minimal amount of fluid naturally; the key here is quantity not just the presence of a small wet spot.

Leaking Shock Absorber
Photo: Gabriel - via YouTube

If you encounter any of these symptoms, you should avoid using the car as much as possible and go to the nearest auto repair shop to have its suspension system checked. Make sure you get quality parts, especially if you frequently drive on uneven roads or trails.

Buying OE replacements is always the safest choice but also a very expensive one. There are several OE manufacturers like Bilstein, KYB, Eibach, Monroe, Sachs, Koni, Alko, or Gabriel that offer factory-grade aftermarket products.

This can also be a good time to upgrade your suspension system with better, sturdier components that fit your needs and driving style.

It’s very important to replace these components once it’s evident that they are worn. The dangers of driving around with bad shocks are not something to be taken lightly. Apart from the fact that you risk destroying other components, the braking and stability control systems' efficiency is significantly reduced, which may lead to disastrous consequences.
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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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