The real purpose of shock absorbers


A shock absorber is often used to describe the damper i […]

A shock absorber is often used to describe the damper in a typical automotive suspension setup. It is one of two key components in the rebound process, the other being a spring, usually made of a steel alloy. Dampers are not shock-absorbing components. That would be a coil spring. The coil is the part that reacts to the shock, the part that absorbs the shock. The job of the shock absorber is to slow this movement and ensure that the car can always apply an even load to each tire, or at least as the environment allows.

At times, the car feels too eager to travel across. To fix it, you need stiffer springs, but also more damping. When a car jolts over harsher bumps but otherwise rides fine, it's because the compression damping is too tight, it's too much. If a series of small, sharp bumps gradually wipe out your spring travel, the rebound damping is too heavy. One or more of these problems are common in all kinds of cars.

One mismatched riding solution is suspension. These combined springs and dampers are available on nearly every make and model of car, and these days they're made by everyone, from cheap "brands" with cheap labor to high-end brands that regularly prove and develop their gear by punishing motorsports. Always choose something expensive if you can.

Spring rates and damping are tuned to each other, as well as the size and weight of the car they are meant to fit. The best ones come with a level of tuning that lets you fine-tune how they behave based on how you like to drive. More importantly, you always know that if they are set up correctly, they will always give you the best balance of ride and handling.