How to Tell If Shock Absorbers Need Replacing

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Shock absorbers consist of two metal tubes, attached by a thin piston. The piston rides inside one of the tubes and cushions the blow from the road surface on the car by transferring that force to a hydraulic-fluid reservoir inside the tube. That fluid is contained in the tube by seals, which can fail over time. Many shock-absorber manufacturers recommend replacing shocks between 45,000 and 60,000 miles, or at the first signs of failure.

Things You'll Need

  • Flashlight
  • Push down and release the corner of the vehicle. If shock replacement is necessary, the corner will bounce more than twice.

  • Repeat step one at each of the remaining three corners of the vehicle.

  • Climb under the first corner with a flashlight. Inspect the shock absorber for any signs of fluid leakage. This will appear as a thin, wet line down the side of the shock. If the fluid has dried out, often it will leave behind a thin line of residue and/or dirt where the fluid leaked. If there’s a fluid loss, replace the shocks.

  • Repeat step three at each of the remaining corners of the vehicle.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always replace shock absorbers in pairs (either either both fronts or both rears) or all four at a time.

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