In connection with the known state of our roads, every motorist has to be able to check the shock absorbers on a car. Timely detection of their critical wear will help to avoid many problems - unnecessary costs, and even accidents. This can be done in five ways described in this material. In addition, you will learn:

  • purpose and principle of operation of shock absorbers;
  • what threatens their malfunction;
  • when to check;
  • what to do with worn racks;
  • Is there any way to extend their lifespan?

But it’s worth starting, after all, with the purpose and principle of operation. Often this important step is skipped. But in vain. Understanding how and why the racks on the machine work will allow you to better understand the essence of the test. As a matter of fact, this approach is also justified in other situations related to self-diagnosis. It is almost pointless to check something without understanding at least in general terms the purpose and functionality.

Purpose and principle of operation of shock absorbers


Such a device has a typical car shock absorber
Such a device has a typical car shock absorber

Strut is a part of a car's suspension that is designed to dampen the reciprocating movements of the wheel. Always works in tandem with a spring or spring. To understand the purpose of the shock absorber, imagine for a moment what will happen if you completely remove it. There will be a wheel that can move up and down, and a spring (spring).

The latter is needed to dampen shocks and support the weight of the car. If you remove the shock absorber, then when you hit the slightest hole, the wheel will sharply go down, then up, and due to the spring, it will continue to swing back and forth for a very long time. As a result, you will not wait for reliable contact of the tire with the road. With a collision with hillocks and speed bumps, the picture is even worse - a blow will follow, the car will jump, and then it will continue to sway, remaining uncontrollable.

An equally sad situation would arise when the weight of the car shifted, which occurs during acceleration, braking and maneuvering. In such situations, the body rolls in the direction where the mass is shifted. First, it greatly reduces downforce on the opposite side of the undercarriage. This means that handling and stopping distance are deteriorating. Secondly, again, due to the action of the spring and its inertia, the car will continue to sway for a long time and tediously.

Now let's return the shock absorbers to their place and draw the situations described above again. But first, let's look at how the rack works in general terms. First of all, it must be said that, roughly speaking, the wheel is connected to the car body with it. The shock absorber is arranged in such a way that the reciprocating movements of the suspension are deliberately extinguished. That is, a pit, a hillock, a mass displacement or a spring inertia are trying to drastically change the position of the wheel, and the strut in the literal sense of the word holds it.

It doesn't matter if it moves up or down. But. Firstly, it does not do it as sharply as if there were no shock absorbers. Secondly, after that, the body does not continue to sway up and down, as the rack dampens the inertial force of the spring or spring. In some cases, the wheel may not even have time to move. For example, in a small hole and at a sufficient speed of the car. If the shock absorber holds the suspension well, the wheel will simply fly over the pit without reaching the bottom of it, and then not hitting while leaving it.

Let's summarize. The task of shock absorbers is to prevent the wheels from moving up or down too sharply, and also to dampen the inertial swing of the springs.

What are the dangers of bad shock absorbers?

Actually, some of the problems that can be encountered with worn racks are already clear from the foregoing. Modeling situations where there are no shock absorbers at all is almost the same as they are dead or dead. However, that's not all. Damaged, worn out or corny shock absorbers can deliver a lot of trouble to the car owner.


  • The comfort of the car worsens - it sways unpleasantly even on a flat road, knocks are heard in the pits and potholes, vibrations are felt, and so on.
  • Controllability is reduced - the car reacts worse to steering turns, it rolls dangerously when maneuvering.
  • The braking distance increases - when the front struts are not held, during emergency braking, the body leans forward sharply, due to which the downforce on the rear axle literally disappears.
  • Accelerated wear of the entire suspension - if the shock absorbers allow the wheels to duplicate all the bumps in the road, ball joints, bushings, wheel bearings break.
  • Accelerated tire wear - tires suffer from constant strong, unmitigated impacts and uneven loads.
  • The general decrease in the safety of the car - everything works in a heap here - the lack of comfort is distracting and unnerving, rocking partially reduces downforce on the axles, the same is true when maneuvering and braking.

As a result, it turns out that checking the current condition of the shock absorbers is just as important as making sure that the steering and braking system are working. In addition, it is better to replace only the racks in a timely manner than to make expensive overhauls of the entire undercarriage of the car later.

When to check shock absorbers

There are several situations in the life of a car owner when diagnosing shock absorbers is a must. As mentioned above, timeliness is very important here. With experience, its feeling is brought to automatism. But if you are a beginner car enthusiast, then it certainly does not hurt you to know what to focus on.

It is necessary to check shock absorbers in the following cases:

  1. When buying a used car, this is no less important than checking the engine. Cars with a dead chassis in the secondary market are at least 70 percent.
  2. After winter — that is, at the end of the most difficult period of the year for a car. By the way, a lot of things are checked in the spring.
  3. After a certain run - on this issue you can often find very divergent opinions. The numbers slip, as a rule, from 40,000 km to 60,000 km. Of course, if your car "does not see" bad roads, then such runs for high-quality racks are quite normal. As for reality, shock absorbers die much earlier. Sometimes they don’t even care for the season, and this is only some 10-20 thousand km.
  4. When general signs of wear appear, they are felt while driving, and how exactly is described below.
  5. When visual signs of wear appear - they are also described later, in method # 1 of checking shock absorbers.
  6. After an unsuccessful collision with a bump - this is familiar to many - when he yawned or simply did not dodge the pit, followed by a characteristic blow and obscene speech.
  7. After a long parking — shock absorber is such a detail that loves to move. After standing a little in one position, he can go into denial for no reason at all.

As a result, we see that there are not so few reasons to check the racks in the life of a car owner, both current and future. Moreover, traffic safety, the comfort of the car, and the cost of its maintenance, in the end, depend on the condition of these parts.

5 methods for checking a shock absorber on a car

In total, there are five ways to check the racks without removing them from the machine. Four of them are absolutely free and available at any time. As for the diagnosis of shock absorbers removed from the car, such a procedure is not needed for an ordinary motorist. If necessary (for example, if you are engaged in self-repair or buying new racks), then it is enough just to try to sharply and forcefully stretch or compress the shock absorber. If he is not dead, not everyone will be able to do this abruptly and without superhuman efforts.

Method 1. Inspection

It is clearly visible that the shock absorber has flowed
It is clearly visible that the shock absorber has flowed

The easiest and most understandable way to check is a visual inspection. You can do this on most cars, so to speak, out of the blue. However, an inspection on a pit, overpass or lift will be more informative. If all this was not “at hand”, you need to look under the arches above the wheels. Let's take a quick look at what you should try to see there.

First, smudges of the working fluid, if it is known that the shock absorbers are oil or gas-oil. As a rule, if the rack has flowed, then traces of oil are clearly visible even to the inexperienced and naked eye. Long-standing smudges, moreover, quickly “overgrow” with dust, and are also striking. The work stand must be completely dry.

Secondly, traces of corrosion or, in simple terms, rust. It is especially bad if you find it on the shock absorber rods. These details are covered (at least they should be) with anthers, and in order to see them, the latter must be pushed away without much effort. In a serviceable shock absorber, the stem literally sparkles, and there are no red spots on it.

Thirdly, in fact, the anthers themselves. They should be. This time. Two - the anthers must be intact. They also often slip, tear and crack, which exposes the stem, which is unacceptable. It is worth noting that far from all machines this part of the inspection can be performed if access is only under the arch. More often, however, you have to look for a pit, overpass or lift.

If you're inspecting the racks from under the car, look at the bushings as well. They are located in the place where the suspension strut is attached to the suspension. As they wear, they crack, become oak, extrude, deform, and so on.

In fairness, it should be said that the external ideal condition of shock absorbers is not always guaranteed to indicate their serviceability, performance and degree of wear. In appearance, everything can be beautiful and clean, but dead. That is, a visual inspection is a way that is guaranteed to eliminate the failure of the racks. It is used to detect obvious wear or damage.

Method 2. Body sway

The most popular and popular method for checking shock absorbers
The most popular and popular method for checking shock absorbers

After a visual inspection, the rocking method of the car body is always applied. Now that you know what the purpose of the shock absorber is, the essence of this method and the expected results should be as clear as possible. If this part was skipped or read inattentively, we will briefly remind you. The purpose of the rack is to hold the suspension so that it does not sway like humpty dumpty.

The procedure is carried out in turn for each rack. A mistake is often made here, and the body is swayed by acting on the front of the hood of the car. This check is incorrect. It is necessary to press on those places where the shock absorbers are supposedly located. That is, somewhere in the area of the wings, or, more simply, in the area above the wheels. It is important, at the same time, that the car is not loaded, that is, passengers are not sitting in it and there is no load weighing more than 50 kg.

You need to try to press as hard and deep as possible. After reaching the maximum possible lower point, the body is abruptly released. This procedure can have three results:

  1. The pressed side of the body returned to its original position without a jerk, and froze, "as if rooted to the spot."
  2. The body “passed” the starting point, swung up a little, after which it returned to its normal position and, again, “froze”.
  3. The up and down movement did not stop after the first beat, and the car wobbled twice or more.

If you got the result number 1 - there is every chance that the shock absorbers are ideal. Again, this is not a guarantee, but the accuracy of the test is much higher than in the case of visual inspection. Result number 2 indicates either a slight wear of the racks, or that they themselves are soft. In general, such an outcome is undesirable, but it cannot be called a catastrophe either. As for result number 3, this is a guaranteed sign of dead shock absorbers. As a rule, other methods confidently confirm this diagnosis in 99.99% of cases.

We emphasize that it makes no sense to conduct such a test when the car is loaded. In addition, the method is so-so in terms of efficiency in winter, if the car has stood in the cold for a long time before. By swinging, you need to check only racks heated by the external environment or loads.

Finally, if the car is relatively large, and you are not a very strong person, you may simply not have enough power to press the body normally. Weak pressing - will not show anything. The body, even on dead shock absorbers, can freeze as if rooted to the spot, and you will think that everything is in order.

Method 3. Tests while driving

It is best to check the chassis of the car on the go
It is best to check the chassis of the car on the go

This method has both its advantages and disadvantages. Among the advantages - a fairly high accuracy. Often it is higher than that of other methods already described. However, there are some very serious downsides. Firstly, in order to understand the condition of the shock absorbers behind the wheel, you need some experience in driving a car. Secondly, even experienced drivers are not always able to accurately determine what exactly in the suspension needs repair. Nevertheless, the method is effective, and therefore we use it.

The suspension strut test consists of five steps:

  1. Driving on a relatively flat and straight road. This means that the road surface does not have to be perfect (fortunately, it’s not a problem to find one here), but there shouldn’t be potholes either. The speed of movement is enough 60-80 km / h. On serviceable shock absorbers, the car in this mode does not sway constantly from side to side, and does not try to scour from the slightest changes in asphalt.
  2. Speed is not needed here. It is enough to do a couple of standard exercises from the driving school - for example, a figure eight or a circle with a small radius. If the car rolls heavily during these maneuvers, and then also cannot stabilize the first time, then it is likely that the racks are holding weakly. We emphasize that the roll is allowed. Moreover, on ordinary human machines, it will be for anyone. Pay the main attention to how the car stabilizes after the maneuver is completed - does it tend to roll in the opposite direction, does it sway, and so on.
  3. It is not at all necessary to press the pedal to the floor and start the car skidding. It will be enough just to brake intensively, having previously accelerated to a speed of at least 30-40 km / h. We are not interested in the braking itself, but in the moment when the car comes to a complete stop. If you do everything right, then after stopping the body will certainly tilt forward. So. If after that he immediately leveled off and froze - the norm. If it swung several times, then the front shock absorbers are a big question.
  4. Moving speed bump. If there is none nearby, any other bump of a small height will do. Speed - 20 kilometers per hour, no more. We run over the policeman not out of his mind, that is, obliquely, but perpendicularly or “on the forehead”. At this moment, we follow the sensations on the steering wheel and listen with our ears. There was a blow to the hands and a single, but strong knock - trouble. Serviceable shock absorbers should “swallow” such irregularities without feeling that the liver is about to fall out.
  5. Pit ride. Again, the speed is low, and the pits are shallow. In the process of testing, we monitor how the suspension “swallows” shock loads, as well as the rocking of the car. If the shocks are obviously softened, and the buildup does not occur (the car immediately stabilizes), then everything is in order with the racks.

As mentioned above, in order to understand anything in the process of conducting all these tests, you need at least a little driving experience. It is desirable to have an idea of how a working suspension behaves, and how it is killed. Without experience, as a rule, it is difficult to understand what is it that “thumps” so loudly there.

Method 4. Estimation of heating after loads

This method of checking shock absorbers only indirectly allows you to understand whether they all work the same way, or some kind of phylonite. The essence of the method is based on the fact that serviceable racks tend to heat up during intense loads. This is due to the fact that very high pressure is created inside when triggered. It is then capable of heating these suspension parts.

The test is carried out in two stages. The first is that the racks must be properly loaded with work. That is, we leave for a bumpy section and drive for five to ten minutes. Then we stop, and immediately try to touch all the shock absorbers for heating. The task is to determine whether among the four one is significantly colder than the rest. If there is, then you need to pay special attention to it, and check it more carefully using methods No. 1 and No. 2.

If you don't feel heat on any of the racks, then you may not have loaded them enough. As a rule, if the suspension is in normal working condition, then heating is felt after five minutes of intensive driving over bumps and pits. Again, you should not completely rely on this method, of course. It is only indirect, and allows you to additionally confirm the diagnosis made during the performance of other tests.

Method 5. Diagnostics on the vibration stand

Explanations are not needed here, since checking the shock absorbers in this case is no longer your problem. You just have to pay for the diagnostics and be happy (or not) with the results. The advantage of this method is obvious. Accuracy. In numbers. Perhaps with charts and expert explanations. But there are also disadvantages. Firstly, not every service station has a vibrating stand, and not even in every locality. Secondly, the service is paid, and not the cheapest.

Results on signs of malfunctioning shock absorbers

Keep a small plate that clearly shows the main criteria for diagnosing racks discussed above, and signs of different conditions - from ideal to trash.



It might also be like




There is a small leak

Wet and covered with age-old dust



Not shiny but not rusty

Rust, rot, corrosion


Whole, elastic and in place

Oak, but still whole and in place

Torn, cracked, slipped


Elastic, lively

Oak but not warped

Oak, cracked, embossed

Swing test

Freezes as if rooted to the spot, returning to its original position

It swayed up once, but then it sank and stopped.

Swings more than twice

Smooth road

The car confidently "holds" the road

Swinging or roaring for no reason


Slight roll, instant stabilization

Perceptible roll, but no sway

Heels strongly, and after exiting the turn continues to swing


One "nod" or "bow" is allowed

After the "nod" continues to "beat off the bows"



There are slight bumps in the steering wheel, no knocks

Unpleasant blows to the arms and distinct knocks



All are equally warm.

One or two is a little colder than the rest

Significant difference in heat


What to do with worn racks?

Used shock absorbers do not have to be thrown away
Used shock absorbers do not have to be thrown away

There are only three answers to this question:

  1. Replace.
  2. Submit for restoration.
  3. Repair with your own hands.

Replacement is the most expensive, but the most effective way out of the situation. You can change the racks all four, or only two, but always those that were on the same axis. Even if one shock absorber has exhausted its resource, they need to be updated in pairs. The only exceptions can be those cases when you are about to install new racks, and after a couple of days (weeks) flew into a bloodthirsty hole.

Recovery is a very good way out of the situation, but with several caveats. Yes, it's about two times cheaper than buying a new set. However, not all shock absorbers are subject to restoration. This time. Two - a workshop that is well able to do this kind of manipulation in good conscience is not always easy to find. Nevertheless, as practice shows, it is possible.

Repair. Do you know at least one ordinary car owner who got confused by his own restoration of shock absorbers? The author does not know. You probably aren't either. If you are, then what, then, are you doing here? You already know so much.

How not to reduce the life of shock absorbers?

For those who want to learn even more about their car, in conclusion, a few simple recommendations on how to extend the life of shock absorbers:

  • Correctly move speed bumps - not perpendicularly, but obliquely or diagonally, unless, of course, this will puzzle other road users.
  • It is better to drive faster on the paving stones - so the racks will work less often and not with such a large amplitude.
  • It is also better to overcome small pits at a higher speed, but on the condition that the suspension is “alive” and can work out such situations normally.
  • In winter, in severe frosts, you should not load cold shock absorbers immediately after the start of movement.
  • When braking in front of a pit or bump, release the brake pedal before the wheels begin to overcome bumps. During braking, the weight of the machine is shifted onto the front axle. This means that when hitting a bump or a hole, the suspension experiences increased loads.
  • Regularly check the condition of the anthers on the shock absorbers.
  • Keep the racks clean by not forgetting them when you wash your car. Adhering dirt is a potential source of corrosion in the near future.

Perhaps this is enough. The rest will come with experience or with moving to a country with normal roads.

Brief summary

Unfortunately, the chassis of the car in our conditions is probably the most suffering part of it. Even those who drive competently and carefully, listening to this kind of recommendations, quickly face wear and tear. Often premature. Therefore, the ability to check the performance of shock absorbers on a car is as important as monitoring tire pressure. All smooth roads!

VIDEO: check shocks