Types of Shock Absorbers

Types of Shock Absorbers

Shock Absorbers are oil-pump-like devices that help to control the impact and rebound movement of your vehicle’s springs and suspension. The main role of Shock Absorbers is to ensure that the vehicle’s tires remain in contact with the road surface at all times - whether the vehicle has stopped or is in motion. At any time that the tire’s contact with the ground is broken or reduced, the ability to drive or brake is compromised. Considering this, having a shock absorber capable of withstanding impacts beyond what stock types can offer can be critical, especially if engaged in off-road riding.

A good shock absorber makes it possible for a vehicle to travel over rough surfaces without damaging the vehicle by minimizing vibrations, stabilizing the up-and-down movement of the springs while driving and absorbing the impacts of the road. Manufacturers of Shock Absorbers such as Skyjacker, Fabtech and Rancho have perfected the art of combining the best performance characteristics with consistency, reliability and a comfort level usually found only on luxury or service vehicles. They use different materials to create the best quality, tolerance and internal designs of Shock Absorbers that suits any ride while controlling excess body motion and keeping tires in maximum contact with the road. In this article, we cover some of the general types of shocks offered by aftermarket manufacturers, as well as some of the benefits they offer over those that come stock on conventional suspension systems.

Standard Shocks

Standard aftermarket shocks are by far the closest to being OEM, and will fit just about any conventional suspension. However, don’t be fooled by the ‘standard’ in the name; these aftermarket Shock Absorbers work wonders in minimizing unwanted body motions such as side by side rocking, bounce and pitch, providing for a smoothed out ride with better handling. Fabtech Performance Shocks are a good example of a standard aftermarket shock. Featuring high velocity 10-stage valving, Fabtech Performance Shocks have excellent dampening capabilities and a closed cell insert to reduce shock fade at high speeds for dramatic improvements in contact and control, as well as increased load carrying capacity.

Heavy-duty Shock Absorbers

Heavy-duty Shock Absorbers work best for large vehicles where extra stabilization or carrying capacity is needed. Usually, shocks in this classification are gas-charged, which provide a higher impact weight and greater efficiency in managing suspension movement. One of best shocks in this category are the Pro-Comp ES9000’s, which have expanded twin-tubes, and are nitrogen gas stabilized. One thing you will need to consider with Heavy Duty Shock Absorbers such as this is that the larger compartments on these shocks come with a compromise, albeit a small one – a firmer ride.

Adjustable Air Shocks

Adjustable air shocks are easily and quickly adapted to meet the needs of the driver – from regular driving to heavy hauling. They replace the spring actuated Shock Absorbers with gas bag ones that are inflated and deflated via an air tank. Some models such as the Rancho RS9000XL feature a wireless remote control (sold separately) whereby shock performance can be adjusted with the simple push of a button. As an added benefit of the height increase or decrease
experienced with use of Adjustable Air Shocks, drag on the underbody can be significantly decreased by lowering the
body, resulting in higher fuel efficiency.

Overload Shocks

Overload Shocks are used consistently with large vehicles that carry heavy payloads, Overload Shocks are installed in the back of a vehicle and incorporate a spring coil over the piston to create more resistance on the compression and rebound stroke of the shock absorber. Good Overload Shocks provide leveling once weight is loaded and can be fine-tuned to adjust for different ride heights. A good example of a great and versatile overload shock absorber on the market is the Rancho Quick Lift – 9 way adjustable, clear up to 35 inch tires, and fully compatible with the Rancho MyRIDE Wireless Controller so you can make adjustments from the comfort of the drivers seat.

Automatic Level Control Shocks

Automatic Level Control Shocks are air shocks with a system that detects what sort of surface, you are on and adjusts the shocks accordingly. If you travel often between trail, track and turnpike, then an Automatic Level Control Shock such as the Firestone Ride Rite Air Springs are an excellent choice. These shocks actually adjust in real time to whatever driving conditions you encounter, thanks to a patented an ultrasonic internal height sensor. An important consideration with these Shock Absorbers is that they do not increase the vehicles recommended gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), so they cannot be used for overload applications.


For more information regarding Shock Absorbers, as well as other aftermarket truck, Jeep and SUV interior and exterior accessories, check back on our articles page or blog regularly.

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Posted on April 10th, 2013
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