Arrive Alive

Shock Absorbers and Safety on the Road

Shock Absorbers and Safety on the Road

 

The Relationship between Shock Absorbers & Tyre Safety

In the many articles regarding tyres and their impact on road safety, it is repeatedly mentioned that tyres are the only physical contact between a vehicle and the road surface. It is this contact, and the grip the tyre provides which allows the vehicle to start, stop and change direction.

In other words, it is the contact with the road surface which gives us control over our vehicles. It is therefore imperative that this contact is maintained under any and all conditions. But, a road surface isn’t smooth and the wheels of a vehicle are inclined to bounce over the bumps. The suspension of a vehicle in its simplest form is there to give ride comfort.  The springs which provide the comfort actually aid the bounce though. In order to contain the bounce and maintain contact the suspension is fitted with components called shock absorbers, or in some countries, dampers.

Shock absorbers are filled with oil, which hydraulically dampens the road shock and prevents the wheels bouncing. Due to this action tyre to road contact is maintained over all bumps and undulations. This in turn allows control of the vehicle to be maintained.

Two main concerns can affect the performance of shock absorbers; one is leaking through damage or age, and the other is overheating through rough conditions, overloading or many other causes. Over-heating causes the oil to lose its viscosity i.e. to thin out. Air bubbles then form and mix with the oil. This severely detracts from the shock absorbers ability to perform, and bouncing starts occurring. One often hears people talking about “gas shock absorbers”.

These are more sophisticated items with gas used to cool the oil. They can take far more punishment, and last far longer, but contrary to popular belief provide the same function as a conventional shock absorber rather than a softer ride or better comfort. Remember the springs provide the comfort and the shock absorber controls the spring’s action.

Leaking shock absorbers lose oil and this destroys their ability to control road shock and the resulting wheel bounce..

Put very simply, the shock absorber keeps the tyre in contact with the road surface under all conditions, and between the two, your safety is maintained.

Worn or damaged shock absorbers also cause tyre wear. The bouncing of the tyres allows flat spotting and other wear patterns to develop on the tyre tread. This causes another safety concern in that the grip of a tyre is reliant on the integrity of the foot-print i.e. the contact patch. If irregular wear has set in the contact patch will loose its intended shape and grip will be reduced.

So tyres and shock absorbers are partners in maintaining your safety. Shock absorbers look after the tyres by keeping them on the ground, and the tyres hold your lives in their grip.  [Information from Bridgestone]

 

Dangers of Worn Shock Absorbers

Shock absorbers are as safety-critical as airbags, brakes and the tread on a car’s tyres.  But because the driver cannot see that their shocks are worn, it is a case of out of site out of mind.

In South Africa it is estimated that 50% of cars older than five years on the road have worn shock absorbers, but drivers don’t know this because they gradually adjust their driving to compensate for the extra roll or bounce.


“A worn shock will reduce the driver’s ability to control the vehicle. In an emergency, there could be an accident that otherwise could have been avoided,” says Sean Staley, Gabriel brand manager at Control Instruments. 

Staley says the average age of vehicles in South Africa is more than 12 years, and shocks become less effective after about three years. 

 “Worn shocks wont keep your wheels glued to the road, no matter how new your tyres are.”

“A worn shock absorber will cause the tyre to bounce creating worn or bald spots,” says Staley.   

“In an emergency situation, applying brakes can make the tyre to loose contact with the road, increasing the chance of an accident.”

Braking on wet roads, even with good tyres, will cause tyres to bounce and loose grip. The vehicle will skid more easily in the wet. In strong cross winds, there is less control when cornering and the efficiency of anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and  the vehicle’s electronic stability control (ESP) capabilities are reduced.  

Worn shocks will also cause suspension wear.  Excessive spring movement on the vehicle will make the vehicle more difficult to handle.

And during the upcoming festive season, a tired driver is a dangerous driver. Overall, worn shocks will require that the driver concentrate more on keeping the car on the road.

 

When is the right time to replace your shock absorbers?

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. We have come across the perfect illustration of when it would be important to have your shocks checked and most probably replaced.

We would like to share these images depicting signs of worn shocks:

  

  

  

  

We would like to urge all vehicle owners and drivers to be attentive to those aspects of vehicle maintenance that could impact on their safety on the road.

Be alert to these dangers and have your shock absorbers checked regularly!!

Also View:

 

Loading...

Search Road Safety Articles

Latest Pages

Grass Cutting, Roadside Maintenance and Safety

Grass Cutting, Roadside Maintenance and Safety

Introduction On the Arrive Alive website, we have revealed that South Africa has the 10th largest road network in the world - approximately 750,000 km. It should be clear from this that roadside maintenance can be a quite a challenge - and we should pay attention to all those doing road maintenance,

Read More

Project Help and Road Safety

Project Help and Road Safety

Introduction On the Arrive Alive website and associated safety portals, we discuss how South Africans can be safe not only from road crashes and crime but also from medical incidents and other emergencies. Technology has become ever more important to summon fast and effective emergency assistance

Read More

Crime as a Threat to Road Safety in South Africa

Crime as a Threat to Road Safety in South Africa

South Africans live in a country blessed with beauty and diversity. We share a country with a colourful history having overcome rather significant and unique challenges. However proudly South African, we may be, we have to admit that we face serious challenges to safety daily in our homes, places

Read More

Roadside Assistance and Road Safety

Roadside Assistance and Road Safety

Introduction and History As long as there has been travel by road there has been a need for roadside assistance. The earliest formalized roadside assistance includes in the UK the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) (formed in 1897) and The Automobile Association (AA) (formed in 1905) offering repair services

Read More

Safety on the Road when Responding to an Emergency Call

Safety on the Road when Responding to an Emergency Call

Introduction With so much crime and road crash across South Africa daily, we need to consider the challenges facing our first responders. Do they manage to provide a response that is fast and effective while safe not only for other road users but also to themselves? We recently shared an afternoon

Read More

Emergency Response Time and Response to Road Crashes

Emergency Response Time and Response to Road Crashes

Few road users are aware of the factors that could determine the time needed to respond to a vehicle accident. It is important for road users to be aware of these factors as well as steps that they can take to assist emergency teams in responding swiftly to accidents. Emergency response providers have

Read More

Load More Pages

Partners

View All