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

Tyre Safety

Tyre Safety

Tyre Safety Tyre failure is a vital factor in thousands of road accidents every year. Research by the CSIR indicates that nearly 20% of accidents involving minibuses have tyre failure as a contributing factor. It won't help if you have the best brakes on the market, but your tyres are worn. When

Read More

Safe Driving on Gravel Roads

Safe Driving on Gravel Roads

Introduction Many licensed drivers have never driven on gravel roads or are inexperienced and unprepared for the unique challenges when doing so. This inexperience and lack of safety awareness result in too many fatal crashes and injuries on gravel roads in our rural areas. We must equip ourselves

Read More

Safe Driving on Roads with Potholes and Avoiding Pothole Damage

Safe Driving on Roads with Potholes and Avoiding Pothole Damage

Introduction We have all been confronted by poor road conditions and the threat of the dreaded pothole. It is especially on our rural roads and after the rainy seasons that the road surface comes under pressure and the cracks and holes in the road surface start to appear. In some areas, the road

Read More

Drunk Driving and Road Safety

Drunk Driving and Road Safety

Drunk Driving and Road Safety Drunk Driving is one of the biggest threats to Road Safety in South Africa. Research indicates that 50% of people who die on the roads have a blood alcohol concentration above 0.05 gram per 100 millilitres. Brief Summary: Legislation: The National Road Traffic

Read More

Compliance in the Road Freight Transport Industry in South Africa

Compliance in the Road Freight Transport Industry in South Africa

The South African freight transportation landscape fundamentally differs from that of the rest of the globe. In most other countries the fleet sizes comprise mostly of the owner of the transport business, who is also an “owner-driver” on one of his vehicles and maybe another couple of vehicles,

Read More

Treatment of and Response to Cuts and Bruises

Treatment of and Response to Cuts and Bruises

The skin is the largest organ of the human body, about 2m square in surface area and has several functions. It is also a barrier which provides protection from infection and heat loss. We need to remember that most cuts are minor and require little attention. The size of cuts, the number of cuts (also

Read More

Load More Pages

Partners

View All