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January 27, 2013

Shocks too often neglected

I am the original owner of a 1991 Ford Ranger Super Cab 4x4 pickup truck. The truck has 220,000 miles on it, and it’s still going strong. It has 4-wheel drive and the 4.0-liter V-6 engine. My question is: Should I replace the shocks? The current shocks are from the factory.

My truck has not done a lot of heavy hauling over its life — some, but not much. I have inspected each shock and see no evidence of leaking fluid. I have also tested them by pushing down on each corner of the truck as hard as I could and observing the motion of the truck. In each location I noted very little movement immediately after I stopped pushing.

I’m thinking that due to the age of these guys and the miles they have carried me around that maybe I should just go ahead and replace all four shocks. It’s something I can do myself, and I plan on keeping this truck a long time. What do you think?

It’s time to change these. Shock absorbers are probably the most neglected component on an automobile or light truck, as their function isn’t obvious under many driving situations. Shock absorbers, also called shocks or struts, are typically a tube-shaped component containing a piston, orifice, control valves, hydraulic fluid and compressed nitrogen gas. Shocks absorb and dissipate suspension energy to provide improved ride comfort, increased vehicle stability, consistent tire-road surface contact, and reduced wear on tires and the suspension system.

Every road-going vehicle contains components that are considered un-spring weight. These include the wheel, tire, brakes, hub/knuckle, axle or differential, and suspension components. When a wheel hits a bump, these parts move with the wheel, compressing the spring, which may be a coil, leaf or torsion bar. After the bump, these collectively heavy parts are pushed downward by the spring, overshooting their original position, which sets up additional unwanted oscillations. Without the shock absorber’s damping action, these parts would continue to cycle many times, upsetting tire traction, ride comfort and vehicle control.

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