by Pat Goss
As cars have become more sophisticated their suspension systems and the components in them have become more sophisticated too. Take the shocks and struts, for instance. A car has one or the other. They don’t have both, as a general rule. Now what’s the difference between a shock absorber and a strut? Well, they both control the vertical movement, the bounce of the vehicle, but the strut adds something to the equation. It gives a position for the spring to be mounted on the outside of it. So it supports the weight of the vehicle and it positions the wheel. It is a structural component where the shock absorber is not.
Sooner or later, no matter whether it’s an upscale car or a garden variety, the shocks or struts, whichever it has, will wear out. And that means you have to shop for new ones, but that could get to be confusing. Well, if you were happy with the ride and the handling of the car as is, replace the shocks or struts with the same type. But perhaps you want to improve the ride and handling of it, and that means you have to do some shopping and you’re going to step up to a premium shock absorber.
Here we have a conventional shock absorber [left] and a KYB MonoMax shock [right]. That’s a premium component. Okay, now, the big difference is the piston. If you look at the piston, this is the portion that actually controls the ride. Look at the way it’s constructed, the size of it, the way it’s sealed and so on. On the premium shock you’ll notice the piston is bigger, it’s much more precisely machined and it has a better seal on it. Okay that’s part of it, but look at the metal that’s used to construct the two shocks. On the premium shock you have very heavy metal, and the conventional shock, it is much lighter, even down to things like the welding where the ends are welded on. Very good welding on the premium shock; so-so on the average, everyday shock. Here’s another important factor. If you look at the everyday shock, you will find that there is a seam in the body of it. That’s where they took a flat piece of metal and rolled it around and then welded the edges of it together. On the premium shock absorber, it is one piece of extruded metal, much stronger, much more durable.
Now over here we have something that if you perhaps want a normal ride during the week and you do some kind of sanctioned racing on the weekends, well this is an adjustable shock absorber and it is probably for you. Now do your homework and you can tailor the ride and the handling of your car however you want. And remember that premium shock absorbers cost more money but you get more , better ride control and they wear longer.
If you have a question or comment, write to me. The address is: MotorWeek, Owings Mills, MD, 21117.