Why Your Car Needs Shock Absorbers

Gif: mastermilo82 (YouTube)

You may or may not know this already, but shock absorbers are good. They help to keep your car from leaping into the air like a startled cat when it goes over bumps. And if you don’t have absorbers—well, you’re in for a ride that’s either incredibly uncomfortable or incredibly hilarious. I still can’t decide which.

Back with a new video is Master Milo, who this time has drilled holes in the shocks of a test car, thus releasing all of the oil encased within. He then takes the poor car out for a jaunt on a bumpy dirt road. The results seem... jarring.

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The reason the car leaps skyward after its shocks are shot is because a car rides on a set of springs. When a force compresses and then releases the spring (such as going over a bump), it will keep bouncing at its natural frequency until that added energy is exerted. This is what makes the car jump around uncontrollably.

To keep that from happening, you need shocks, which mitigate spring motion through dampening. A shock absorber can “slow down and reduce the magnitude of vibratory motions by turning the kinetic energy of suspension movement into heat energy that can be dissipated through hydraulic fluid,” and you can read that and more in a very excellent article on How Stuff Works.

As the article further explains, a shock absorber is essentially an oil pump that’s located between a car’s frame and its wheels. The upper mount, connected to the frame, is also connected to a piston rod and a piston, which sits in a tube of hydraulic fluid.

When the corresponding wheel hits a bump, the spring coils and then uncoils and the energy of that spring gets transferred to the absorber through the upper mount and into the piston. Fluid within the piston passes through tiny holes in the piston and into the pressure tube, which compresses the fluid in the space above the piston.

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And because there’s a greater amount of pressure is required to move that fluid through, it actually slows down the motion of the piston, which then slows down the spring.

You can take a look at a more detailed explanation in this video below.

If you do post a video of yourself getting shaken to bits because you also wanted to see what it’s like to drive around with no shock absorbers, please send me the video. I would like another laugh.

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About the author

Kristen Lee

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.