How To Diagnose A Failing Shock Absorber

Your shocks are important parts of your car's suspension system. They keep your car's ride quality as optimal as possible. They also improve your car's handling. This post explains more about what shocks are and why they're important.

Like all the other moving parts on your car, your shocks will fail sooner or later. In that case, you can order OEM shocks from us and then replace them yourself. You'll save a lot of money with us because we offer the lowest total transaction prices you'll find online. For example, you'll save almost $300 on this shock absorber for various Escalade, Suburban, Tahoe, and Yukon models.

It's normal for shocks to start failing after about 50,000 miles. If you have a hunch that one of your shocks isn't what it used to be, this guide will help you diagnose the problem.

Signs Of A Bad Shock Absorber

Old shock

It's important to know what signs to look for. A bad shock absorber is something you want to catch (and replace) early on. If you drive with bad shocks long enough, you'll run into issues with:

  • Ride quality
  • Alignment
  • Tire wear

That's why every car owner should know the most common signs of a bad shock absorber:

  • Longer stopping distances
  • Uneven or premature tire wear
  • Steering wheel vibrating after the car hits a bump
  • Increased body lean in corners
  • Bouncier ride
  • Vehicle veering in cross winds
  • Nose diving while braking hard

The Easiest Way To Diagnose Bad Shock Absorbers

Shock drawing

You may be surprised at how easy it is to diagnose bad shock absorbers on your GM vehicle. You don't have to lift your car. Heck, you don't even need any tools. All you need is level ground, a few minutes of your time, and the ability to count to three. It's so easy a kindergartener could do it. This diagnostic process is called the bounce test.

The Bounce Test

You need to bounce each corner of your vehicle and watch how many times it bounces before it returns to at-rest height. To do this:

  1. Park your car on level ground.
  2. In one sweeping motion, push down on one corner and then let go.
  3. Watch how many times that corner bounces.
    1. If the corner springs back up to at-rest height without bouncing, the shock at that corner is still in good shape.
    2. If the corner bounces once before returning to at-rest height, the shock is failing and you should replace it soon.
    3. If the corner bounces more than twice before returning to at-rest height, the shock is bad and you should replace it ASAP.
  4. Repeat with the remaining 3 corners of your car.

Still Not Sure If Your Shocks Are Bad?

If you feel that the bounce test you performed was unreliable for some reason, you can do a visual inspection. That involves lifting your car and then looking at all the shocks. You want to look for two things:

1. Leakage

Sometimes a shock will fail because it's leaking. Leakage can happen for a couple different reasons:

  • Road salt corroded the piston rod. This compromises the piston seal.
  • The piston seal failed due to age or excessive force, such as hitting large pothole

If one of your shocks is leaking, you'll see a thick coat of oil, dirt, and grime on the shock housing.

2. Bent piston rod

Sometimes hitting a large pothole or obstacle can cause the piston rod to permanently bend. The shock won't work properly, and fluid will leak out.

Replacing Your Shocks

GM OEM Shock

To keep the damping properties equal on one axle, replace your shocks in pairs. If you have basic tools, you can replace the shocks yourself. It's a pretty simple and straightforward job.

Do you have any questions about diagnosing failing shocks on your GM vehicle? We'll be happy to answer them if you contact us!