Suspension Maintenance Tips For Summer

Safety Is a Choice

June is National Safety Month but driving safely is a year-round choice that all truckers should make for their own well-being and those around them. In our current safety tip series, we have discussed the importance of pre-trip planning with a focus on replacing headlights, installing ADAS technologies, checking mirrors and fitting cameras. Now, let’s talk about why shock absorbers and air bags should be a priority inspection before making long-haul trips this summer.

Are shocks and struts the same?

First off, shocks and struts are not the same. While both parts are integral components to a truck’s suspension system, and they may seem interchangeable, they have different functions. Shocks are responsible for keeping vehicles grounded, absorbing vibrations. As JIT Truck Parts states: A shock consists of a rod with a piston in a sealed tube filled with fluid. To help absorb impact, the piston works against the fluid like this: As suspension travels vertically, the fluid is slowly moved through tiny holes (called orifices). The graceful action from both the orifices and the fluid help to dampen suspension springs and allow for vehicles to stay in control; safely accelerate and brake; and handle unstable road surfaces. Struts consist of coil springs and shock absorbers but into one compressed assembly to help support the weight of the vehicle. They work in harmony with shock absorbers to dampen vibrations.

Do Heavy-Duty Trucks Have Shocks or Struts?

Match Made Shock AbsorberIt depends on the application. Some heavy-duty trucks have a combination of shocks and struts. Some only have struts and others may have shocks. Consult the owner’s manual to learn more about your truck.

Signs Of Worn Shocks

Bouncing trucks is the first sign of a failing shock absorber. Truckers driving with wearing parts can feel every bump or groove in the road. Uneven tire wear is also a noticeable sign including steering wheel vibrations.

Why Replace Shocks?

The harsh winter environment took its toll on roadways in the spring and left them with potholes and cracks. Now with summer tourism, there is an increase in traffic putting more weight and pressure on roads.

Improper truck maintenance puts trucks and passenger cars at risk of collision. If the truck were to hit a groove or pothole in the road during a construction area, then they could potentially hit a nearby vehicle. (Worn shocks can also affect the performance of air springs, as well (but we’ll get into that shortly.) Match Made suggests that shocks are replaced every 150,000 miles or when needed. Drivers can perform a bounce test to see if trucks need replacement shocks. After pushing down on the truck once or twice, truckers will know if they need replacement.

Air Spring Replacement

While truckers are replacing shock absorbers, they should repair air bags (air springs), too. According to JIT Truck Parts, air springs mimic the actions of a balloon to help keep vehicles from sagging under heavy loads thus, providing a safer, more comfortable ride. Most air springs on the market are made from a durable nylon reinforced rubber to increase longevity of the suspension part but also to support heavy cargo.

Firestone Air SpringsBecause air springs are in the undercarriage, they tend to wear out due to roads with salt, debris, and other harmful contaminants. Inflation will play a major role in the effectiveness of air springs, too. If truckers choose to dump air out of air spring systems when they are not towing, or to get under certain loading dock areas, then they are limiting the shape of the air spring if they do not re-inflate the air bag enough for comfortable ride height. This will lead them to wear out quicker and call for a replacement sooner than expected. If truckers are driving with worn shocks, they may be surprised to learn that this will affect the performance and lifespan of air springs.

Bad Air Springs in Trucks

If vehicles bottom out, drivers could be cruising on failing air springs. It’s best to replace them while performing maintenance work on shocks and other suspension parts. Explore Firestone Industries when shopping for replacement air springs, as they have been around since the 1930s and have a stellar reputation for the “World’s Number 1 Air Spring.”

Final Thought

Summer driving is stressful enough without having to worry about failing truck parts. During pre-trip planning, inspect shocks, air bags and other suspension system components to ensure a smooth ride; and discover the parts you need from top brands including Monroe, Gabriel, Match Made and Firestone.