Suppose your vehicle didn’t have shock absorbers—the car would bounce for a while after each bump or unavoidable hole on the road, making your ride extremely uncomfortable. Although they are necessary parts, one of the most typical faults with shock absorbers is leaking. Motorists often ask why their shock absorbers are leaking, and if they should be concerned.
Your shock absorbers are leaking because of weepage, or small amounts of fluid that escape from the shocks with normal use. They could also be leaking because of wear and tear to the shocks’ oil seal. A bent piston or bent shocks can also lead to leaking.
In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss why your shock absorbers are leaking, the effects of leaking shocks, and the signs of leaking shock absorbers. I’ll also discuss what to do when shock absorbers leak. Here we go.
Why Your Shock Absorbers Are Leaking?
Shock absorbers are an integral part of a vehicle’s suspension system. They consist of pistons and thick oil in a tightly sealed cylinder. As the wheels of the vehicle move on bumpy roads, the viscous oil flows through the pistons, thus ensuring the tires are firmly on the ground and that the ride is smooth.
However, your shock absorbers may leak once in a while. Below are some reasons your shock absorbers might be leaking.
Weepage of Shock Absorbers
It’s not uncommon to see a small amount of oil outside the shocks. This may not be due to a significant leakage, but instead weepage. For example, when you drive on all kinds of terrain, some small amounts of hydraulic fluid escape (or weep) from the shocks. Weepage is common, even on new shock absorbers, and shouldn’t be cause for alarm.
Wear and Tear Due to Age
Modern shock absorbers can last for several years or serve you for about 50,000 miles or more, depending on road conditions. Still, the shock absorbers will inevitably age and wear out over time like other car parts. As the shock absorbers age, the sealed cylinder that holds the pistons and the thick oil starts to wear out.
When the sealed cylinder starts to wear out, the shock absorbers start leaking. The leaking begins slowly, and if you don’t take action, all the oil will eventually leak out.
Breakage of the Seal Containing the Oil of the Shocks
You encounter different road conditions as you drive your vehicle around; most roads have bumps, unavoidable holes, and dust. These harsh road conditions can tear or break the shock absorbers’ oil seal. When the seal breaks or tears, the shock absorbers start leaking.
Bending of the Shock Absorbers
If you get into a car accident or suddenly hit extreme bumps or deep potholes, impact can bend or dent the shock absorbers. Any massive jolt on the vehicle’s suspension will likely dent or damage the shock absorbers. When the shock absorbers bend, there’s a potential for leakage.
Bending of the Pistons
In addition, when you have an accident or hit deep potholes or huge bumps, the impact can also bend the pistons. When the pistons bend, they affect the shock absorbers. In other words, bent pistons stop the absorbers from moving correctly. If the shock absorbers fail to move correctly, they’ll eventually start leaking.
The Effects of Leaking Shock Absorbers
When shock absorbers leak, the oil seeps out gradually. When the shock absorbers lose about 10% of the fluid, they begin to malfunction, and the tires can no longer stay firmly on the ground as you drive. When the shock absorbers start to malfunction, the wheel bounce becomes excessive.
If the wheel bounce becomes excessive, the vehicle becomes difficult to control, which leads to bumpy rides. In addition, there’s a threat to your safety; any bump or pothole can throw the car off balance and send it out of control.
If the leaking is not addressed, the fluid will run out, and the shock absorbers will stop working. Apart from posing a danger to your life, when shock absorbers stop working, they can damage your car. Leaking shock absorbers can make your tires wear out prematurely, leading to an array of further issues.
Signs of Leaking Shock Absorbers
As mentioned earlier, your shock absorbers start leaking slowly. Below are some of the signs of leaking shock absorbers.
Intense Vibrations Through the Steering Wheel
If you start feeling extreme vibrations through the steering wheel as you drive, it may be a sign that the shock absorbers on the front wheels are leaking or worn out. As the shock absorbers continue leaking, their condition deteriorates. As a result, your rides become uncomfortable and almost unbearable at times.
The Vehicle Takes Longer To Stop
When the shock absorbers leak, they don’t work as efficiently as they should; the vehicle takes longer to stop. If the car takes longer to stop, the stopping distance increases. So, if you don’t apply the brakes at the appropriate distance, you can endanger your life and the lives of other road users.
The Vehicle Sways When Taking Corners
When shock absorbers continue leaking, they lose the ability to control the vehicle’s weight and transfer speed when taking corners. As a result, the car sways when you take corners. In turn, you have to increase your steering input to turn properly. It’s unsettling when this happens as you feel like you’re not in control of the vehicle, which can be extremely dangerous.
The Rides Are Bumpy
When your shock absorbers are working efficiently, they lower the impact of every pothole and bump, making your ride smooth. If your shock absorbers are leaking, the first sign will be bumpy rides that are uncomfortable and unpleasant. You suddenly start feeling every bump and pothole on the road, no matter how small.
What To Do When Shock Absorbers Leak?
When shock absorbers leak, the problem could lead to unsafe and bumpy rides and damage to other car parts, including the wheels. When you notice some leaking on your shock absorbers, it’s best to take your vehicle to a qualified mechanic. They’ll diagnose whether it’s weepage or true leaking of the shock absorbers.
If the shock absorbers are indeed leaking for whatever reason, the mechanic could recommend repair depending on the extent of the damage. However, they could recommend shock absorber replacement if the leaking is severe.
Consider Replacing All Four Shock Absorbers
As mentioned earlier, shocks are between the frame and wheels of your vehicle. If your mechanic discovers that one or two of your shock absorbers are leaking, it’s better to replace all of them immediately instead of only replacing the leaking one. This helps to prevent any shock absorber malfunctions in the future.
If you replace only the faulty ones, some wheels will perform better than others. Doing so could lead to an imbalance in the way the wheels function and make the car’s handling worse than before. In addition, once one shock absorber starts leaking, the others are likely to start leaking within a short period.
Alternatively, you could replace only two of the shock absorbers. For instance, when one of the front wheel shock absorbers is leaking, you can replace it along with the other front wheel shock so that the front wheels can function in a balanced manner.
As the name suggests, shock absorbers absorb the bouncing energy that occurs whenever your vehicle hits a bump or unavoidable pothole on the road. Thus, they keep the tires firmly on the ground and make your ride smooth and comfortable. They also protect the tires from premature wear and tear and help you to control your vehicle.
Shock absorbers leak for various reasons, and it’s essential to look out for signs of leaking so that you can act immediately. Efficient shock absorbers protect your tires from premature wear and tear and enhance your vehicle’s braking, stability, and steering.