Dampers may be often overlooked, but they are actually a crucial element that unlocks your vehicle’s full potential both on and off the road. In fact, racing teams worldwide invest extensive time and resources in perfecting them because they know the impact they have on a car’s performance. But what are they and how do they operate? What is their importance and what are the red flags that signify it’s time to replace them? In this article, we’ll delve into these questions and more to help you understand why dampers are critical for your vehicle’s success.
What is a Damper?
A damper, also known as a shock absorber, is a mechanical device designed to control the motion of a moving object, such as a vehicle’s suspension system. A damper typically consists of a piston that moves through a cylinder filled with hydraulic fluid, creating resistance that slows down the movement of the suspension. This provides better handling, stability, and comfort for the driver and passengers. Dampers come in various forms, including some that are adjustable. However, they all play the same role.
What is the Use of Dampers?
Let us begin with what many people think these components do but they do not. Dampers do not support the weight of a vehicle; that is the role of the springs.
The primary role of dampers is to control the bouncing movement of the springs through resistance, ensuring that the tyres stay in contact with the road. Consider this analogy: when you bounce a ball and catch it, you’re in control of the bounce. If you do not catch the ball, it continues to bounce, losing energy with each bounce until it comes to a halt. Well, a vehicle would behave the same way without dampers, bouncing up and down until it comes to a rest.
In addition to controlling the springs and suspension system movement, dampers also keep the tyres in contact with the road at all times. If this were not the case, you would have a difficult time steering, driving, and braking the car. When the springs’ movement is not controlled, the vehicle wallows, compromising the quality of the ride and putting everyone in danger. If you are into road shows I recommend seeing the billing off road show.
How do Dampers Operate?
Dampers, enclosed in a cylinder, contain hydraulic fluid and valve passages. When the suspension moves, the piston inside the cylinder moves, and the valve passages control the flow of fluid, regulating the speed of the piston’s motion and suspension movement. The faster the suspension moves, the more resistance the dampers offer. This results in an automatic adjustment to varying road conditions, providing better handling, stability, and comfort.
Why are Dampers Crucial?
As mentioned earlier, dampers are some of the most important components when it comes to driving and handling a vehicle. In addition to ensuring a comfortable ride, they also help in managing stability, handling, cornering, traction, braking, and overall safety.
However, they are usually overlooked, mostly because they deteriorate gradually over a long time, and many drivers change their driving style unknowingly in order to compensate.
What are the Common Signs Dampers Need Replacement?
Dampers are constantly working as you drive and so, they are bound to wear out over time. However, there are telltale signs that it is time to get new ones.
If you experience swerving when braking hard, it means that the piston found in the damper is compressing too fast and the component can’t handle the weight transfer. After a bump, if your car doesn’t go back to its original position after one or two rebounds, chances are you have worn dampers.