How to Tune Adjustable Shocks

October 31, 2012

Shocks, or shock absorbers, are the part of the suspension system in a car that absorb the force of bumps so that the body of the vehicle doesn't keep bouncing on the suspension for a long time after the car goes over a bump. There are four shocks on every car, one over each wheel. A shock absorber is a cylindrical device that is filled with an air pocket at the bottom that is separated from a liquid reservoir by a floating piston, or free-moving waterproof seal. The pressure of this liquid is regulated by a piston which is attached to a rod that extends upward and out of the top of the cylinder. Performance shocks are placed in between the wheels and the car body in the suspension system so that when there is an upward force from the wheels, the air and liquid inside the shock absorber compress to absorb the force before it can go up through the suspension system.

How Adjustable Shock Absorbers Work

The piston that regulates the pressure of the liquid in a shock absorber is actually semi-permeable, with small holes allowing for some of the liquid to go through. Since these holes are small, the amount of the liquid that can ooze through is limited, so it still compresses and absorbs force. The smaller these holes are, the less liquid can get through, and the more force is absorbed. Adjustable shock absorbers allow you to change the size of the holes so you can have more control over how effective at absorbing force the piston system is. Proper suspension tuning always entails shock absorber adjustment, so the following is a set of step by step instructions that will give you all the information you need to adjust the shocks on your car.

Step 1: Figure Out How You Want Your Shocks

Deciding how you want to tune your shock absorbers is the hardest part, as it is fairly complicated and requires some knowledge of the way car handling works. If you like to go fast and take sharp turns, or you like to drive over bumpy terrain, you will want more resistance, and if you mostly do city driving, you don't need so much.

Step 2: Jack Up Your Car and Find the Shocks

Shocks are located underneath the car, where the wheels connect to the frame. To get at the shocks in your car, you will have to either get underneath it or lift it with a car jack.

Step 3: Adjust the Dial

On the side of any adjustable shock absorber, there is a graduated dial with a scale that runs from 1 to 10. Setting the dial to a higher number will restrict the size of the holes in the piston more, so impact resistance will be higher.

Most people never adjust the shock absorbers in their car, and unless you like to race cars or your are an automobile enthusiast, you probably won't find much need to do so. However, adjustable shocks can improve the performance of your car if you want to take the time to figure out how to use them properly.

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