5 Best Shock Absorbers [Reviews for Cars, SUVs & Trucks]
- 5 Best Shock Absorbers [Reviews for Cars, SUVs & Trucks]
Shock absorbers are a must-have for any type of vehicle because they provide a smooth ride and absorb the shock and vibrations produced by the engine, other elements, and uneven terrains. Even more, shock absorbers play a crucial role when it comes to vehicle handling and safety on the road. Not to mention that badly worn shocks hinder your steering and cause uneven wear on the tires, so the repair costs can only get higher if you don’t address the issue on time!
But, as it happens with many auto pieces, finding the best shock absorbers for your vehicle can be confusing. The market is filled with both OEM and aftermarket pieces, which makes it difficult to identify the ones that will fit your vehicle’s build and needs (the type of shocks is different for various types of terrains and loads).
So, regardless of the fact that you want to improve the way your vehicle feels on the road or you’re just looking to get new suspensions, you will need to learn more about shocks and their role in the well-being of your car.
1. Monroe 911533 Reflex
The Monroe Reflex series is designed for light trucks with a high center of gravity. As such, the 911533 rear monotube shock absorbers go extremely well on GM K1500 trucks (which are extremely reliable and durable).
The Monroe Reflex 911533 helps improve the control and handling of such a vehicle and manages to offer a comfy ride even to the most pretentious passengers. This happens due to the Twin Disc, which is a unique system of piston valves that react with each motion, regardless of how small.
Finally, this shock absorbers are Nitrogen gas charged (240-260 PSI) and come equipped with special modifiers that ensure the rod reaction happens smoothly, without too much friction. This makes it the go-to product when it comes to both off road and bumpier rides.
2. Bilstein Monotube Shock Absorber
Bilstein B6 4600 shock absorbers are the perfect replacement for stock designs on SUVs and light trucks. They come with better build and improved handling, which makes them the popular choice when one looks for ideas to update their vehicle.
As a monotube design, the shocks feature a digressive piston that reacts when the road conditions change and automatically adapts the tension as needed. Also, the performance doesn’t fade away in time, providing constant improvement in ride quality and overall comfort.
You should keep in mind that these shocks don’t come in pairs – they’re sold individually. However, they’re a great fit for a wide range of vehicles, not just light trucks. On the downside, they’re a bit more expensive than OEM shocks, so you need to consider the budget before deciding on them.
3. ACDelco 530-301 Professional Premium Gas
This is a front twin tube set of shocks that comes with a hardened chrome piston rod and self-lubricating action. Even more, the piston rod is designed with micro-cracks to increase the smoothness of the surface and make it scratch resistant (improves the life of the gas seal).
You know the shocks will last a long time (under proper use) when you learn that the pressure cylinder is drawn over a mandrel. This helps improve the sealing properties and minimizes the internal friction of the elements.
Furthermore, due to the gas charged design, the aeration of fluid is reduced, which means the vehicle will react faster and smoother when it comes to steering. Since seal breaking is more likely to happen with gas shocks ACDelco uses an O-ring hydraulic piston seal that provides better control and keeps any dust and debris away.
4. Gabriel 49235 Hijackers Air Shocks
Known as America’s most popular air-adjustable shock absorbers, the Gabriel hijackers are ideal for when you leave on a longer trip and you want to tow your trailer or boat. These shocks help improve handling as they provide up to 1100 lbs. leveling capacity per pair. As a result, your temporarily impoverished vehicle will be safe to drive even with the added weight.
Since these are air shocks, you can increase or decrease the air pressure, which allows you to adjust to a dynamic situation.
The shocks can also be installed on classic vehicles or muscle cars if you like going on shows or participating in various events where you can show off with some new and cool features.
5. Monroe 58640 Load Adjusting Shock Absorber
Designed with all-weather fluid (special modifiers that help reduce friction) and full displaced valving, these shock absorbers are fantastic at providing a comfortable and consistent ride. Even more, due to the Fluon banded piston, the sealing remains consistent and increases the overall control and durability.
The shocks react to changes in terrains and adapt based on the feedback they receive from the vehicle. As such, the ride will be smooth or stiff, depending on the type of road you’re using. So, while it’s not designed by a luxury brand and it doesn’t go on fancy cars, the Monroe 58640 is a fantastic choice for people who drive on a variety of terrains (not just paved roads).
How to Choose the Best Shock Absorbers for your Vehicle?
At a first search, you’ll notice a plethora of shock absorbers (both OEM and aftermarket) in the market. Now, this wouldn’t be such a problem if we were discussing decorative accessories, but shocks have a crucial role when it comes to safety and overall comfort.
For instance, one type of shocks is not a good fit for all vehicles. Sports cars tend to have shorter shocks because the ground clearance is lower, while SUVs and other terrain cars make use of longer ones (for higher ground clearance). Even more important, the way the springs react under the weight of the vehicle is highly influenced by the type of terrain and overall load. So, it becomes crucial to select the best products for the safety and comfort of your ride.
So, how can a car owner be sure they chose the right product?
To reduce the confusion, we put together a detailed buying guide that will help you understand the main features that go into creating the ideal product for your specific vehicle.
Types of Shock Absorbers
Most OEM shock absorbers are oil filled because they are considered to be long-lasting and better suited for personal vehicles (they increase the level of comfort inside the vehicle). However, if you want to work with aftermarket pieces, you’ll also find these types of shocks:
- Gas or Monotube shocks – The dampening is still provided by oil, but the ends are sealed with pressurized gas that keeps the oil from foaming or thinning out. However, these are not recommended for extremely bumpy roads as you run the risk of breaking the gas sealant and thus rendering the shocks useless. Gas shocks are best suited for small personal cars and they are durable on regular roads.
- Air shocks – These work best with suspension kits that allow the vehicle to be lifted or lowered as needed. Air shocks are installed in the rear and are designed with an air inlet that allows the driver to increase or reduce the pressure as they want.
- Automatic Level Control Shocks – As the name says, these shock absorbers can automatically distribute the weight of the vehicle, keeping it level as the load changes. They use an electric compressor (to level the vehicle) and sensors (to detect the changes) and are mostly found in luxury vehicles.
- Heavy Duty Shocks – These are stiffer and can be installed on trucks, vans, or SUVs that handle larger loads. Still, keep in mind that you need a heavier load for the shocks to get softer. Otherwise, your drive will feel rather stiff.
- Overload Shocks – Also known as coil-over shocks (due to the spring coil fitted around the outside section of the shock cylinder). These are recommended for drivers who go off road a lot as the coil stiffens the sock’s action and keeps the vehicle leveled.
Durability and Quality
When it comes to choosing the high-end shock absorbers, the durability of the design and quality of materials are some of the top features to consider. Now, you probably think that the higher the price, the better the quality, right?
While it’s not recommended to get the cheapest shocks, you also need to understand that the type and overall weight of the vehicle are important factors. For instance, small vehicles don’t need heavy duty shocks because they are not designed to be driven off road.
So, before you make the final decision, make sure to check the material used to make them (aluminum and steel are the most recommended). Next, check the overall build of the product – your shocks should feel sturdy and well-designed.
Quick tip: Steel shocks are cheaper but a bit more difficult to install, while aluminum ones are lighter and easy to install, but more expensive.
Are they Difficult to Install?
If you want to install your own shock absorbers, you’ll need a floor jack and a product that’s easy to install. This means that you shouldn’t reach for those designs that require changes in the chassis of the car or other customizations. These are better left to professionals who know what they’re doing!
Now, for the DIY guy/gal in you, we recommend choosing shock absorbers that come with a mounting kit and well-detailed instructions. In these cases, the installation should go smoothly as it’s pretty straightforward.
Why Do I Need New Shock Absorbers?
If you make sure to get the best shocks absorbers from the start, you won’t have to worry about changing them too soon. Still, if you recently bought a used vehicle, or you feel the steering is a bit stiff or the handling is poor and the tires tend to have uneven wear patterns, you may need to consider that the shocks are getting old.
But there are other signs to keep on the watch for:
- Mileage – High-quality OEM shocks should stay with you for about 100,000 miles (over 160,000 km), but you should consider checking them sooner (especially if they are aftermarket products). Also, if you know the shocks to be a few years old, it may be time for a change.
- Type of terrain – Rough and uneven terrain put a lot of pressure and wear on shocks and other elements. So, if you tend to drive off road, the shock absorbers won’t last as long as if you would’ve been driving only on the highway.
- Comfort inside the car – If your rides have gotten bumpier lately, this is a clear sign that the shocks aren’t working properly. Their job is to dampen the bumps, so if you feel your knees reaching towards your teeth even on even terrain, your current shocks aren’t working.
- Damaged shocks – Shocks (even new ones) can be damaged in a crash or during a particularly bumpy ride at high speeds, or in other circumstances. So, if you see oil leaking from them or any other defects, get them changed as soon as possible.
If you read our reviews and the buying guide, you already know that the best absorbers must be a good fit for your vehicle, driving style, and overall needs. As such, if you’re used to taking the road not beaten (or in plain terms, off road), you will need overload shocks designed to take the abuse.
On the other hand, if you drive a truck or van and tend to transport heavy loads, you will need a set of heavy-duty shocks capable to support the extra load. Otherwise, if you own a regular car that you use for rides to town or on the highway, a standard or gas set of shocks should do the trick.
Finally, for luxury vehicles, there are air and automatic level control shocks, but these are a bit more on the expensive side. Regardless, the idea that must stick with you is that each set of shock absorbers is a good fit for a certain type of vehicle.