Type of Shock Absorbers

Shock absorbers

What is Shock Absorbers?

Shock absorbers are basically oil pumps. A piston is attached to the end of the piston rod and works against hydraulic fluid in the pressure tube. As the suspension travels up and down, the hydraulic fluid is forced through tiny holes, called orifices, inside the piston. However, these orifices let only a small amount of fluid through the piston. This slows down the piston, which in turn slows down spring and suspension movement.

All modern shock absorbers are velocity-sensitive hydraulic damping devices – meaning the faster the suspension moves, the more resistance the shock absorber provides.

Because of this feature, shock absorbers adjust to road conditions. As a result, shock absorbers reduce the rate of:

  • Bounce
  • Roll or sway
  • Brake dive and Acceleration squat

Shock absorbers work on the principle of fluid displacement on both the compression and extension cycle. A typical car or light truck will have more resistance during its extension cycle then its compression cycle. The compression cycle controls the motion of a vehicle’s unsprung weight, while extension controls the heavier sprung weight.


There are several shock absorber designs in use today:

  • Twin Tube Designs
    • Gas Charged
    • PSD (position sensitive damping)
    • ASD (Acceleration Sensitive Damping)
    • Coilover
  • Mono-Tube

Twin-Tube – Gas Charged Design

gas shockabsorber Twin-Tube - Gas Charged Design

The prime function of gas charging is to minimize aeration of the hydraulic fluid. The pressure of the nitrogen gas compresses air bubbles in the hydraulic fluid. This prevents the oil and air from mixing and creating foam. Foam affects performance because it can be compressed – fluid can not. With aeration reduced, the shock is able to react faster and more predictably, allowing for quicker response time and helping keep the tire firmly planted on the road surface.


  • Improves handling by reducing roll, sway, and dive
  • Reduces aeration offering a greater range of control over a wider variety of road conditions as compared to non-gas units
  • Reduced fade – shocks can lose damping capability as they heat up during use. Gas-charged shocks could cut this loss of performance, called fade

Twin Tube – PSD Design

shock absorbers Twin Tube - PSD Design

Ride engineers had to compromise between soft valving and firm valving. With soft valving, the fluid flows more easily. The result is a smoother ride, but with poor handling and a lot of roll/sway. When valving is firm, fluid flows less easily. Handling is improved, but the ride can become harsh.
With the advent of gas charging, ride engineers were able to open up the orifice controls of these valves and improve the balance between comfort and control capabilities available in traditional velocity sensitive dampers.
A leap beyond fluid velocity control is an advanced technology that takes into account the position of the valve within the pressure tube. This is called Position Sensitive Damping (PSD).

The key to this innovation is precision tapered grooves in the pressure tube. Every application is individually tuned, tailoring the length, depth, and taper of these grooves to ensure optimal ride comfort and added control. This, in essence, creates two zones within the pressure tube.

The first zone, the comfort zone, is where normal driving takes place.
The second zone, the control zone, is utilized during demanding driving situations.


  • Allows ride engineers to move beyond simple velocity sensitive valving and use the position of the piston to fine-tune the ride characteristic.
  • Adjusts more rapidly to changing road and weight conditions than standard shock absorbers
  • Two shocks into one – comfort and control

Twin Tube -ASD Design (Reflex)

shock absorbers Twin Tube -ASD Design (Reflex)

A new twist on the comfort/ control compromise is an innovative technology that provides greater control for handling while improving ride comfort called Acceleration Sensitive Damping (ASD).
This technology moves beyond traditional velocity-sensitive damping to focus and address impact. This focus on impact is achieved by utilizing a new compression valve design. This compression valve is a mechanical closed-loop system, which opens a bypass to fluid flow around the compression valve.


  • Control is enhanced without sacrificing driver comfort
  • The valve automatically adjusts to changes in the road condition
  • Reduces ride harshness


Coilover Shock Absorbers - Image credit Cameron Chapman at FlickR, CC 2.0
Coilover Shock Absorbers – Image credit Cameron Chapman at Flickr, CC 2.0

Coilovers are found on many types of vehicles, from normal passenger cars, racing cars and in many 4×4 vehicles.

Coilovers are utilized in double-wishbone suspension systems and are frequently a component of MacPherson struts. Two of the main types of coilovers are complete coilovers and slip-on coilovers. Full coilovers are matched up with a shock absorber from the manufacturing unit, while with slip-on coilovers, the dampers and comes are bought one after the other and then assembled. There is a big variety of groups who make aftermarket Coilover for vehicles, a lot of which allow the customer to adjust numerous settings such as ride height and damping.

Camber and caster angles can also be adjusted if the car’s suspension allows and if the coilovers are furnished with adjustable top mounts. This high variation of adjustment is what gives coilovers a bonus over standard MacPherson struts. Coilovers can be used to lower the vehicle’s center of gravity, and to increase the roll stiffness of the vehicle to lessen weight transfer when the car changes direction.

Mono-tube design (Standard Types)

shock absorbers monotube

These are high-pressure gas shocks with only one tube, the pressure tube. Inside the pressure tube, there are two pistons: a dividing piston and a working piston. The working piston and rod are very similar to the twin-tube shock design. The difference in actual application is that a mono-tube shock absorber can be mounted upside down or right side up and will work either way. In addition to its mounting flexibility, mono-tube shocks are a significant component, along with the spring, in supporting vehicle weight. Another difference you may notice is that the mono-tube shock absorber does not have a base valve. Instead, all of the control during compression and extension takes place at the piston.

During operation, the dividing piston moves up and down as the piston rod moves in and out of the shock absorber, keeping the pressure tube full all times.


  • Can be mounted upside down, reducing the unsprung weight
  • May run cooler since the working tube is exposed to the air
  • Original equipment many import and performance domestic passenger cars, SUV and light truck applications

Shock absorbers are one of the most crucial parts of any vehicle. Just like brakes, they can prevent serious damages to the car or get into an accident. They also provide adequate comfort while in different types of driving conditions.

Always make sure your absorbers are working as they should. A general rule of thumb is to fully check them every 50,000 miles of your vehicle’s odometer.

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