At the beginning of August 2023, the Department of Transport launched a war-against-potholes campaign. This is in response to the national pothole crises which compromises motorists’ safety as well as costs them financially.
How potholes cause damage to your car
Large, deep potholes will cause the most damage, but the extent of the damage depends on the speed a car is travelling at when it hits the bottom before exiting.
When you drive into a pothole, many components of your vehicle are affected. The wheels could either be knocked out of alignment, bent, or broken; and your tyres or suspension can be badly damaged. Interestingly enough, the damage usually occurs when your wheels roll out of the pothole, rather than when riding into it. Hubcaps are another victim as they can easily loosen from the impact.
Potholes and bad roads can cause so much potential damage to so many different parts of your car, however, it’s not often that they’ll break the shock absorbers. What does happen is a gradual wearing out over time causing premature wear and tear, and the more you drive on bad roads or rough terrain, the sooner you’ll need to replace them.
How do shock absorbers play a part in combating potholes?
When you hit a pothole or any bump or dip in a road, your vehicle's suspension and springs act in such a way so that the tyre stays in contact with the surface of the road. This is important as it provides traction and control and absorbs the shock of the bounce.
Shocks are individual components of the suspension. They help the coil springs absorb the impact of the road, dampen the movement of the springs by converting the spring's up and down kinetic energy into heat energy, which helps keep the vehicle from bouncing out of control.
Shocks that have worn down not only cause you to lose control of the car's stability giving you a very uncomfortable ride, but hinders safety as the car takes longer to come to a stop.
How do I know if my shocks are damaged?
Unlike a flat tyre or lost hubcap, damage to shocks and struts are a little trickier to detect, though the following signs will be noticeable:
- Excessive bouncing – A bouncy ride especially when going over bumps or dips on the road means shocks are not able to dampen the bouncing motion and provide a smooth ride.
- Uneven tyre wear – Tyres wearing down unevenly, particularly on the edges could be an indication of suspension issues.
- Excessive diving, rolling, or nose-diving –This occurs when braking, turning, or accelerating which suggests that your shocks and struts are no longer effectively controlling the weight transfer and maintaining stability.
- Poor handling and stability – Your car feels unstable, drifts or sways excessively while driving, or you have difficulty maintaining control.
- Excessive vibration – Occurs especially when driving over uneven surfaces or potholes.
- Fluid Leaks – If you notice fluid on the exterior of the components, there may be internal damage.
- Mileage and age – Experts recommend having your vehicle's shocks and struts inspected every 20,000 kilometres and replaced on average every 80,000* kilometres, taking into account various factors, such as driving behaviour and road surface.
A DIY method to check if your shocks need replacing is to push down hard and as low as you can at each corner of your vehicle, then let go quickly. Two or more bounce-backs indicates it’s time for a replacement.
Does better suspension help with potholes?
Cars with softer suspensions help provide a smoother ride and are better at absorbing the harsh impact potholes can cause.
To improve the suspension of your car and combating potholes, your best option would be to upgrade your shocks and struts. Fitting higher-quality shocks and struts can significantly improve your car's handling and stability on rough, uneven surfaces.
Choosing the right shocks
There are several reputable brands known for producing high-quality shocks and struts. One such brand is Monroe. They are a well-established brand that provides a range of shocks and struts for different vehicles. They offer both standard replacement and performance-enhancing options.
Availability and compatibility of a brand may vary based on your specific vehicle.Check with your vehicle manufacturer's recommendations and consult with a trusted mechanic to ensure you select the right shocks and struts for your car.
1. Factors to consider
These factors will help you make an informed decision when choosing shocks and struts that suit your specific needs and preferences:
- Compatibility – Different vehicles may have different suspension requirements, so it's important to select components that are designed to fit your car.
- Driving Conditions – If you frequently drive on gravel roads or rough terrain, opt for shocks and struts specifically designed for off-road or heavy-duty use. For tar roads, choose a standard or performance-oriented option.
- Comfort vs. performance – Some shocks and struts are designed for a smooth comfortable ride, while others are designed for better handling, stability, and responsiveness. Which is more important to you?
- Quality and Durability – Look for reputable brands and ensure the components you choose are durable, reliable, and built to last.
- Budget – Compare prices from different brands and retailers to find the best balance between cost and quality.
- Installation – Fitting shocks and struts can be complex and require specialised tools and knowledge. Hire a professional mechanic to perform the installation to ensure it's done correctly and safely.
2. What will it cost me?
The cost of upgrading shocks and struts can vary depending on several factors, including the make and model of your car, the brand and quality of the components you choose, and where you have the installation done.
While we can do very little about the presence of potholes peppering our roads, the one thing we can control is our driving speed to prevent premature, unnecessary damage to a vehicle’s components. Still, shocks and struts will suffer normal wear and tear, have a limited lifespan, and eventually need to be replaced. Waiting too long will only further impact other components.
Historically, Supa Quick have fitted more shock absorbers than any other fitment centre in South Africa. Take advantage of our expertise and let us match a shock absorber to your specific driving conditions and vehicle. You’ll feel the difference in comfort, safety and road holding straight away. Find a Supa Quick service centre near to you where all our shock absorbers are covered with a 36-month guarantee from the manufacturer.
Disclaimer: This information is for educational, or entertainment purposes only. It must not be construed as advice, legal, financial, or otherwise. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information.