Innovation in automotive – the shock absorber

Even if its name says so, the shock absorber is not a part that absorbs shock, so the term is actually a misnomer. It actually works as a damper, which most of the times is a mechanical or hydraulic device that cushions the oscillations of the springs, when the car rides on uneven roads. This is possible because the small part was designed to dissipate shock impulses and can transform the kinetic energy of the shock into a different energy (often heat) that can be easily dissipated. On a vehicle, springs and absorbers are installed between the frames and the wheels, to reduce motion and offer the driver better control of the car. Normally, the springs would cause excessive shaking of the frames, so the suspensions have the role of restraining the shock and creating a balance. Ages ago, cars did not have shock absorbers, but since power and speed increased, manufacturers decided that this small part is necessary. The first items appeared in the 1930s, and were called “friction dampers”, but afterwards, specialists speculated the qualities of hydraulic fluid and started designing hydraulic shock absorbers. Some decades later, the invention became a standard asset for most cars all over the world.

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What happens during the cushioning process?

 

The suspension system is the part where the energy resulting from a sudden shock will go. The springs are deflected when the vehicle encounters an external force. After the impact, they bounce, modifying their initial form and they continue to oscillate until a natural element comes up and dissipates it. However, especially in heavy-duty springs, the springs may continue to oscillate for a long time, unless a shock absorber controls the movement. This part transforms the energy generated by the movement into thermal energy, and the the hydraulic fluid dissipates it afterwards. This is why the name “absorber” is actually misleading, because the energy does not disappear by absorption, it is actually transformed into heat inside the viscous fluid, in hydraulic cylinders. For the cylinders that use air, the heat is usually released into the atmosphere. There are also other types of suspensions, such as electromagnetic types, which store the energy produced in order to use it later.

 

Why are shock absorbers so important?

These small parts are extremely relevant in the entire suspension system of a car, because they are the key element. However, since all the parts are interdependent, it is also crucial to have them work together efficiently. They are so important because they can diminish the effects of a sudden shock impulse and dispel the energy resulting from the vehicle’s movement. If you want to drive safely, then your suspension system has to meet these three criteria: reliability, comfort and longevity. If the hock absorber is in good condition, it will offer your car stability, because it streamlines the contact between the wheels and the road. In addition to this, since it will cushion the motion on uneven roads, it increases the quality of the ride and passengers will feel more comfortable.

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