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Why Should I Replace the Shock Absorbers on an Eighteen Wheeler?

Updated on June 25, 2017
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Driving big rigs and operating heavy equipment filled a large part of the authors life, living and driving in multiple states of the USA.

What we need to know about shock absorbers

Bump, Bump Bump, down the road we go with the front wheels jerking back and forth, because we failed to replace some worn out shocks on our big rig! Our suspension is getting worked out in a way ball joints and tie-rod ends weren't supposed to be worked! Steering is difficult, the front fenders on the rig jerk back and forth, and we feel it through the steering wheel as well. Then the front of the trucks hammers up and down like a sledgehammer going across rough bridges and roads, all because we failed to replace those bad boys!

Shock absorbers were created not only to soften the ride and lessen the bumps for the driver, but also to protect the truck itself from earlier death due to beatings it gets with worn out (you know by now} gas cylinders connected to the frame and to the axle. They are called "shock absorber" for a very good reason! This article calls for you to put your maintenance money to good use by replacing wore out shocks at least by 200,000 miles on a big rig, unless your preventative maintenance visit shows they are worn out prematurely, due to heavy loads and/or extremely rough roads. I recommend a good grade industrial truck shock with a load capacity of 12,000 lbs on the front axle and 18,000 lbs on each of the two rear axles. I hear good things about the "road king" shock brand, but there are certainly affordable ones available at most truck repair/parts houses. I recommend you just get it done if you are close to the recommended replacement mileage. I will say if you predominately drive the interstate highways you can sure stretch it a few miles and maybe save one set within the life of the vehicle. However if you cross rough railroad tracks or drive mostly on rough county and state roads, and go in and out of mills with dirt access roads filled with potholes, I say get it done quick!

Note: Buying quality shocks is important! If you get shocks with the wrong rating or that are "cheap" they might treat you worse than worn out ones! I have had experience of just after my company replaced the front shocks, the ride got rougher. Let me say, going over bad roads and scalloped bridges is not fun! They hammer up and down ker-squish, ker-swish all the way across! You can't afford to skimp on quality when it comes to protecting your ride with new shock absorbers!

While you apply these important principles to the heavy truck industry, it is important to observe these items:

1) Shocks work as steering dampers and help control the front end/steering. If the shocks are worn out, abuse of the suspension results in a shorter life of other steering components.

2) Carrying heavy loads will wear the shocks out faster. Big truck shock absorbers may last up to 200,000 miles, but you can't guarantee a shock absorbers life. It depends on the conditions the truck is driven under.

3) A set of front shocks for a big truck can be bought usually for under $100.00 but the wear and tear that bad shocks cause on trucks and tires can cost much more. Rear shocks are important as well but maybe not as critical; however when replaced will result in better overall suspension performance. Replacement cost is multiplied per axle.

4) Shock absorbers on the front of big trucks act as steering dampers and if worn out can result in loss of control in turns, as well as hamper smooth driving at highway speeds. Compromised steering and ride control with worn out shocks can become a safety issue when the steering is not kept stable in corners and by shaking that results.

Summary: The great relief and smooth ride that results from replacing semi-truck shocks is well worth the cost. Driving is safer, smoother and you will have the confidence of making it to the next stop!

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