Shock Absorber | Functions, Types and Working Principle [with Animation]

By | September 12, 2018

What is a shock absorber?

Mini Shock Absorbers

let us first see the definition

A shock absorber is a mechanical device which is used to eliminate or damp sudden shock waves in a system

The above definition is a bit technical, let us understand this by understanding the meaning of shock absorber.

We all know that shock absorbers are generally used in automobiles. As the name suggests, it is used to absorb shocks and these shocks are generated by the uneven road surfaces.

We can say a shock absorber is a modern-day marvel because it is the main thing which makes our ride smooth and comfortable, even in the rough terrain.

Function of shock absorber

The main function of the shock absorber is to absorb the shocks and damp them as soon as possible so that a smooth ride can be obtained.

Some other important functions of shock absorber are

  • It limits vehicle body movement
  • It stabilizes our ride as discussed above
  • It stabilizes vehicle tires which are disturbed due to sudden shock, hence it is very important for safety purpose also
  • It also minimizes tire and body wear of the automobile and hence reduces overall maintenance cost

It may sound a simple job but this is the main thing on which the comfort level of your ride depends.

How a shock absorber works?

To understand the shock absorber, it is very important to understand its working. We will also take help of animations to understand the working properly.

First of all, we should know that there are generally two types of shock absorbers one is hydraulic and another one is pneumatic. However, working of both the types of shock absorbers is same.

A shock absorber is generally coupled with a spring, which convert sudden shock waves into oscillatory motion. This oscillatory motion gives us instant relief from the shock but, nobody can have his or her whole ride with these oscillations.

Here is the need of shock absorber arises, it is used to damp those oscillations which are made by the springs.

shock absorber working

A general shock absorber contains a perforated piston in a hydraulic chamber. The chamber is totally sealed and hence if piston has to make some movement the only way is to let the hydraulic liquid pass through it. As shown in the animated diagram.

When a shock comes, piston has to move due to shock. When the piston moves than the hydraulic liquid in the shock absorber has to pass through it.

When the liquid is passed through the very tiny perforated holes in the piston the piston has to do some work against it. That work is done on that expense of the energy generated due to the shock and hence soon the shock absorber loses all the shock energy, which results into no oscillation and smooth ride.

Types of shock absorbers

There are basically three types of shock absorbers

  1. Twin tube

  • Basic twin tube

  • Gas charged twin tube

  • Position sensitive damping

  • Acceleration sensitive damping

  • Coilover

  1. Mono tube

  2. Spool valve

Image source:

Shock absorber: Attribution: By Avsar Aras – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Animation: Attribution: By A7N8X – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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