Back when I first bought my truck and started driving, I didn’t really care to know about a lot of technical stuff or performance. When I look back, I feel like it would have been nice if someone had told me a little about a few basic things to improve my rides. Take the example of shock absorbers for trucks. I didn’t really know they are essential for ride comfort, or how to read the obvious signs that it’s time to replace the shock absorber.
From protection for shafts to shock standards I should look for – I learned about everything “on the job” during by driving stints, and I think it’s time for me to share some of my hard-earned wisdom with you all so that you can struggle less and enjoy a smooth ride on your truck. Today I am going to tell my fellow truck drivers a little about shock absorbers, how to understand when it’s time to change the shock absorbers, and to find the best shocks for trucks to make every ride the best.
What are Truck Shocks?
Let me start with the basic question, whose answer is in the name itself. The shock absorbers in trucks – on any vehicle, as such – help to minimize the spring motion of the truck using a process called “damping”, and prevent damage to the truck caused by too much vibration. It ensures that there’s minimum friction and the tires are on the road, even in with bumps and bad road conditions, so that the drivers can enjoy easy vehicle control and enjoy ride comfort.
Essentially, the shock absorber forms a link between two suspension parts – the reserve tube and the pressure cylinder. The reserve tube has hydraulic fluid, while the shock cylinder has a piston rod and a valving system to meter the fluid flowing along the piston from one side to the other while riding along bumpy roads.
I must say: it’s one smart cookie! It reduces the vibratory motions of the vehicle, for which it converts the kinetic energy produced by suspension movement into heat energy. Then, there is heat dissipation in the absence of oil foam, and this is when the hydraulic fluid comes into play. Pretty neat, eh? Truck shocks really go through a lot, and naturally, there comes a time to replace them.
Signs that the Truck Shock Absorber Needs to be Changed
How will you know when it is time to change the shock absorber in your truck? Here are some tell-tale signs that should make you take notice.
- Vibrations: An obvious sign of a problem in shock absorbers is a rough ride quality with bumps due to reduced durability. Your ride becomes rough and uncomfortable with too much vibration, especially when you encounter a pothole.
- Hard Steering: When your shocker is malfunctioning, you will have face problems while steering. The wheel will feel hard, and you’ll not be able to maneuver the truck easily.
- Brake problem: When the shock loses strength, applying brakes will need you to apply lots of strength. The truck takes time to slow down while the stopping distance increases.
- Leakage: The piston seal around the center shaft arising from the shock’s body may start to leak fluid. So, fluid leakage from vehicles is a sure-shot sign of the seal life expectancy nearing its end.
- Tire wearing: When your truck tires start to get unevenly worn, it means that the shock is unable to prevent bouncing, leading the tire to wear in the spot of road contact.
- Cracked attachment point bushing: The points at which the shock is attached to the truck have rubber bushings. If they crack, you’ll hear tapping sounds when you drive over a bump.
- Distance: the fact is, all vehicles need to have the shock absorber replaced regularly. Usually, it’s at the end of covering 50, 000 miles. Check your manual to know when you must change the shock.
Now that I look back, realize how I have often ignored these signs. Oh well, now I know better – and you should bear these in mind, too. But, just to be safe, you should get your truck checked regularly by experts, especially if you’re new to trucking and may not notice it when things are off.
Best Shock Absorbers For Trucks
So, now you know that the shock is essential for your truck. You also know when it’s time for you to change the truck absorber. Now it’s time to find out which are the best shocks for trucks. Check out my review of my top favorite truck shocks in this section.
1. Bilstein 24-187367 5100 Series Front Shock for Dodge Ram 1500 09
The first item on my list of the best shock absorbers for trucks is the Bilstein 24-187367 shocker from the Bilstein 5100 Series, which is a monotube shock absorber. This front shock is adjustable on the basis of ride height. It is designed to offer stable suspension similar to the OE coilover. The Bilstein shock is perfect for your truck, as well as for SUVs. It’s one of the best shock products available now.
This truck shock has a mono-tube design with gas pressure technology. It’s one of the best gas shocks, which has high efficiency and can run cool. This monotube shock absorber body is grooved with multiple snap rings allowing a variety of positions of the seat with spring springs. It helps to improve road handling, increase wheel travel, and level the truck easily.
- Its digressive piston of 46 mm has a valve setting with a deflective disc that is self-adjusting.
- The full package comes with bushings, installation hardware, and snap rings.
- The grooves of the snap ring of these shocks help to adjust the spring seat to different levels for comfortable rides.
- Zinc-plated finish for increased durability and improved performance
- OE coilover-type design to deliver similar performance as a spacer with coil springs
- No additional gear required to fit the shock absorber in the truck
- No need to extend the break lines
- Does not come with a boot cover
Why It’s On This List Of Reviews:
This shock absorber is considered as one of the best because of the following properties:
Stock Height Adjustability –
Because of this shock, you will be able to retain the original stock height, or you can raise it up for the purpose of leveling it out.
Road Adaptability –
This shock absorber’s valving can automatically adjust itself when there are changes in the road conditions with durability. It shows high adaptability.
No Upper Control Arm Change:
Unlike many other shock absorbers or struts in the market, you will not need to replace the upper control arms at the time of installation without any problem.
2. Bilstein (24-186742) 5100 Series Rear Shock Absorber
The next shock absorber on the list of reviews is the Bilstein 24-186742 shocker from the Bilstein 5100 Series. This rear shock is engineered with the traditional technology that Bilstein is known for. This Bilstein shock is for a lifted truck, and can also be used in pre-runners and jeeps. This is a heavy duty and long-lasting truck shock absorber.
This shock absorber for the lifted truck features a single working tube that works with a high gas pressure technology. This design of the gas shock absorber allows it to be consistent in its performance. For high performance damping, this shock absorber comes with a large working area of the piston. It is manufactured with incredible precision.
- This shock’s 46-mm body features a deflecting disc piston valving capable of self-adjusting.
- It is one of the best truck shocks in the monotube shock absorber category.
- It is engineered for a lift kit that uses the configuration of OEM mounting style
- Uniform performance throughout its service life with no fading of capabilities
- Manufactured by industry experts with superior craftsmanship
- Shock boot made of black rubber included in the kit
- Zinc plating that ensures extended service life and performance
- Rubber boot likely to break after a year
Why It’s On This List Of Reviews:
This truck shock is a must-buy because of the following features:
High Flow of Piston:
The piston on this shock features high flow, and this feature is essential in reducing the harshness of ride quality, besides enabling compression and extension cycles tuning.
This shock has a large working piston, thus displacing more fluid for each centimeter of stroke. This leads to more effective damping.
This truck shock absorber will give you superior control over your vehicles, even with large tires, as you maneuver the truck across different roads.
3. Monroe 58640 Load Adjusting Shock Absorber (Pack of 2)
Here’s a shock from another popular brand in the industry – Monroe! The Monroe 58640 is a load adjusting shock that can steadily adapt to adverse road condition, as well as weight variations. This shock absorber can deliver incredible control without compromising on the comfort of ride quality. Definitely one of the best truck shocks for heavy duty, light truck and lifted trucks.
The ideal weight for light trucks is usually around 1100 lbs. So, if you have a small truck that you use for carrying varied loads, this shock absorber is your guy. It can help with the maintenance of the ride height when additional weight of up to 1100 lb is loaded on it. It’s also dust-resistant and durable.
- It is a gas shock having a nitrogen gas design for increased contact of the tire of the light truck with the road.
- Its piston has a fluon band to seal it with the pressure tube for better control.
- It is available in a set of two and the kit comes with black bushing made of rubber.
- Dust shield made of metal to make it durable
- Nitrocarburized rod that helps to extend its service life
- Self-lubricating seal with pressure tube for gas retention
- Prevents excessive tire wear and by minimizing friction
- Does not come with boots
Why It’s On This List Of Reviews:
This truck shock is one of the best among its competitor products because of the following reasons:
Comfortable and Smooth Ride:
This shock ensures superior comfort level in light trucks (and car) in every ride. Whether it’s a standard drive or the conditions are challenging, you’ll always be comfortable.
All Weather Fluid:
The truck shock has modifiers that are specially engineered to give you a smooth ride at all times by reducing friction on rough and bumpy roads.
Unique Disc Valving:
The innovative valving system boosts control and right comfort level in light trucks. It’s also fully displaced to adjust to extreme conditions, thus adding to consistency.
4. Monroe MA822 Max-Air Adjust Shock Absorber
Yet another name of excellent truck shock products that will fit into your truck like the original rear shock is the MA822 Max-Air, also from the house of Monroe. Now, one of the major plus points is that it is manufactured by one of the experts in this field. As a result, you get a long-lasting and heavy-duty truck shock.
This shock is for trucks designed with high load capacity for towing trailers or hauling heavy loads. It assists in leveling the vehicle height, and you can inflate or deflate it as required, based on the load in the truck bed. For best performance, extend it to get the upper nut and lower bolt by jacking the car and raising the car suspension.
- The package comes with nuts and upper washers.
- The bumper stop features both extension and compression.
- It is a rear shock, and it is air adjustable.
- Dust shield made of rubber included in the kit
- Extremely easy installation procedure
- No modification required for OEM airline connection
- Ensures comfortable and smooth ride with all weather fluid
- No retainer nuts or lower bolts
Why It’s On This List Of Reviews:
This truck shock deserves to be on this list because of the following features:
Perfect Replacement for Factory Shocks
This is one of the best air shock absorbers that functions as the perfect replacement for the original rear shocks that come with your truck, offering an excellent fit.
Precise Ground Rod Performance
This shock’s piston rod, with a length of half an inch, has a hardened and precise construction for heightened consistency and duration.
Smoothness of Rod Reaction
This shock with all weather fluid runs on fluid to suit all weather conditions. The modifiers are specialized for reduced friction to the smoothness of rod reaction.
5. KYB 565104 MonoMax Gas Shock Absorber
The final name on this list of reviews of the best truck shock products is the KYB 565104 MonoMax. This is a tough gas shock absorber that’s designed to deal with the toughest road conditions. It has a large bore to give additional stability to heavy vehicles with a high center of gravity. It easily adapts to different road adversities.
This truck shock absorber has a monotube design that helps to boost control and handling. It’s also highly durable. and designed to adjust to various driving conditions automatically. The performance of this truck shock will be consistent and fade-free over a long period. It’s one of the best in its range.
- The kit comes with a rubber boot in red color rubber brushing in black.
- It features a positive seal, which works in the harshest conditions.
- It is one of the best mono-tube shock absorbers, powered by gas.
- Perfect for heavy-duty vehicles that work with heavy loads.
- Piston ring made of steel coated with zinc
- Excellent damping performance
- Protection of the shaft from dust, dirt, and debris
- Not designed for passenger car or vehicles other than trucks
Why It’s On This List of Reviews:
This truck shock is an excellent fit for trucks because of the following features:
Better than Competitors:
This shock is undoubtedly better than most of its competitors, featuring 40% higher damping because of the monotube design.
If you are looking to upgrade your truck for better performance of the suspension, this truck shock is guaranteed to show amazing results.
Improved Overall Performance:
This truck shock is specially engineered to improve your driving experience, as it boosts the vehicle’s stability and reduces roll and pitch.
Best Shocks for Trucks Buying Guide
Now that I have told you about the best shock absorbers, it’s time for you to make your purchase, right? But, how will you know which one to buy? There are just too many of them in the market! Should you get a gas shock absorber? Are the new shocks with one cylinder better? Well, I’m here to help you figure that out, as well, with my tips! Here are the guidelines for buying the best shock absorbers for trucks.
Types of Shock Absorbers
First, let me help you understand the different types of shock absorbers and their classifications. Check them out!
Classification based on Configuration
Based on configuration difference or construction difference, shock can be as follows:
1. Monotube Shock Absorbers:
The shock absorber with a mono-type design features only one tube that contains every component. Monotube shocks have a shell case to work like a cylinder. It contains the gas, oil, and piston valve. The mono-tube design makes use of a free piston for the separation of the oil chamber and the gas chamber in the case.
2. Twin Tube Shock Absorber:
In this type of shock absorber, you’ll find two cylinders, one of which is inside the case. The second one, i.e., the inner cylinder, bears the piston valve that moves within the cylinder in an up-and-down motion. In this design, the gas chamber and the oil chamber are not separated by any piston. Perfect for rugged terrain!
3. Gas-Charged Twin Tube Shock Absorbers:
This is actually a variation of the standard twin tube shock – except the reserve tube receives nitrogen gas charged with low pressure. This gas shock absorber offers a significant improvement over the traditional design. The suspension installations of modern trucks mostly feature gas shock absorbers.
Classification based on Style
Shock absorbers may also be classified on the basis of style. The different shock absorbers in this category are:
1. Heavy-Duty Shock Powered by Oil
It’s simple, really. This kind of shock uses hydraulic fluid or oil to operate. It works for large vehicles due to larger fluid capacity and is itself capable of lasting for a long time.
2. Air Shocks
Difference between an air shock model and the previous model is that the former uses air instead of oil or other hydraulic fluids that are used in conventional truck shocks. Air shocks use air pressure for the suspension of the vehicle and absorption of road impact.
3. Overload Shock Absorbers
These are engineered to handle heavy loads, as they offer cushioning and handle the weight of the car. It provides spring to ensure a smooth ride with great comfort.
4. Standard Truck Shocks
This is an automotive shock absorber model that uses coil springs, along with the leaf movement of the spring. It provides better comfort and ease of driving. It offers better damping, too. That’s the difference!
Types of Damping
By now, you must have understood what damping is. If you haven’t, then let me explain quickly. The shock performs the function of controlling spring oscillation, to reduce vibration of the vehicle. In simple words, this function is known as damping. There are two types of damping, as below:
Position Sensitive Damping (PSD)
When a shock absorber is designed with this technology, it gains the capacity to achieve accuracy with the suspension level of a surface when the vehicle is being driven. At a normal ride height or on an even surface, softer damping may provide better stability and traction.
You’ll also experience better comfort, maneuverability, and control during your ride, as the shock, beside the tires, will help to reduce fatiguing conditions for the driver. It will help the truck adjust to the road terrain automatically. This means that when you’re driving across a rough surface, it will become much stiffer.
The dramatic improvement in your control quality over the vehicle, as well as the improved speed, is because of the PSD technology of the shock absorber. It can eliminate the chassis bottom-out of the truck in case the suspension encounters a bump and a drop.
Acceleration Sensitive Damping (ASD)
Notable difference is there in ASD than the former. The use of the ASD technology set in shock absorbers can be considered as one of the major milestones in the journey of evolution of this tool’s quality. With the help of this technology, the shock becomes capable of sensing and responding to rapid changes in overall conditions of road, as well as individual bumps.
You see, the vehicle needs to adjust to road conditions when the smooth road becomes bumpy. But that is different from individual bumps which demand instant reaction and adjustment. So the ASD technology has helped the truck shock to handle such unpredicted and isolated conditions.
It contributes to the compression valve’s design. What I love is how this has resulted in giving you both comfort and control, instead of offering you a tradeoff. It also helps with reduced pitch and stopping distance when the vehicle brakes or rolls while taking turns. The only problem is that its availability is not great.
Advantages of Shock Absorbers
So, why do you need shock absorbers? Perhaps you have already understood by now that the shock plays an essential role in the truck. Let me explain why it is essential for you to invest in the best shocks:
- Safety – It decelerates the truck when needed and protects the vehicle and the driver. It’s designed to meet safety standards and reduces vibrations and shock to lower damage and depreciation.
- Maintenance – It not only makes the truck more productive but also adds to long and consistent shock life. It also significantly reduces the cost of maintenance, as well as negative effects or harmful impacts, even on the engine.
- Stability – You can expect a uniform performance by your vehicle and experience level comfort even when you drive at a high speed. You can continue to enjoy great control over your truck.
What to Look for When Buying Shock Absorbers
Now, let me quickly guide you with the set of features that you need to look at while buying the truck shock model or brand. Take a look and keep these in mind when you buy shocks:
There are different types of shock absorbers, including the mono-tube shock absorbers and twin-tube shock absorbers that I have already mentioned above. Then there’s the position-sensitive and acceleration sensitive truck shocks which are actually an improved version of the twin-tube shock. Don’t forget the coilover shock either.
2. Quality Materials
Make sure that the shock you purchase is made of top quality materials. In addition, it must also match the vehicle and driving conditions. Steel shocks are my all-time favorites because they offer corrosion resistance and are pocket-friendly, though the steel option is slightly heavier than aluminum shocks.
3. Durability of the Material Used
It’s not enough to match the quality of the shock with the vehicle or get the best material at the lowest price. You need to find out which material has greater durability and will serve you the longest. After all, the shock has to bear a lot. Pick a low-maintenance shock that doesn’t demand too much expenditure.
4. Easy to Install
If you’re planning to install your own truck shock, then you must ensure that the device you buy can pair and be installed easily. I personally like to do it myself, too, instead of playing some mechanic. If the shock needs to be customized or modified, then make sure it comes with a lift kit.
5. Compatibility with Vehicles
I remember the first time I bought a shocker and decided to replace it on my own. It didn’t fit! That’s because I didn’t check if the shock was compatible with my vehicle. Check the size of the shock and see if it matches the travel of the suspension system. It must not compress before the suspension travel ends.
6. Driving Conditions
An essential factor that drivers need to consider that the time of buying the shock is the road condition. It’s true that this is not a feature of the shock itself, but you must check if the shock you’re buying is going to be able to handle the road conditions or weather elements that you usually deal with.
7. Intended Terrain of Use
The terrain where you usually drive should impact your decision of buying the right type of shock. You should always choose something that adapts to changes in topography. You should also consider if your driving locations demand off road shocks. You’ll need heavy-duty shocks if you’ll drive along rough roads that test the limits of your vehicle.
The cost of the shock absorber will depend on a number of factors like material, tubes, etc. There are many different shocks in varied price ranges available for both the lifted truck and the non-lifted truck. The process of finding the right price is not complicated. Just compare the prices of different manufacturers and find the best.
Do your homework about the different manufacturers in the field of shock absorbers. While every manufacturer will claim to give you the best I suggest you go for established company names that have experience and expertise in the field of giving you the best truck shock absorbers.
How To Replace A Shock Absorber
Before I close today’s discussion, let me tell you, very quickly, how you can replace your truck’s old absorber with a new absorber:
Venting Shock Absorbers:
For the correct installation of shock absorbers, you must start by venting the shocks. People usually store shocks horizontally, leading to a mixture of the has and hydraulic fluid in the shocks. So, if you install new shocks without venting first, the vehicle will spring in an up and movement several times.
This is done to optimize the damping abilities of shocks. As a result, you get a hissing sound. So, to prevent the unpleasant noise and the discomfort caused to the driver, make sure to push and push the piston rod manually in the direction of the operation to separate the fluid and the gas. Once that’s done, you’re all set to replace the shock.
Replacement of Front Shocks:
- While replacing set of vibration dampers, use a transmission jack or a similar tool to provide support to the suspension system of the wheel, before you remove the front shock.
- If necessary, you may need to detach set of cables from the speed sensors of the wheels and the wear indicators of the electrical lining, as well as the brake hose from brackets.
- Now loosen up the set of front mounting bolts and remove them. Also, remove the shock from front. Pay attention to the installation instructions if you have to remove the spring strut, too.
- It’s time for the installation of the accessories in the front, supplied with the new gear. Pay close attention to the torque and secure the cables that need to remain attached.
- Put the shock absorber back to the bracket, along with the brake hose. The front shock of your truck is thus replaced safely and correctly!
Replacement of Rear Shocks:
- Before removing the pair of rear axle, use a transmission jack or any lift kit to support the chassis.
- Remove trims from the interior of the truck to access the upper mounting bolts.
- Loosen the pair of bolts and remove them and take the shock absorber out.
- Put the pair of mounting bolts back in place and install the accessory that has been supplied.
- Don’t forget to observe the installation markings and the torque.
- It’s time to instant the new shock.
Many questions come to the minds of buyers at the time of purchasing a shock for your trailer. Will a large diameter body system help pair with increased fluid capacity? Which shocks have the best reservoir models and spring coil system? Does it feature an air pump for automatic weight distribution? Should you go for polished shafts, an exhaust system kit, and multi-layer zinc finish for more duration? I think it’s a good idea to ask these and do the necessary research.
Once you have driven close to 50, 000 miles, it’s time to replace the shock absorber. Now you know about the different shock types and how to buy the best ones. Make sure to research the names and goodwill of companies, check out more reviews on Youtube and other reliable sites, and be aware of your own needs, based on the location where you’ll drive, the kind of shock your truck uses, your own budget, etc. And, if you’re a starter, I’d suggest that you take the help of an expert during your first installation. And, don’t forget to follow my tips!