Good shocks are crucial to every aspect of vehicle operations, but they are particularly vital for off-road driving. While some vehicles come with good quality shocks from the factory, most OEM shocks are designed to be two things: 1) smooth on the highway and 2) cheap.
Simply stated, your average OEM shocks are not remotely comparable to quality aftermarket shocks. This post will talk about why.
1. Improved Stopping
A lot of people don't realize that shocks are one of the most vital components on your vehicle when it comes to stopping quickly. While brake pads and rotors do the actual stopping, shocks help prevent weight transfer.
Basically, when your vehicle brakes, it will pitch forward. While the springs in your front suspension will "fight" your vehicle's tendency to pitch forward, your shocks are key here. If your shocks are properly set up, they should provide gradual resistance to a gradual load. Unless the brakes are applied suddenly, the pitch forward should happen slowly enough for your shocks to provide some dampening. This reduces the weight transferred to the front brakes, which in turn reduces braking distance. This is exactly why a quality set of aftermarket shocks is necessary for any 4x4 doing heavy towing.
Additionally, when brakes are engaged and your vehicle has begun to pitch forward, your wheels are more likely to leave the roadway if/when they encounter a bump of some kind. A quality shock helps here too, as it's capable of dampening shock from the roadway even while it's under the load of pitching forward.
2. Improved Ride and Handling Off the Road
It goes without saying that a well-designed set of aftermarket shocks drastically improves your ride quality. However, the key to improved ride and handling is shock valving.
Essentially, valving is what controls the behavior of the shock. Valving is designed to accommodate a specific purpose (street driving, off-road driving, off-road racing, etc.), and that design must reflect:
Typical vehicle speeds
Typically, OEM shocks are valved for a new car test drive: they're designed to impress you on a little bit of stop and go, and then impress you on the highway. They're valved to deal with small perturbations - that's it.
When you take your OEM shocks off-road, they're valved too "tightly" to deal with typical off-road conditions. Hit a few bumps, and your 4x4 might be uncomfortable with an OEM shock. But with an aftermarket shock? You enjoy better off-road performance.
On the road, off-road shocks typically handle the same as OEM shocks. Even though off-road shocks are designed for more up-and-down movement, they are still rigid enough for typical road conditions.
Most OEM shocks have 2 design requirements:
Ride nicely during the test drive
Last 12 months or 12,000 miles, which is typically as long as they're under warranty
A typical OEM shock is usually ruined after 30k-50k miles of on-road use, with enough oil covering the shock body to prove the shock has lost most of its' dampening capabilities.
However, when you're driving off road, you can ruin an OEM shock in an afternoon. The reason is simple: OEM shocks are designed for a limited number of large, sudden impacts. If you hit a pothole at speed, that would usually count as an 'large sudden impact.' After a few of these big impacts, the internal components of the shock begin to degrade. Basically, one good off-road outing can ruin an OEM shock.
OEM shocks aren't designed to handle heavy impacts or heavy towing and hauling, so a good set of aftermarket shocks is necessary when you want to improve your 4x4's stopping, ride, handling, and durability.
While we're a bit biased, we recommend that anyone who buys a new vehicle with standard quality OEM shocks replace those shocks ASAP. Standard grade OEM shocks are not designed for anything more than daily driving, and even when they're used for this purpose, they don't last long.
Got any questions about selecting the right performance shocks for your 4x4? Give us a call!