Nov. - Dec. 2000 Motor State Performnace Report Article By Jim Kaekel, Jr.
Most performance enthusiasts raise the hood of their "pride and joy" at least once a week, looking for that last extra bit of performance that may be lurking somewhere. We wonder when was the last time they, instead, got out the jack and took a close look underneath the car-specifically, at the shock absorbers.
There are countless race and performance cars that make plenty of power, but many will go up in smoke because they lack a decent suspension set-up, of which shock absorbers are a key element.
The shock absorber's sole purpose is to control the velocity of the suspension movement through resistance, or DAMPENING.
Shock dampening occurs throughout the entire extension cycle of the shock absorber-which consists of COMPRESSION and REBOUND. This is true whether the shock is fitted on a daily driver running down a bumpy country road, a nine-second drag car, or a thoroughbred oval track car heading into turn one.
The extent of a shock's dampening is determined by the speed that the piston within it achieves when reacting to an uneven spot on the driving surface. The FASTER the piston moves, the FIRMER it becomes on both compression and rebound, because of the resistance it encounters as it's being forced through a reservoir of oil within the shock absorber body. Dampening rate may be built into the design of a particular shock, or it may be adjustable on shock absorbers with changeable valving.
Selecting a shock absorber for a high performance application is just as important as selecting any other component on the vehicle. It is a very specialized process and should be undertaken using qualified professional assistance.
Shock absorbers designed for particular applications-like racing-have specific dampening rates to optimize their performance under conditions specific to that racing discipline.
If the dampening is too TIGHT, the tires will not be able to maintain proper contact with the race track surface, resulting in an OVERDAMPENED shock condition. If the shock dampening is too LOOSE, the suspension will move too quickly, likewise causing the tires lose contact.
The appropriate shock absorber for any driving application will achieve CRITICAL DAMPENING (a perfect balance), and will provide just enough control without any suspension cycling. The easiest way to achieve this critical dampening is with single or double adjustable shock absorbers.
With all adjustable shock absorbers, a simple turn of a knob can change the dampening. On SINGLE adjustable shock absorbers the rebound setting can be adjusted, but the compression setting remains fixed. DOUBLE adjustable shock absorbers-very popular with all racers-are built with unique valving that allows both the rebound and compression to be adjusted. Koni even offers a double adjustable shock absorber for drag racers that features a remote control for down track rebound adjustment allowing maximum traction throughout the run.
Shock absorber selection is relatively easy and the variety of available shocks is large. Most shock absorber manufacturers' catalogs contain helpful shock absorber recommendation charts. These companies also maintain excellent tech assistance phone lines and web sites.
As you can see from the photo examples illustrating this article, Motor State is proud to carry a full inventory of all types of shock absorbers-from a variety of manufacturers-to meet all of your performance customers' needs.
Whether drag racer, dirt or asphalt oval track racer, street machine or street rod enthusiast, the proper shock absorber will not only provide better handling, but improved traction as well. It's worth the investment of time and money to give that "pride and joy" vehicle a little shock therapy!