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Types of Shock Absorbers

Shock absorbers are available as a Mono tube design or twin tube design. The basic function of both designs is the same; oil has to pass through a constricted opening from one side of a valve to the other as the shaft moves in and out. Forcing the oil through the opening converts kinetic energy to heat which is dissipated by the shock absorber. The majority of Shocks are used on vehicle suspensions to dampen the oscillations of the springs but are also used on truck cabs, dock lifts, snow plow blades, aircraft, conveyer systems and many other industrial applications.

Shock absorber selection – to define the correct shock absorber for an application you need to have a complete understanding of the static and dynamic requirements of the application. There are many variables in a shock that can be used to modify how it functions.

Strut inserts are similar but are designed to fit inside a MacPherson strut.

Lever-arm dampers resemble hydraulic door closers. The damper, which contains one or two pistons, is fixed to the car body or frame, and a pivoted lever extends from it to the axle.


The principal design alternative to the twin-tube form has been the mono-tube shock absorber. Liftmatic does not offer Mono-tube or single tube shock absorbers.


Basic twin-tube

Also known as a “two-tube” shock absorber, this device consists of two nested cylindrical tubes, an inner tube that is called the “working tube” or the “pressure tube”, and an outer tube called the “reserve tube”. At the bottom of the device on the inside is a compression valve or base valve. When the piston is forced up or down by bumps in the road, hydraulic fluid moves between different chambers via small holes or “orifices” in the piston and via the valve, converting the “shock” energy into heat which must then be dissipated.

Twin-tube gas charged

Variously known as a “gas cell two-tube” or similarly-named design, this variation represented a significant advancement over the basic twin-tube form. Its overall structure is very similar to the twin-tube, but a low-pressure charge of nitrogen gas is added to the reserve tube. The result of this alteration is a dramatic reduction in “foaming” or “aeration”, the undesirable outcome of a twin-tube overheating and failing which presents as foaming hydraulic fluid dripping out of the assembly. Twin-tube gas charged shock absorbers represent the vast majority of original modern vehicle suspensions installations.

Position sensitive damping

Often abbreviated simply as “PSD”, this design is another evolution of the twin-tube shock. In a PSD shock absorber, which still consists of two nested tubes and still contains nitrogen gas, a set of grooves has been added to the pressure tube. These grooves allow the piston to move relatively freely in the middle range of travel (i.e., the most common street or highway use, called by engineers the “comfort zone”) and to move with significantly less freedom in response to shifts to more irregular surfaces when upward and downward movement of the piston starts to occur with greater intensity (i.e., on bumpy sections of roads— the stiffening gives the driver greater control of movement over the vehicle so its range on either side of the comfort zone is called the “control zone”). This advance allowed car designers to make a shock absorber tailored to specific makes and models of vehicles and to take into account a given vehicle’s size and weight, its maneuverability, its horsepower, etc. in creating a correspondingly effective shock.

Acceleration sensitive damping

The next phase in shock absorber evolution was the development of a shock absorber that could sense and respond to not just situational changes from “bumpy” to “smooth” but to individual bumps in the road in a near instantaneous reaction. This was achieved through a change in the design of the compression valve, and has been termed “acceleration sensitive damping” or “ASD”. Not only does this result in a complete disappearance of the “comfort vs. control” tradeoff, it also reduced pitch during vehicle braking and roll during turns. However, ASD shocks are usually only available as aftermarket changes to a vehicle and are only available from a limited number of manufacturers.


Coilover shock absorbers are usually a kind of twin-tube gas charged shock absorber around which has been mounted a large spring. Though common on motorcycle and scooter rear suspensions, coilover shocks are uncommon in original equipment designs for vehicles, though they have become widely available as aftermarket add-ons. Coilover shocks for cars have been considered specialty items for high performance and racing applications where they allow for significant reductions in overall vehicle height, and though high-quality aftermarket options with wide sturdy springs may provide improvements in vehicle performance, there is dispute over whether or not most aftermarket coilover shocks confer any material benefits to most drivers and may in fact reduce performance over original equipment installations.