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Choosing the Right Shocks

Comparing Common Performance Shock Absorbers

In this Article

There are a lot of types of shocks on the market, each applying a different method to smooth out your ride. Because there are so many kinds, it is important that you know which sort of shock to use for your style of driving. For instance, if you have a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that lives to crawl rocky trails, you will want a different type of shocks than someone with a Jeep Grand Cherokee who loves the sand - and not just because of vehicle fitment.

The purpose of a shock absorber is to dampen the compression and rebound of your Jeep’s suspension system, so your driving experience isn’t so jarring. The shocks absorb the energy of each jostle and dissipate it in the form of heat, reducing the amount of bounce in your ride. There are two primary overarching categories of shocks: gas charged and hydraulic. Gas charged shocks are optimal for high speed driving, as there is no risk of aeration (air mixing with the fluid, causing foam and decreasing performance) like there is with hydraulic shocks. However, gas charged shocks also ride more stiffly than do hydraulic shock absorbers, which can make for a less comfortable ride for someone whose Jeep sees a lot of pavement or slower-paced off-roading.

While different types of shocks accomplish that task differently, they consist of the same basic components: piston(s), valve and fluid. Basically, the piston moves with spring travel and is forced through the fluid, displacing it through small holes and creating resistance. The resistance slows down the spring, absorbing the energy of the motion and decreasing bounce. Some common performance shock absorbers include:

Twin-Tube 

Fox twin tube shocks for Jeep

Pros

Cons

  • Inexpensive
  • A good option for highway drivers and infrequent off-roaders

 

  • Fluid has a tendency to mix with air, resulting in foam (aeration), reducing performance
  • Heats up quickly at high speeds
  • Smaller size means a smaller bore size and less fluid to create resistance

 

Gas Charged, Twin-Tube

Gas Charged Twin Tube Shocks

Pros

Cons

  • Not susceptible to aeration, as the outer chamber is filled with nitrogen
  • Better / faster rebound
  • Better response to prevent “brake dive”
  • Gas can leak over time
  • Service life can be reduced
  • Can be difficult to install if axle is not drooped

 

 

Monotube

Pro Comp Monotube Shocks on 4WD

Pros

Cons

  • Can be mounted upside-down
  • Better heat dissipation, so it runs cooler than a twin-tube
  • Extra strength due to having a larger diameter piston than twin-tube
  • Greater dampening precision due to more precise manufacturing standards
  • Best performance for frequent off-roaders
  • High cost
  • Reduced travel due to system stacking

 

 

 

 

Reservoir

Jeep reservoir shocks

Pros

Cons

  • During compression, extra fluid is forced into the external reservoir of air/nitrogen, dampening at a more consistent rate
  • No risk of aeration
  • Increased travel because the piston can fully stroke through the body of the shock
  • Re-buildable
  • More valving options
  • High cost
  • More likely to leak due to multiple fittings
  • Can require special mounts for the reservoir

 

 

 

Coilover

Coilover shock absorbers on 4WD

Pros

Cons

  • Many are adjustable, allowing for adjustment of ride height as well as damping performance
  • Good for towing/load carrying because they provide extra support for your Jeep
  • Re-buildable, in most situations
  • High cost
  • Requires custom mounting or substantial modification
  • Can be difficult to tune