Shock absorbers do far more than just make your ride more comfortable. Shocks help keep you on the road and stop unwanted motion both in the body as well as the wheels themselves. Because of this, shocks are one of the most important and most often overlooked upgrades you can do when building an off-road machine.
Every car and truck have shocks. From the smallest smart car to the biggest of Big Foots; shocks are a way of life for every vehicle out there. Heck, most mountain bikes today even have a form of shocks to give them better control and a softer ride.
When talking shock absorbers there are two main categories to consider. First, your common on-road car or truck will have what’s called a standard monotube shock. A slight upgrade to this is the twin-tube shock, but both are still solely meant for on-road use. The second category of shock absorber is what’s known as a remote reservoir shock absorber. As the name implies, these use a remote reservoir to aid in shock absorption. To understand why this helps, let’s look at the basics of a shock absorber to get an idea of what makes them tick.
The Standard Shock Absorber
Shocks today are what’s known as hydraulic shock absorbers. This means they use a hydraulic fluid in a sealed compartment. Shock absorbers work using the idea of fluid displacement on both the compression and extension cycles. In short, they work when you hit something in the road as well as after, when the tire goes back into place.
Shock absorbers primary functions are to stop bounce, limit roll and sway, and to keep your car or truck from diving when you hit the brakes and squatting when you stomp on the gas. In short, they keep you as level as possible.
Shock absorbers are, in a manner of speaking, oil pumps. Inside you’ll find a piston that presses into the hydraulic fluid as the vehicle travels up and down. The fluid travels through tiny holes in the piston, allowing it to dampen and slow the impact. The shock is mounted to the wheel’s suspension and to the frame of the vehicle, creating a dampening effect when motion is introduced to the vehicle.
So why does it matter whether or not the reservoir is built into the shock or if it’s remote? Well, let’s look at that next.
Remote Reservoir Shocks
As a shock goes through its motions as described above it generates heat. As the fluid in a shock gets hot it starts to function inside the shock differently than when it’s cool. First, the fluid starts to foam due to the repeated use and added heat, and that foam works far differently with the piston than non-foamy liquid does. This problem known as aeration and makes the shock absorber lose much of its dampening ability. This can cause not only poor handling, but can result in damage to the suspension and to the vehicle if control is lost.
So how does a remote reservoir shock fix this? Well, the reservoir holds the hydraulic fluid until it’s needed, which means more of it is kept cool and not foamed. This also means there’s more fluid to be used in the dampening process, making it easier for the fluid to stay cooler.
This increased capacity means extended off-road trips won’t overheat your shocks and will keep your rig driving like it should.
There are two types of remote reservoir shocks, and depending on how extreme you get, either can be fine. First, there’s the type that have the reservoir fixed to the outside of the shock. This fixed remote reservoir is fine, but the reservoir is usually smaller and can sometimes get in the way of undercarriage items.
The second type is the fully detached remote reservoir shock. These shocks have the reservoir detached, only connecting to the shock itself via a pressurized tube. This means the reservoir can be mounted anywhere the hose reaches, giving you a larger reservoir and more flexibility with mounting.
So, do you need remote reservoir shocks in your truck? Well, if you plan on doing any off-road driving more than driving down a well-used trail to go camping, then you probably should have them. You’ll be safer and you’ll risk less damage to your ride.