Go beyond the ‘bounce test’ to check for damper leaks and broken springs

Mechanic replacing damper spring

Almost ‘hidden’, unless you read each line of a Mr Clutch Autocentre comprehensive servicing checklist, writes Iain Robertson, it is an unfortunate fact of modern motoring life that dampers and springs wear out and even break without warning.

Driving along quite normally there can be nothing more likely to cause you to wince and even curse aloud than striking a pothole. The government has instigated a pothole repair programme and local social media can forewarn you of the worst troughs and gullies to avoid. However, it never lessens the impact, or the on-costs.

Our vehicles need working springs and dampers to provide them with consistent handling, positive braking, accurate steering and ride comfort. The springs, whether they be of coil, or leaf types, absorb the energy created by a road surface imperfection; the dampers stop the oscillation, the bouncing up and down, of an undamped spring. When new, they work together efficiently to iron out nasty bumps in the roads and to maintain vehicle stability and comfort.

When worn, they can cause each suspension, wheel and tyre combination to behave in an erratic manner, which can make the vehicle’s handling very challenging and potentially unsafe. Without the pothole problem, your car’s suspension system could last for years without failure. However, hitting a pothole can break the oil (or gas) seal on a damper, causing it to lose the lifeblood it needs to smooth out rough surfaces. In the worst cases, pothole damage can result in a broken spring as well.

When you take your vehicle to a Mr Clutch Autocentre for a service, our team will subject it to a very extensive series of tests both physical and visual. The Mr Clutch technician needs to know which items need attention, repairs, or replacements. A few years ago, the ‘bounce test’ was a physical means of checking a car’s suspension but it is less easy to obtain a result from it these days, as vehicle suspension systems are more complex and much firmer than they used to be.

Yet, a more thorough investigation will reveal damper leaks and spring breakages, which can also be noticed by uneven tyre wear, wheel rim damage, and worn suspension joints, when the vehicle is inspected on a ramp. You may have noticed a difference in steering wheel reactions, or when driving at night-time, when the headlamps may seem to be ‘bouncing’ a lot more. Worn dampers also extend safe stopping distances by a considerable margin.

Naturally, Mr Clutch Autocentres understands the sequence of events and behaviour patterns that can occur from worn, or damaged, springs and dampers. It has also noticed that repairs and replacements are required more frequently over the past few years than ever before and, apart from being more aware while driving, there is often little that you can do to avoid the damage caused by road surface imperfections.

The important aspect of which to be aware is that the safety of you and your vehicle’s occupants will be less compromised, when its springs and dampers are working harmoniously as they should. However, if you do strike a pothole and fear that some damage may have occurred, as long as your vehicle is still drivable, do so carefully and pop into your local Mr Clutch Autocentre, for a member of staff to take a look. Do NOT wait for a service period to arrive.