Customers regularly ask, ‘How long do caravan shock absorbers last?’. Unfortunately, the answer is not simple and can depend on a variety of factors. Generally, shock absorbers should last between 50,000km and 100,000km but this is all dependant on influences such as terrain, wear and installation.
Firstly, it is important to understand a little about shock absorbers and how they keep your caravan on the road.
Shock absorbers are quite possibly the most misunderstood part of any caravan’s essential systems. Did you know shock absorbers help keep your tyres in contact with the ground?
Caravan or trailer leaf springs do most of the dampening, while shock absorbers improve the ride by reducing excessive bouncing.
Springs bounce at a natural frequency until their kinetic energy is entirely dispersed. Therefore, we install shock absorbers to slow down the magnitude of this bouncing motion through a process called dampening.
Worn shock absorbers lose compression. This is often due to microscopic punctures in the outer shock absorber tube caused by a sharp rock strikes at 100km or more during travel.
How long caravan shock absorbers last is a great question because it brings into play a comparison between two types of caravan owners.
The Two Main Types of Travellers
Reactive owners fix bearings, shock absorbers and other items AFTER they fail.
Proactive owners fix bearings, shock absorbers and other wearable items BEFORE they fail.
If your shock absorber is held into place with two bolts, it is a relatively easy operation to remove them. To test compression simply pull the open then push closed. If your shock absorber pulls open easily then it needs replacement.
The tell-tale signs of a worn shock absorber is the degree of stone chips. These stone chips can puncture as mention before however, they are an excellent indication of shock absorber wear.
The best caravan shock absorbers on the market are the Alko and Couplemate shock absorbers. However, there are many specific shock absorber manufacturers on the market offering non-standard height configurations.
Why are there different heights? The standard install height is approximately 300mm.
Height depends on tyre height and importantly, tent height. If higher or lower than 300mm then specifically branded shock absorbers are used.
Shock Absorber Installation
The life span of your caravan shock absorber is also highly dependent on correct installation.
Specific installation instructions do vary as the ideal shock absorber mounting position will depend on wheel size and spring type. We recommend a qualified service mechanic (either vehicle or caravan) to install shock absorbers.
However, if you are looking to install Couplemate shock absorbers ‘DIY’ you can refer to our general mounting guidelines which provide an indication of best practice for installation. Download the Couplemate Shock Absorber Mounting Guide here.
Logically, the type of terrain the shock absorbers travel through will also have a large impact on the life span of the shock absorber.
Travelling on only standard bitumen roads will minimise wear on the caravan shock absorbers and prolong their service life. Conversely, travelling for extended periods on rough and rocky terrain will increase the strain on the shock absorbers, while also risking damage to the external tube from rocks and other off-road debris.
Frequently carrying heavy loads, or driving off-track with potholes, cracks and ridges will also have the same damaging effect.
When Should I Replace My Shocks?
Couplemate recommends not to use mileage or time as an indicator that shock absorbers are ready for replacement. Instead, frequently inspecting your shock absorbers for damage or leaks is a better option. Generally, you should inspect shock absorbers after the first 40,000km of travel, and every year thereafter.
You can often notice a difference in your ride quality when shock absorbers are ready for replacement. Good indications that your shock absorbers may need some attention include excessive bouncing or sway in the tow vehicle, as well as hearing a loud bang when bottoming out over bumpy terrain.
Here is a tip, if your shock absorbers look worn on first inspection then buy a set for your next service. If you plan to install them ‘DIY’ then you are ready if they fail the test when removed. If they prove ok when tested, then you already have replacements at hand for when they fail.
Couplemate Shock Absorbers
Couplemate sells quality shock absorbers that are designed to suit standard leaf and spring beam suspension kits. The Caravan Shock Absorber kit by Couplemate is a favourite premium absorber kit used on Jayco, Coromal and a range of modern caravans across Australia.
Al-ko Caravan Shock Absorbers can also be purchased from our online store, as well as a range of AL-KO Shock Absorbers to suit specific independent suspension kits.
Looking for more information? Our article on vibration fatigue and shock absorbers is also a good read.
There are many other signs your shock absorber is failing.
- Shake, rattle and roll.
- Uneven tyre wear.
Caravans, trailers, recreational vehicles and off-road utility trailers all suffer from vibrations caused by corrugated rough road conditions which can have dangerous consequences if riding gear is not checked regularly.