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How Do Shock Absorbers Work in Construction Equipment? Limiting Excess Vibration in Your Fleet

How Do Shock Absorbers Work in Construction Equipment? Limiting Excess Vibration in Your Fleet

The underside of a chassis for a wheeled machine

How Do Shock Absorbers Work in Construction Equipment? Limiting Excess Vibration in Your Fleet

Reading time: 6 min

One of the most significant challenges for heavy construction equipment is the constant exposure to shock and vibration. These forces stem from several sources such as the impact of carrying heavy loads, the vibrations created by the machine’s engine and the repetitive motion of attachments like hydraulic breakers.

The need to manage shocks and vibrations is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there’s the health and safety of the operators. Prolonged exposure to vibrations can lead to a host of physical ailments, affecting operator effectiveness and well-being.

Secondly, the machinery itself can suffer if shocks and vibrations are not adequately managed. Components can become loose or damaged, leading to increased maintenance costs and downtime. This is where shock absorption becomes crucial.

Shock absorbers and other vibration-damping components are integral to the design and function of heavy equipment. These components are designed to absorb and dissipate the energy generated by shock and vibration, reducing their impact on the machine and its operators.

In this article, we’ll explore how shock absorbers work in construction equipment and why they’re essential for the construction industry.

Understanding the Fundamentals of Shock Absorbers in Construction Machinery

Managing shock and vibration in construction machinery is primarily about managing kinetic energy (energy of motion) by converting it into potential energy (stored energy), which is then safely dissipated. 

Shock absorbers play the key role of taking the kinetic energy generated during operation and converting it through mechanisms like spring compression or hydraulic fluid resistance. This energy conversion reduces the impact of shock and vibration on both the machine and its operator.

The suspension systems in construction equipment differ from those in cars since they’re designed to handle heavier loads, more rugged terrain and more intense vibrations. This makes them uniquely suited to the demanding conditions of construction sites, unlike the handling-focused systems found in cars.

Types of Suspension Systems

Traditionally, heavy equipment suspension systems have been either extremely basic or non-existent altogether. In recent years, however, suspension systems for heavy equipment have become more advanced and effective. 

Here are some common types of suspension systems used in heavy equipment:

Leaf Spring Suspension:

Leaf spring suspension systems consist of several layers of metal (leaves) bound together to act as a single unit. They are known for their durability and ability to handle heavy loads, making them ideal for larger equipment. The leaf springs absorb and dissipate the energy from road shocks, but they are less effective in providing a smooth ride compared to more modern systems.

Torsion Suspension:

Some models of tracked heavy equipment feature suspended undercarriages, which utilize torsion suspension. This system uses a torsion bar, a type of spring, to absorb shocks. Torsion bar suspensions are compact and provide good ride quality, but they may not be as durable under extremely heavy loads as other designs.

Hydraulic Suspension:

In hydraulic suspension systems, hydraulic fluid is used to absorb and dampen shock impulses. This type of suspension offers a high level of shock absorption and ride comfort. It is commonly found in more advanced and expensive construction machinery. The system can adjust to varying load conditions and terrain, offering superior ride quality but at a higher cost and complexity.

Shock Absorbers

Shock absorbers play a critical role in mitigating the impact of shock and vibrations at key points throughout heavy equipment. Here are some common types of shock absorbers.

A pair of black telescopic shock absorbers stacked on one another
Telescopic Shock Absorbers

Telescopic shock absorbers are the most widely used type in construction machinery. These are essentially hydraulic damping units that consist of a piston moving inside a sealed, oil-filled cylinder. They work by forcing hydraulic oil through small holes and valves within the piston, which provides resistance to movement and thereby dampens vibration and absorbs shocks.

In construction machinery, telescopic shock absorbers are often found in both the front and rear suspension systems, especially in wheeled equipment like loaders, backhoe loaders and off-road trucks.

A black strut shock absorber with a gray spring around it
Strut Shock Absorbers

Strut shock absorbers, commonly known as struts, combine the functions of a shock absorber and a structural support. They include a coil spring and a shock absorber in one compact unit.

Struts provide structural support for the vehicle's suspension, carry the spring and mount the tire. Their primary function is to act as a dampening device, absorbing shocks from road irregularities, while also providing support to the vehicle's structure.

They are typically located in the front suspension of wheeled construction equipment. In some equipment, they can also be found in the rear suspension.

A pair of silver shock absorbers with yellow springs around them
Spring Shock Absorbers

Spring shock absorbers use a spring mechanism, such as a coil spring or leaf spring, to absorb and dissipate energy from shocks.

The primary purpose of spring shock absorbers is to absorb the energy from road irregularities, preventing it from being transmitted to the equipment and its occupants. Springs allow the machine to navigate uneven terrain by compressing and expanding to absorb the motion, which helps maintain tire contact and machine stability.

In construction machinery, spring shock absorbers are located between the machine's body and its wheels. Coil springs are typically found in the suspension systems of lighter construction equipment, while leaf springs are more common in heavier machinery due to their greater load-bearing capacity.

Maintenance of Shock Components

Early signs of shock absorber system issues often manifest as abnormal noises such as clunking or banging, especially when operating over rough terrain. Excess vibration or a noticeable decrease in handling stability can also indicate internal problems.

Long-term neglect of excess vibration in construction machinery can result in structural damage to the equipment, increased mechanical wear, and potentially hazardous operating conditions. It can also lead to premature failure of other critical components such as hydraulic systems and joints.

When diagnosing and addressing issues, start with a thorough inspection of the shock absorbers, checking for leaks, corrosion and damage. Assess bushings and seals for wear and replace if necessary.

The most commonly replaced parts in the shock absorption systems of heavy construction equipment include the shock absorbers or dampers themselves. Regular maintenance and early detection of these issues are key to maintaining the operational integrity of heavy equipment.

Final Thoughts

Effective maintenance of shock and vibration systems is crucial for the longevity and efficiency of construction equipment. These systems not only preserve the mechanical integrity of heavy machinery but also play a vital role in ensuring operator safety. If you need to replace the components on your machine, check out the EquipmentShare Shop. Our extensive online parts catalog will help you get your equipment back on the job. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Reach out to our dedicated parts experts for personalized assistance. 

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