Are shocks impacted by weather?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 1996

Dear Tom and Ray:

My car is a 1987 Ford Taurus GL, bought secondhand last
September with 69,000 miles on it. This past winter,
whenever the temperature went down to freezing or below,
the ride became very rough, and even going over a little
stone caused the car and its occupants to bounce.

We asked our mechanic if our shock absorbers needed
replacing, and he said he didn't think that was the
problem. He said shocks aren't affected by the weather. He
didn't look at the shocks. When the temperature is above
freezing, the ride is very smooth. Do you have any ideas?
-- Eileen

RAY: Well, my first idea is that your mechanic is not the
brightest bulb on the porch. I think it IS your shocks,

TOM: Shocks ARE affected by cold weather. All shocks
contain oil, and that oil is a lot more viscous (i.e.,
thick) when the temperature is cold.

RAY: And when it's extremely cold, you certainly would
notice a harder ride. But that usually happens when it's
well below freezing. The fact that your ride changes so
dramatically right around 32 degrees makes me think you may
have water in your shocks.

TOM: If the top seal on the shock breaks, anything can get
in there -- grit, grime, dirt, even small non-furry farm
animals. And it's no problem at all for water to get
splashed up in there. And since you bought this car used,
you have no idea when the shocks were replaced last. It may
have been during Ronald Reagan's second term.

RAY: So I'd find a mechanic who's willing to at least get
under the car and take a look. Tell him you've hidden a $20
bill on top of one of the shock's towers. That should get
him poking around in a hurry.

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