Whitesburg KY
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Car Talk

Testing to see if you need new shocks


Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 2001 Toyota 4Runner with 160,000 miles. I also have a pop-up camper that I pull on occasion with the 4Runner. I just made a trip from Colorado up to Minnesota pulling the camper. The last 20 percent of the trip, when traveling on the interstate, the 4Runner started bouncing pretty good — so much that my daughter thought she was riding the horsey ride at the grocery store while riding in her car seat in the back. I jumped up and down on the hitch to the 4Runner, and it continued to bounce a couple of times before stopping. Do I need new shocks? — Keith

RAY: Well, let’s assume you’ve already checked the tires, Keith, to make sure they’re not overinflated.

TOM: Wait! Let’s not assume! Keith, check the tires, including the trailer tires, to make sure they’re not overinflated, because that’s a very common cause of bouncing and poor ride quality.

RAY: But if the tires are inflated correctly, then it sounds like you do need shocks. Here’s the test. Unhook the trailer. Then put a foot on the rear bumper and stand up on it, holding on to the roof rack for support.

TOM: Then start bouncing up and down on the bumper. Get it really rocking — up and down, up and down, as far down as you can make it go.

RAY: My brother finds it helps to grunt like a gorilla and scratch his armpits while doing this.

TOM: Once you’ve got it really going up and down, then, when it’s at the bottom of the cycle, hop off.

RAY: The bumper should come back up to its normal position and stop dead in its tracks. There shouldn’t be even a hint of another oscillation.

TOM: If the truck continues to go up and down at all, you need shocks. Bad shocks certainly could cause the kind of bouncing you describe.

RAY: As you might imagine, this isn’t very safe, Keith. When you bounce up, you’re not only lifting the weight of the vehicle off of the rear wheels, which com- promises your handling, but you’re also stressing the trailer hitch. After a while, that thing could break, and the trailer could end up in a different lane from the 4Runner.

TOM: So check first to make sure your daughter isn’t feeding quarters into a slot in the back seat. Maybe she HAS hooked up a horsey ride there. But if not, get the shocks checked and, if necessary, replaced right away.

• • •

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(c) 2009 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman Distributed by King Features

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