There comes a time to replace your shocks or to install shock upgrades in your truck. This is especially true if you want to improve the off-road handling or load handling of your truck.
Shock absorbers are simple tubes with pistons that work against the hydraulic fluid. Tiny holes in the piston rods allow hydraulic fluid to slip buy at a slow rate, dampening the vehicle’s movements. This helps them work against the truck’s suspension system to increase tire-to-road contact.
You can instantly identify a vehicle with worn shock absorbers as they tend to “float” around the road, and each bump is more impactful.
These shock absorbers will increase the comfort of your ride and improve the road-handling skills and safety of your vehicle.
When you install a lift kit on your truck, you’ll need longer shocks that are designed to work with your truck’s new handling characteristics.
The Best Shocks for Trucks For Road Handling
Bilstein 5100 Series Rear Shock Absorber
Bilstein makes some of the best shocks for trucks on the market. Bilstein has set the standard, leaving brands like Fox to try to catch up. They continue to be one of the best brands that you can invest in.
Bilstein’s B8 5100 series is the upgrade on their long-running 4600 series.
There are a few reasons to go with the 5100. For one, it is adjustable for lifted trucks. These ride height adjustable shocks let you set the proper seat position for your vehicle. This lets you provide between 0 and 2.75 inches of lift for your truck. You don’t have to jury rig it with shocks extensions as you do with the 4600.
Using the monotube shock absorbers design, they will fit into the same spot as your old shocks, but greatly upgrade the smoothness of your ride. The interior of the shocks has a 46mm piston that self-adjusts based on the road that you are on. This helps to smooth your ride when you upgrade from OEM.
The Bilsteins are right in the “sweet spot” of value for your budget if you are looking to upgrade your ride quality.
The ride quality improvement is noticeable, even over new OEM shocks.
Installation is easy. You are just undoing two bolts and then slipping this one. It helps if you can jack the car frame up so that you have a straight shot.
Use a block of wood to compress the new Bilstein shocks by hand, and it will slip right in.
Because these are heavy-duty shocks, they are slightly harder to compress. However, they give you a super-soft ride except when you hit a bump. Then, they react quickly and provide that dampening effect you want for a comfortable ride.
You’ll spend a little more for these than you would for an OEM replacement. However, they are well worth the investment.
The link above takes you to Buy Auto Parts. When possible, I like to shop for my car parts from them as they have a handy product selector that matches the product to your vehicle. You can also call them and make sure to get the right one for your vehicle. There is less chance of getting the wrong part as can happen you buy from a place like Amazon.
These come with a one-year standard warranty, but there is the option to purchase an extended warranty at checkout.
Fox 2.0 Performance Coilovers Shocks
Most of us grew up with Fox shocks on our bikes and watching our heroes compete under the Fox flag.
The fact that they have taken all of their dirt-biking experience and rolled it into a truck shock absorbers design is quite exciting to me.
I’ve linked it to a complete kit above. You get the front coilovers for better handling and steering, and then the combination of the rear shock absorbers for working with vehicles that have front struts. They have them for other models, so just switch over to the right model to get yours.
You can simply bolt these onto your truck and instantly level them front-to-rear. Or, you can also adjust the preload to get the response you are looking for. This is especially handy if you are frequently on rough gravel roads.
The other feature that Fox is proud of is its Internal Floating Piston that separates the hydraulic fluid from the nitrogen-charged gas chamber. This keeps the oil from getting aerated and improves the life of the absorbers.
This is more of an off-road shock. If you are doing a ton of high-speed off-road, you’ll appreciate the aluminum body that helps it shed heat and protects the internal from failure under high-friction conditions.
They also offer one of the best models for high-lift trucks.
These are direct replacements to your stock shocks. Just bolt them and go.
These slightly stiffen the ride compared to stock shocks, but not enough that your passengers will comment on them. When you go over the bumps, you’ll notice less bed-hopping, and you feel very planted and secure. This is especially noticeable when you are cornering.
When going over big bumps, it will help decrease the number of times that your truck’s bump stocks are engaged.
Bilstein 4600 Series Shock Kit
The Bilstein 4600 series shock absorbers has been the clear winner for heavy-duty use. Until the 5100 series hit the market, the 4600 series was the top choice for folks who were looking to add a lift kit. You had to add a longer stem on end or a lift kit extension block, but it was the standard way of doing things.
If you still want to go with the 4600 series shock for a lift kit, Supreme Suspensions has an affordable, all-in-one kit that I would go with.
The downside of using 4600 series on a lifted truck is that you have to add more weight to the shock absorbers and the leaf springs from all of the adapters. This tends to
If you aren’t looking to go with a lifted truck, you should strongly consider the Bilstein 4600 series. The interior of the shock absorbers is very similar to the 5100 series, so performance should be similar. If you want to improve your highway handling features, the 4600 is a good one for that.
They also noticeably improve vehicle performance when going over speed bumps and into uneven driveways. This lets you get off the road more quickly in rush hour and keeps you from scraping bottom when you find yourself on an unruly gravel road.
Something I have seen a lot of is folks going with the Bilstein 5100’s on the front and then the 5160 reservoir shocks or the 4600 struts on the rear.
Frankly, for highway driving, I’d just go with the Bilstein 4600 series all around. This will give you an extremely smooth ride in your truck, while still leaving enough money for your next toy.
Monroe 911533 Shock Absorbers
If you are looking for a cheap truck shocks to replace the ones that have 250,000 miles on them, this Monroe Light Reflex shock absorbers should be a top contender.
They are competitively priced but offer a lot of ride handling improvement.
For one, expect these shocks to be a little stiffer than the Bilsteins. These are going to ride more rigidly, as you would expect from a truck shock absorbers. This gives you excellent handling when under a full road and strong handling abilities when cornering.
The patented hydraulic lockout helps to provide a smoother ride when you are pushing the shock absorbers to its limits.
These use a nitrogen charge to deliver the gas shock air ride experience without requiring an onboard air tank. This sealed design also may give you fewer problems with leak downs over time and a longer lifespan (fewer points to fail).
One of the big selling points on these is that they were designed for the do-it-yourselfer to install. They come pre-compressed with a nylon strap that holds them into position. Once you get it installed and lined up in your truck, you just cut that nylon strap to let it lock into place.
A lot of folks upgrade their trucks to this around the 100k mileage mark, and the improved ride quality from these makes your vehicle feel like a million bucks.
If you are frustrated that your truck no longer rides like new, take a weekend and slide a couple of these in.
Monroe Gas-Magnum Truck Shock Absorber
If the Light Reflex model is too stiff for you, this gas-magnum model is going to give you that plusher ride that you are looking for.
What I like about these shocks is that they have managed to create a true reserve shock inside a tiny space. You have a one and 3/8-inch bore, which gives you good hydraulic dampening when going over bumps. This gives you that smooth ride that you want on SUVs.
But then, there is a 2-inch reserve tube that holds added hydraulic fluid. This provides a constant flow of protection that keeps performance consistent over long, bumpy trips that might exhaust other absorbers.
However, you get that built-in reserve tube. The other manufacturers tend to use twin-tube shocks for the reservoir, but that limits you on where they can be installed. This makes this one a perfect replacement for most OEM shocks.
Monroe 58640 Load Adjusting Shock Absorber
If you’ve been frustrated by how your truck handles when towing, these rear shock absorbers replacements are an easy way to upgrade that.
This one is unique in that it has the Coilover the shock absorbers, but for rear shocks, the length and fit are identical, making it a perfect fit. These are so easy to swap, you just have two bolts to pull out and replace.
They’ll lift the back of the truck up about an inch, but they also decrease the sag when you are hooked up to the trailer.
These Coilover shocks are going to give you a slightly stiffer ride than stock, but they can decrease your need to use anti-sway bars on some loads, and decrease the amount of sway and improve the contact of your front wheels with the asphalt.
In my opinion, this is the best shock absorbers for towing.
Gabriel 43163 Rear Spring Assist Load Carrier Shocks
I wanted to include another overload shock absorbers for those of you who do a lot of towing.
Keep in mind that these don’t technically increase the payload of your truck. However, they can unlock the performance of your vehicle and give you better handling when you are operating at maximum gross vehicle weight.
As with the Monroe’s, this uses a coil-over the shock design for greater response when under load. They also do a lot to reduce sag.
The chromed piston rod reduces corrosion and provides a longer lifespan. Gabriel recommends them for 50,000 miles.
They will feel stiffer than your stock shocks, and unless your existing shocks are worn out, you may not notice a large improvement. However, once you get a load on them, the improved handling makes you a much more confident driver.
When compared to the other options, these are an extremely affordable way to stop your truck from squatting.
KYB MonoMax Gas Shock 565104 Red
These stylish red KYB shocks are a fun upgrade. If you have a high center of gravity or are wanting to go off-road, this is an excellent upgrade.
Since it is a monotube design, it has a wider area for a bigger piston. This gives you better control over the shock absorbers. The hydraulic fluid only area gives you maximum flow control gives you improved responsiveness, and the nitrogen gas chamber improves performance in harsh conditions providing up to 40% more dampening. The body roll is quite a bit less do to this bigger diameter.
The thick cylinder walls help to protect it from rocks and other flying debris.
Folks often use this as an off-road shock absorbers. If you don’t want to mess with a gas-adjust shock, this gives you a hands-free performance that doesn’t need constant management.
This is a Japanese-made shock absorbers and makes it a better option in that they tend to last a long time.
If you have to slow down on the way home for washboard roads, these will instantly tame them. You get a nice soft ride that responds quickly to the rough conditions for quick dampening.
I feel that these are a strong contender for improving the performance on occasional off-road riding.
Monroe Max-Air Adjust Shock Absorber
The shock absorbers that you choose should be dependent on the type of driving that you hope to do.
This Air Max rear shock absorbers is designed for trucks that have heavy payloads or are frequently used for towing trailers. The oversized 1/2-inch piston rod is hardened for years of use. Internally, an all-weather fluid lubes the components as you drive.
By leveling your loads when towing, the shocks will let you travel more quickly, thanks to the improved handling of your truck.
The full displaced valving provides better valving when fully compressed or fully extended — two areas where other brands tend to struggle.
Thanks to the external pump adapter, these can be inflated or deflated to meet that need.
When you hook up to your load, you can use an onboard air compressor to level your vehicle.
This creates smoother handling and makes it safer to haul heavy loads.
These shocks do require air at all times. You’ll want to also purchase a 12v onboard pump with air tank that you wire into your vehicle near the shocks.
Folks are getting very creative with these Max air shocks. They’re putting them on motorcycles, golf carts, and even their own mustangs for leveling out the rear end and preventing tire rubbing. Anywhere you want that gas shock ride, these are highly adaptable.
If you frequently haul a heavy payload and want to stop the vehicle fast when loaded, the shocks will definitely help. They are vehicle specific, so after you click the link above, adjust the search to your vehicle and make sure that you’re getting the correct part number for your vehicle type.
ACDelco Original Equipment Shock
I wanted to include these here. A lot of times, you simply want identical replacement shocks for your truck. If you feel your old shocks are starting to lose their performance and it is time to upgrade them, then this OEM option is what you want.
The quality of these is top-notch. After all, most vehicles go a lifetime and never have their shocks replaced. These are the ones to go with if you want to get back to true factory performance.
If you are getting a dashboard error code for bad shocks, these can be the right option as they plugin just like the old ones did. These will remove the float and the diving under hard braking.
You’ll need to purchase two of these if you want to replace both sides. They come with the standard 12 months/12,000-mile warranty.
Shock Absorber Buying Guide
When buying your shocks, there are a few factors you can learn about to improve the likelihood of getting the correct shock absorbers on the first try. This buyer’s guide will summarize those features.
Types Of Shock Absorbers
Here are a few of the most common shock absorbers types and general suggestions on their uses.
- Twin Tube – Most stock shocks are twin-tube. This means that there is a smaller tube that contains the piston and that one is surrounded by a larger reservoir tube.
- Twin-Tube Gas Charged – This upgraded model adds nitrogen gas to the reservoir tube. This decreases the amount of foaming that can occur and provides more consistent performance over long, bumpy stretches.
- Positive Sensitive Damping – These PSD shocks are the next evolution. They include a large free zone area where the piston can move smoothly, providing a comfortable ride under normal road conditions. A good example of this is the Bilstein and KYB shocks above. Then, at either extreme of the shock is a “control zone” with extra dampening. This helps the shock absorbers to provide tighter control when hitting a rough area.
- Acceleration Sensitive Dampening – This is the next iteration and helps to remove the old trade-off between comfort and control. The only shocks that I have been able to find which advertise this are the Monroe 15301’s, which are offered for vehicles that need strut assemblies replaced.
- Coilover – I only included one Coilover shock on this list. These are a twin-tube or monotube gas shock absorbers, but on the outside is an added spring. These provide aggressive, additional dampening in severe conditions such as when going off-road or towing.
- Monotubes – These were initially invented by Bilstein and provided two chambers stacked on top of each other. This allows the manufacturer to hyper-charge the nitrogen chamber, allowing the gas pressure to play a bigger role in the performance, providing more of an “air-ride” feel. This also allows the shock absorbers to provide better dampening and prevents the nitrogen and the hydraulic fluid from mixing.
We didn’t include any on this list, but many of the high-end shocks have an external reservoir tube which allows for better heat dissipation on heavy, off-road use.
For most of us, we’re limited by the amount we have to spend.
Spending more doesn’t necessarily result in better ride quality.
It’s common to spend at least $200 or more per each OEM shock, depending on where you buy them. Spending on even more does not matter.
You can overspend on shocks. Frankly, I think anyone of these is an excellent choice. The Bilsteins are understandably my favorite, but I also love the Coilover Monroe shocks for improving your pickup truck’s towing. And they KYB’s have stellar potholes capabilities.
When you compare pricing, the market does a good job of creating an innovative design.
What Road Conditions Will You Be Driving On?
Already, you have a strong idea of what are the best types of shocks for the road conditions that you are going to be driving on. For example, the classic Twin Tube design is perfect for handling regular, asphalt road driving.
However, the Monotubes with an external reservoir tank is the industry standard for off-road driving. A lot of people add the external reservoir to improve performance. A monotube with a Coilover is unique, and something like the FOX 2.0’s offers the best of all features.
For pickup trucks, there are also load-living shocks that are specifically designed to improve the handling of the truck when under load.
The type of bushing has a massive impact on the sound quality of the shock absorbers. If you connect with cheap or used bushings, they tend to make extra clunking noises.
High-end models tend to use a composite bushing that is designed to deliver a quieter ride.
At most, these shocks generally only have a one-year warranty. Some of these have less than a 90-day warranty. That is one reason why I like buying from Buy Auto Parts when possible as they sell an extended warranty.
Some of the high-end Bilstein shocks have a lifetime warranty.
Best Shock Absorber For Your Use Type
- Standard Pickup: Original OEM shock, Twin-Tube Shock, or Monotube
- Off-Road Truck: External Reservoir Monotube Shock Absorber
- Lifted Off-Road Truck: Coilover Monotube Shop (Like Bilstein 6112)
- SUV: Twin Tube Shock or Original OEM shock
- Towing: Overload Shocks
How To Know That Your Truck’s Shock’s Are Bad
Some folks recommend replacing shocks every 65,000 miles — or about once every five years. However, I’ve known vehicles to last much longer than that.
When you are loading your truck down all the way, you might need to replace them more quickly.
Symptoms of a bad shock absorbers include excessive floating when you hit a bump, more roughness, and bouncing when going over a speed bump, and difficulty when going around a corner from excessive lean.
Poor shocks and an overloaded vehicle are a dangerous combination that can lead to rollover accidents.
The Bilstein, Fox and Monroe shocks all offer different options for your needs. For most of the daily driving SUV’s and trucks, I like the Bilstein 5100’s. For those trucks with heavy loads, I’d go with the Monroe 58640 Load Adjusting shocks in the rear. And for off-road use, I’d grab the FOX 2.0’s.