If I'm to the point of needing to replace worn shocks/struts, is there any benefit to shopping around for dampers that will improve the ride, or will they all feel about the same? (For the sake of simplicity, let's assume the rest of the car is in excellent condition).

There are some things about your car that you can improve by just buying a better quality part, like tires. Spark plugs, on the other hand, are a good example of something you're likely to never notice the difference (except on the dyno or the track).

Are dampers more like tires (the right damper can make your ride more enjoyable), or more like spark plugs (so long as the job gets done, you won't be able to tell the difference between spending a lot and spending a little). And to be clear, I'm asking specifically about your typical American driver who is driving a $20,000 to $40,000 late model sedan, is never going to take it to the track, and isn't willing to crawl under it to manually tune the rebound of each damper.

  • So what ride do you expect? Long travel, soft and wallowy? Stiffer, better balance for cornering? And once you have adjusted them, you won’t need to adjust them each day so no need to get under the car often.
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 3 at 20:20
  • Just for info, the OEM spec for my car has 3 choices from comfort through to sport, which you choose depends on how you drive and how you want the car to feel. If you don’t drive fast you may still prefer a firmer ride...
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 3 at 20:24
  • I'm interested in a more general answer. If I want a soft, pillowy Buick ride, or a stiff sporty ride, can I make that kind of change JUST by changing the dampers, or is it the kind of situation where you'd have to change a lot more (like the coils or geometry) to significantly alter the ride quality?
    – Matt
    Aug 3 at 20:33
  • When I'm talking about not getting under the car, I'm not talking about the inconvenience of doing it often, rather I'm talking about the difference between the kind of driver who wants to customize, fiddle, tweak, adjust all the time, versus someone who wants to buy a part that already does what you want. The former can shop for the most customizable damper. The latter might be seriously disappointed with a fully adjustable damper that they then have to figure out how to adjust.
    – Matt
    Aug 3 at 20:34
  • 1
    Lol, yes a shop can handle what I pay them to do. I'm not asking HOW to get a particular ride, otherwise EVERY answer on this site could be "take it to a mechanic." I'm asking if choosing a particular (more expensive) damper is enough to change the ride quality of a typical sedan, or if that's only the kind of thing that a specialist would be able to pull off.
    – Matt
    Aug 3 at 20:45

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