How Do Air Shocks Work?

Sure, there is a lot of talk about air shocks and their relevance in the air suspension system. But how exactly do air shocks work? 

This article discusses how an air shock improves your vehicle’s feel. So, if you want to learn about it, hang in there and read till the end. 

Other things discussed in this article are: 

  • How much weight can air shocks handle
  • How to add air to air shocks
  • What are the best air shocks for cars
  • How to inspect air shocks
  • How much air do air shocks hold

How Do Air Shocks Really Work?

Air shocks are a type of shock absorber. Knowing that shock absorbers help to absorb the road impact could go a long way in understanding how air shocks work. Hence, note that your air shocks are built similarly to resist compression.  

This is what happens when your car hits a bumpy road. The air shocks in the air suspension absorb the impact and compress the suspension. This is why your drive becomes smooth and bump-free. It is also why the handling feels firm. 

Your air shocks are made up of a Schrader valve, metallic fitting, and a plastic air tube. All of these parts ensure that enough air is pumped into the shocks so that they can control both impact and rebound movement. The rebounding movement affects the springs of your vehicle’s suspension. This is what keeps your tires in firm contact with the road surface to give great ride height and quality. 

So, when carrying a heavy load that puts a lot of weight on the rear, it is the air shocks that ensure that the impact is compressed. This way the movement of the vehicle is devoid of vibrations and bumps. Through this, impacts from the road are smoothened and compressed. 

How much Weight can Air Shocks Handle?

One of the many beautiful functions of air shocks is that they support the weight of the vehicle. Most car owners or drivers would mostly opt for air shocks for the sole reason of supporting weight. Luckily for these folks, the air shocks are known to handle additional weight as heavy as 1200 lbs.

Still, it depends on the air pressure in your air shocks. When pressure is at 150 PSI (recommended maximum PSI), your vehicle can take up that much additional weight (1200 lbs). Nonetheless, ensure that your vehicle’s entire air suspension system is in good shape to maintain great ride height and take additional weight. 

How to Add Air to Air Shocks 

The air shocks need air to function adequately. But how do you add air to the air shocks? 

Well, adding air to your shocks is not very technical. It could be more like pumping the tires of a bicycle. Easy-peasy. But all that is needed to do this is a shock pump. Shock pumps give high pressure in small volumes, which makes them the ideal tools for the job.  You could also use a compressor as an alternative. The goal here is low volume with high pressure.  

Before you begin, it is pertinent to check what pressure the shocks already have in them. The air shocks have one or two check valves located near the rear of your car. One of the valves leads to or connects to both valves with the T-valve at the center. If the PSI is lower than the ideal 35 to 75 PSI, then you will have to fill the shocks up. 

So, follow these steps to fill your air shocks with air. 

  • Take off the dust seal
  • Screw on the shock pump, and the gauge will pop up
  • Pump it to your desired pressure
  • Unscrew the shock pump quickly to not any lose pressure
  • Insert the dust seal

Ensure that you check out the ideal pressure of your shocks as stated by the manufacturer. Then, while pumping air into your air shocks, you go past the gauge and quickly deflate the shocks. 

What are the best air shocks for cars? 

There are several air shocks in the market, and we understand that making a choice can be stressful. Plus, you may not know what air shock would provide the best impact absorption and ride quality to your vehicle. So, here is a compilation of some of the best air shocks for your car as collated by Best Reviews Guide and Burger & Beer Joint

  • Gabriel Hijacker air shocks 

This is an air-adjustable shock that can support additional weight and maintain great ride height. HiJacker shocks have also been around for a while now which makes them trustworthy. 

  • Monroe shocks & Struts Max-Air MA700 Air Shock Absorber

These are great for easy handling and ride quality. 

  • Monroe Shocks & Struts Max-Air MA830 Air Shock Absorber

These shocks are super easy to adjust. They are also quite durable; durability is a plus. 

  • ACDelco Specialty – Rear Air Lift Shock 

This shock is modern and professional. It is also easy to adjust. 

Most times the best air shocks are dependent on the individual needs of your vehicle. But always opt for brands that are trustworthy and durable. 

How to Inspect Air Shocks

One thing that can keep your air shocks in good shape during their lifetime is inspection. Regular air shock inspection does not only help the air shocks but the air suspension system as a whole. Why so? The air suspension system is overly sensitive. Thus, the air suspension might begin to malfunction as a result of a faulty air shock. 

This is all you have to do to inspect your shocks. 

  • Check the lifespan of the air shocks

This has to do with determining how many miles the shocks have traveled. Check if the vehicle has gone past 60,000 miles. Most manufacturers recommend the shock replacement time is between 20000 and 30000 miles. Air shocks tend to get faulty when they exceed or live past their lifespan. 

  • Determine how the vehicle has been used in recent times

The use or method of usage of a car affects the overall air shock performance. Check how or what purposes the vehicle has been used in recent times. 

  • Ascertain the vehicle repair history

Has the vehicle had tire problems or general air suspension problems in recent times? If so, this could indicate a problem. 

  • Evaluate the ride quality in recent times

The major function of the air shocks is to offer the best ride quality. So, if the steering is vibrating or overly stiff, that could be a problem with the air shocks. 

  • Check for fluid leakage 

You would have to get physical with your inspection by raising the car and stooping to detect any leakage around the air shocks or tires. 

  • Listen for noises from the air suspension

If there is a problem with the air shocks, the vehicle may begin to make screeching noises. 

  • Check for cupping on the tires

Cuppings are tears or spots on multiple parts of the tires. This occurs when the tires owing to bad air shocks can withstand the bumps on the road. 

  • Determine if the car bounces or leans to one side

While on turns or curvy roads, does the vehicle lean towards one side? Also, does it bounce excessively even on smooth roads? If your answer to these is affirmative, then the air shocks are faulty. 

  • Check the rod

The piston rod of the air shocks needs to be in good shape. If the rod looks bent, scratched, or rusty, that could indicate air shock problems. Plus, it could mess up the air suspension. 

Inspect your air shocks with the above steps and if any problem is detected, do not ignore it. Air shock problems are not to be taken lightly. Hence, you will need to fix, adjust, or replace your air shocks. Ideally, installing new air shocks will solve the problem. Act swiftly before the entire air suspension system starts malfunctioning. 

How Much Air do Air Shocks Hold?

Your air shocks are mostly like tires, they need to get enough air into them to function. The beautiful thing about this is that you can add the air yourself. But the focus here is how much air can air shocks hold. 

Normally, the air shock can take up to 200 Pounds per square inch (PSI). However, the recommended minimum PSI is 25 PSI and this works best for when your vehicle is carrying a light load. For heavy loads, the recommended maximum PSI is 85. Still, the proper PSI for your shocks is between 35 and 75 PSI. 

Note that the air shock’s PSI shouldn’t exceed 150. This is for optimum performance.  Also, do not forget that your air shocks cannot be operated without air. It would ruin the suspension system. Get in at least 25 PSI into your air shocks. 


Understanding how air shocks work provides you with knowledge of how the ride quality of your vehicle can be improved. (We also have a post on using air compressors for tires). We believe this article provided key insights into how air shocks work and how air can be pumped into them. There is sincerely nothing technical about it. All you have to do is follow the steps provided. 

Also, do not forget to inspect your air shocks regularly. If after inspecting, you discover that there is something wrong, get them replaced as soon as you can. Do not compromise the safety and comfort of your vehicle. Most importantly, save yourself the extra dollar you would spend on replacing suspension parts and care for your shocks. 


  • Greg Fuller

    Hi there, it's me. Greg Fuller! I love anything auto. Cars, Bicycles, Bikes? Name it. And what ignites me the most is sharing the things I know with other drivers. And the good news is you can always come here for helpful tips on your car. Fuller Greg

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