Competition Dampers

Competition Dampers Explained

A competition damper is a device used to absorb shock and damp shock impulses. It achieves this by converting the kinetic energy contained in the shock into another form of energy, e.g., heat, which is dissipated. It is also known as a shock absorber or a shock damper and is used along with springs and cushions. Usually, car spring extends to release the energy absorbed from hitting bumps at an unrepressed rate. They continue to bounce at the natural frequency until all the power is used up. The cushions help regulate the bounce rate. This is because suspensions that are built on springs only create incredibly bouncy rides. Usually, vehicle competition dampers are fitted with spring-loaded orifices and valves to help regulate the flow of oil through the piston. It explains why it is crucial to determine where the energy goes when designing a shock absorber. In most cases, energy is converted to heat inside the fluid.

To understand how a damper functions, you need to know its structure. Typical shock absorbers comprise an oil pump that is usually fitted between the wheels and the frame of the car. The upper mount is connected to the frame while the lower mount is linked to the axle, close to the wheel.

For twin-tube designs, the upper base is attached to the rod sitting in a tube filled with hydraulic fluid. The inner tube is called the pressure tube while the outer is the reserve tube. Reserve tubes store excess hydraulic fluid.

Shock absorbers operate in two cycles- extension and compression. The compression cycle occurs when the piston moves downwards to compress the hydraulic fluid in the chamber beneath the piston while the extension cycle takes place when the piston moves towards the top of the pressure tube to compress the fluid in the compartment above the piston.

Average vehicles and light trucks experience more resistance during the extension cycle compared to the compression cycle. This is because the compression cycle regulates the movement of the vehicle's unsprung weight while the extension cycle controls the heavier sprung weight.

Usually, spring-based shock absorbers use leaf or coil springs. Note that springs alone do not function as shock absorbers as they only absorb the shock but do not dissipate heat. Most modern shock absorbers are sensitive to velocity. As such, the shock absorber generates more resistance based on how fast the suspension moves.

This feature helps shocks to adjust to different road conditions and avoid unwanted movements that occur when driving, e.g., brake diving, bounce sway and acceleration squat.

Type of Competition Dampers

Most shock absorbers are mono-tube or twin-tube types with variations as to their structures.

Basic-twin Tube

As the name suggests, it is a twin-tube shock absorber that has two nested cylindrical tubes; the inner tube is known as the pressure tube or the working tube while the outer tube is the reserve tube. At the bottom, there is a base or compression valve.

When the piston is pushed upwards or downwards due to a road bump or other cause, the hydraulic fluid moves between the chambers via the orifices and the valve to convert shock energy into heat, which is dissipated. The Avo Universal Twin Tube Coilover Damper is an excellent example of a basic-twin tube damper.


It is a twin-tube shock absorber fitted in helical road springs. Coilovers are commonly used on the rear suspensions of scooters and motorcycles and the front suspensions of vehicles. Bikes are also fitted with universal dampers, which are known for better handling.

Spool Valve

This kind is characterised by the use of hollow tube-shaped sleeves along with machined-in oil passages as opposed to traditional flexible shims. Spool valve dampers are a form of universal dampers as they can are compatible with twin-tube, monotube and position-sensitive packaging.

Twin-tube Gas Charged Dampers

This kind is a little different in structure from the basic twin-tube in that a low-pressure charge is included in the reserve tube. This additional feature helps reduce aeration or foaming, a common outcome of most twin-tube dampers. Usually, the dampers overheat and fail to function appropriately, which is often demonstrated by foaming hydraulic fluid dripping from the assembly. Twin-tube gas-charged dampers are used in many modern vehicle suspension installations.

Mono-Tube Dampers

This kind use high-pressure nitrogen gas has an additional feature for reducing the development of bubbles in the hydraulic oil, which occurs when the oil is pushed through the opening. High-pressure nitrogen gas reduces the development of bubbles in the oil and improves shock performance during handling situations that involve severe abuse.

How Competition Dampers Improve Car Performance

In vehicles, dampers help reduce the effect of travelling on rough terrains thus, improving vehicle handling and comfort. This is because apart from damping spring oscillations, dampers also minimise excessive suspension movement. They achieve this by sucking in gases to absorb excess oomph from the springs. The manufacturer determines the spring rate depending on the mass of the vehicle when loaded and offloaded.





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