A shock absorber is a mechanical device designed to smooth out or damp shock impulse, and dissipate kinetic energy.
It is a type of dashpot. In a vehicle, shock absorbers reduce the effect of traveling over rough ground, leading to improved ride quality and vehicle handling. While shock absorbers serve the purpose of limiting excessive suspension movement, their intended sole purpose is to damp spring oscillations. Shock absorbers use valving of oil and gasses to absorb excess energy from the springs. Spring rates are chosen by the manufacturer based on the weight of the vehicle, loaded and unloaded. Some people use shocks to modify spring rates but this is not the correct use. Along with hysteresis in the tire itself, they damp the energy stored in the motion of the unsprung weight up and down. Effective wheel bounce damping may require tuning shocks to an optimal resistance.