Today, tuning of hydraulic vehicle shock absorbers is mainly an empirical iterative process performed in time-consuming and expensive ride tests. The majority of damper simulation models is based on an abstract parametrization where the valve code, essential for the manufacturing of automotive dampers, is not modeled. However, minor changes in valve code describing the shim stack in hydraulic valves can have a noticeable impact on the damper characteristics, where the physical effects are still not sufficiently understood.Therefore, the paper presents a detailed structural, physics-based finite element model to investigate the pressure-deflection characteristics of shim stacks and the influence of specific discs in the stack. The model considers various effects like friction and preload, and is capable to predict the damper characteristics. The modeling approach has no limitations on geometric quantities like disc diameter and thickness or the number of discs; thus, millions of potential shim stack designs may be investigated to find the best combination. Short computational time and fully automated preprocessing, simulation and post processing may reduce the time for damper tuning drastically, enable investigations of tolerance influence on damper forces or application of numerical optimization for stack design. A test rig was built to validate FE meshing, contact and friction modeling by considering the resulting deflection of single discs. On the basis of four different shim stacks, a comparison of simulation data with force-velocity measurements was performed.