A car suspension system consists of tires, springs, shafts, linkages, struts, joints, bushings, arms, and shock absorbers that connect your vehicle to your wheels in order to create a relative motion between them. This system is an important part of your vehicle that neutralizes the forces received by the vehicle while driving on the road; this makes sure your vehicle does not lift-off from the road.
When most drivers think of their vehicle’s performance, they normally think of the speed, the engine’s power or sound, and the rate of acceleration of their vehicle. All these will be of no use if you cannot comfortably drive your vehicle, and this can only be gotten as a function of your vehicle’s suspension system. Hence, the suspension system is a vital part of your vehicle.
This system enhances your vehicle’s road handling ability and also drive quality. This system ensures that your vehicle remains in contact with the road or ground and that you have control over all your vehicle as you turn the steering wheel.
This article will hold everything you need to know about your vehicle’s suspension system.
What is the function of the suspension system in your car?
The main functions of your vehicle’s suspension system are to ensure contact between your tires and the surface of the road, provide good handling and steering ability, supports the weight of your vehicle (the engine, body, and frame included), ensuring passenger comfort by dampening and absorbing the shock formed when you drive over rocky or uneven ground and also to keep proper alignment of the wheel.
The efficiency of your vehicle’s suspension system determines the amount of stress your vehicle will be able to withstand. Your vehicle’s tires and the amount of tire air are an essential part of your suspension system. Tires are the only component of your vehicle’s suspension system that comes in contact with the surface of the road. This implies that they are needed to steer and apply pressure to the road simultaneously, and they are also accountable for stopping your vehicle.
Besides your vehicle’s seats and tires, your suspension system is a key mechanism that disconnects your seated backside from the surface of the road. It also stops your vehicle from experiencing a high vibration. Despite the road’s level of smoothness, it is bad to propel over tons of metal at high speed, so we depend on the suspension systems. Individuals who travel by railway are exposed to a high vibration by the train due to the absence of a suspension system in the mechanism of the train.
A lot of modern cars have dependent suspension systems on the back and front of the vehicle, which allows the various wheel to move independently. Some cars still use a basic beam axle, but most modern vehicles use live axles. The live axles support the weight of your vehicle and move the wheels connected to it. The issue with rear tires is that they do not move on their own. They maintain the same angle with respect to one another rather than with the surface of the road.
This implies less predictability and resistance in handling. It is why independent suspension is mostly used by many automobile companies in designing new vehicles. The independent front suspension permits the front wheel to move up and down along with the strut; the spring assembly is fixed to the one side and a control arm on the other side. The movements at the various connection points are absorbed and moderated by the bushings.
The placement of each of the components in the front suspension system is vital as your front wheels need to steer and keep a uniform alignment to ensure the safe operation of your vehicle.
The rear suspension also uses similar technology as the front suspension system without deliberation in the steering dynamics because the rear wheels normally do not steer. All-wheel and rear-wheel drive automobiles have an inequality mounted to the middle frame of the control arms. While the front-wheel-drive automobiles have a simple independent rear suspension, which only needs the shock absorbers and the springs.
The springs and shock absorbers are all components of your suspension system that allows all the compressions and cushioning when there is movement in the suspension system. Springs gives the force needed to hold the sprung weight off the wheels and resist compression.
When you can drive comfortably in your vehicle, it means that your car suspension system has efficient road isolation. It also shows your vehicle’s suspension system can move freely when needed without jarring your car.
The road-holding ability of your vehicle is determined by how well your vehicle can keep good traction and a uniform weight spread when several forces are involved. To be stable when stopping your vehicle, you need a good suspension system that won’t let your front go down as you apply pressure to your brake pedal. You enjoy your ride; you need a suspension that stops your car from scooching while trying to accelerate.
An effective suspension system that will allow you to drive your vehicle with ease and comfort. So, if you experience any squeaks, excessive bouncing, oversteer or understeer traction problems, or unusual noises while driving over dips or bumps is not normal. You need to have your vehicle’s suspension system checked out right away by a mechanic.
What is the working principle of the suspension system?
The suspension system in your vehicles operates on the principle of ‘force dissipation”. The systems convert the force it receives to heat, thereby eliminating the impact that could have been made on your vehicle. The suspension system uses struts, springs, shock absorbers, or dampers to make this possible. These are major parts of the suspension system. The spring holds the force while the damper converts the force into heat.
The spring’s function in the suspension system is to store energy that is incurred from an impact when your vehicle passes through bumps. The spring stores this energy by compressing its normal size; this action converts any form of force into energy.
The amount of energy a spring can hold is dependent on several factors, including the material, coefficient, and length of the spring. The spring material is one of the factors because the quality of material used in manufacturing the spring determines if the spring will falter.
Two types of spring are used in designing suspension systems; a leaf or coil spring. The coil spring is commonly used in most vehicles, while the leaf spring is mainly used for trucks. This spring has a higher storing capacity than the coil spring. Springs helps in providing cushion. However, your vehicle might bounce while driving, making it difficult for you to drive your car. That’s why it is necessary to make sure your dampers are working effectively.
The amount of energy stored in springs needs to be channeled somewhere else. Otherwise, this energy will be released from the springs, and your vehicle might start bouncing while driving on the road. After the energy has been stored by the spring, the absorbers or dampers will begin to function. There is a piston inside the damper, which has holes and some amount of pressurized oil.
Immediately the spring passes on the energy to the damper, the piston using the spring’s energy will move through the oil and pass through the pressurized oil, heat is generated, converting the force caused by the impact to heat energy. This negates any other remaining energy that could have caused your vehicle to bounce.
Though the components of your vehicle’s suspension system have individual importance, they must all function as one so that the entire system will be able to carry out its function while driving the vehicle. Like described earlier in this article, the suspension system takes care of your vehicle’s weight, road shocks, and handling so you can have an enjoyable drive. A lot of drivers are not aware of how these functions are carried out. It is necessary to understand the principles of how your vehicle’s suspension system operates.
So, you will be able to know the actual cause of any fault that might happen in your vehicle’s suspension system.
The term ‘oversteer’ is used in describing a driving condition where your back tires get to their cornering limit before the tires in the front. This can cause the back tires to lose, which will lead to your vehicle spinning. However, oversteer has used an advantage in specific driving conditions. If you find out that the back of your car slides each time you drive on wet roads, know that it is a result of oversteer.
To avoid this situation, you need to steer into the direction of the turn and lower the speed of the vehicle by slowly releasing pressure from your brake pedals until you recover full control of your vehicle. Please do not apply brakes, as this can worsen oversteer due to a reduced back tire friction.
Understeer is the opposite of oversteer. This happens when your front wheels cannot make a turn through a turning radius due to loss of traction by your front tires. This condition will make your vehicle unable to turn, and when you attempt to turn on a wet road, your vehicle might continue moving in a straight direction instead of turning.
Understeer can be determined by the difference between your tire’s angles and the desired angle to make the turn. However, some vehicles are designed to have understeer. This is mostly because the understeer can be lowered by reducing the vehicle’s speed, which is considered a safety measure.
When your vehicle turns at an equal rate as your steering wheel, your vehicle is diagnosed to have a neutral steering condition. This implies that your vehicle will cause neither oversteer nor understeer.
This is the measurement of your vehicle’s ability to corner. The feeling you get during cornering results from a force pushing your vehicle to the outside of the turn. That’s why a lateral acceleration test is carried out on vehicles by driving on a large track circle at increasing speeds. The faster you drive around the circle, the higher the lateral acceleration you will get.
If your vehicle has high lateral acceleration, it means that it can handle effectively handle cornering. Sports vehicles are designed to have a higher lateral acceleration than regular vehicles.
How does the suspension system affect handling?
Proper functioning of your vehicle’s suspension system enables you to have full control of your vehicle while driving. Every car owner must take proper care of their vehicle’s suspension system. The suspension system is not just a common part of your vehicle’s system; it is the major reason you can handle and comfortably drive your vehicle.
If your vehicle’s suspension system has a reduced functionality in terms of driving handling and car stability. This is a result of the wear and tear of the various components of the suspension parts, like the struts, shock absorbers, and springs. This can still happen even when you drive on a smooth road only.
You need to regularly carry-out an inspection on all the struts, absorbers, and springs so you will know when to replace any worn-out or damaged suspension parts and when to get any repair done. Doing this will help prevent any chance of having a stiff suspension and premature wear and tear of your vehicle’s tires and other major suspension components.
The major roles of your car suspension system are to ensure that your tire can move on the surface of the road is maximized and provide very good handling and steering stability; this secures your vehicle as it moves on the road. Another major role of the suspension system is allowing an easy and comfortable driving of your vehicle by reducing the impact received by your vehicle as you drive through bumpy roads.
The struts and shock absorbers are also essential parts of the vehicle’s suspension system, making sure that you don’t feel the impact as you drive over bumps. Having a damaged absorbers and struts affects the ride and handling characteristics making it very difficult to drive your vehicle.
This fault can also affect the contact of your wheels to the surface of the road. Driving with worn-out struts and shocks can make your vehicle sway abruptly, making you lose control of your vehicle while driving.
These instances are part of the reasons why you need to have a very good suspension system in your vehicle. Basically, you cannot drive your vehicle properly without a functioning suspension system. If your vehicle has worn-out suspension parts, it will increase the rate at which other suspension parts will be worn-out. This can eventually damage more of your suspension system making it unable to function.
You have to change worn-out or damaged parts of the suspension system. This will help you maintain proper handling of your vehicle by providing a stable braking condition, keeping the vehicle’s tires on the surface of the road, controlling the sway, avoid bounce or squat tendencies of your vehicle, ensuring the tires of your vehicle is even and well-balanced and maintaining a proper wheel alignment.
It is important to have a good and functioning suspension system to have an enjoyable driving experience. This is also very important because it makes sure that your vehicle is safe for driving. A regular inspection has to be conducted on your vehicle’s suspension system for you to have full control and comfort of your vehicle while driving.
The steering wheel is often considered anon-direct part of the suspension system, so you need to make sure that there is enough power steering fluid in your vehicle system to lubricate and increase the effectiveness of the power steering system, eliminating any noise from steering your vehicle. Suppose you do not monitor the level of the steering fluid in your system; you might experience difficulty while using the steering wheel to control your vehicle’s direction, which can lead to very bad driving conditions.
Suspension parts names and short descriptions
There are just two major parts of a suspension system in most vehicles, taking a look at modern automobile designs. This includes the dampening and spring mechanisms. Other components make up your vehicle’s suspension system, like the suspension strut, the bushings, joints, linkages, and a few others. Here is a list of various parts in the suspension system of your vehicle:
The suspension system’s springs are responsible for your vehicle’s ability to withstand any bumps you might experience on the road while driving. The spring also provides support to your vehicle, so it can be able to hold extra weight without bending or sagging. You need to also know that the spring is a vital part of your vehicle’s suspension system that helps the system to remain at a predetermined height. Three major types of coil are used in designing the suspension system of modern vehicles:
Coil springs: The coil springs are similar to your regular springs except, in this case, it is large and constitutes heavy torsion bars. The torsion bars are coiled around its axis. This spring compresses and expands in order to absorb the vibrations from your vehicle’s wheel while in motion. Coil springs are used in manufacturing the suspension system of most modern vehicles.
Leaf springs: The leaf springs were used in manufacturing old vehicle’s suspension systems. But the best thing about using this type of spring in manufacturing suspension systems makes the system very easy to assemble. These are mainly used in the early generation of automobiles. However, this type of springs is still used in manufacturing trucks and heavy-duty vehicles.
Torsion bars: Torsion bars gives an object a twisting ability to make it behave like a spring. It is similar to that of a coil spring. In this case, the object is a steering bar, one end of the bar is linked to the vehicle’s frame, and the other end is linked to the wishbone. The wishbone is used as a lever.
When you drive over bumps, the movement of the wheel is transferred to the wishbone. This moves the torsion bar and causes the torsion’s twisting, making it behave like a spring—this system is used by some automobile companies in most European countries.
Air Springs: This type of springs depends on the power delivered by the air compression. This type of mechanism is known as an Air spring suspension. It is mostly used in manufacturing the suspension systems in buses and trucks, including most passengers’ vehicles. It is very smooth and efficient in suspension systems. The air springs largely absorb shocks and vibrations using a lot of comprehensive ability. In modern vehicles, electrical air suspension systems are designed to have independent functions, including lifting and lowering modes.
A shock absorber is a component in your vehicle’s suspension system that reduces the actions of the suspension springs while lowering the occurring vibrations simultaneously. The shock absorber transforms kinetic energy into heat energy so it can be released using hydraulic fluid. You can picture the shock absorber to be like an oil pump found between your vehicle’s wheels and frame. The top end of the absorber is linked to a piston rod.
The piston rod is then connected to a piston that rests in a tube filled with hydraulic fluid. An inner tube is used as the pressure chamber, while its outer tube is used as a reservoir for storing extra hydraulic fluid.
When you go over a bumpy road, your wheels transmit the energy to the springs in your suspension system. This energy is then transmitted to the upper end of the shock absorber and to the piston rod, which goes through the piston. The movement of the piston in the tube allows the hydraulic fluid to escape. But because the small holes cannot allow much quantity of fluid to escape, it reduces the piston’s rate.
You also need to know that there are two cycles in the functioning of the shock absorber. The first is your piston’s downward movement, which compresses the hydraulic fluid underneath the piston. The second is the piston’s upward movement; this compresses the hydraulic fluid above your suspension piston. Basically, this compression cycle helps manage sprung weight in your vehicle while the other cycle manages sprung weight.
All shock absorbers are velocity-sensitive. While you increase the motion of your vehicle’s suspension, the resistance provided by the shock absorber also increases. This enables shock absorbers to easily blend to various road conditions and to help manage or handle any unwanted movement that might happen while driving. It includes; bouncing, acceleration squatting, say, and brake diving.
The suspension struts in a dampening component of your vehicle’s suspension system that operates like the shock absorber. The suspension strut in your vehicle’s suspension system is seen as the shock absorber that has already been fixed inside the coil spring, making it become a two in one suspension components.
You need to know that your vehicle’s shock absorber does not support and manage the entire mass of your car. This is done by the suspension struts. Therefore, without the suspension struts, your vehicle will likely sag or bend.
Wheels and Tires
Your vehicle’s tires and wheels are parts of your suspension system that is located outside the system. The tires are a lot vital because these are the parts that come in contact with the surface of the road while driving. Each time you drive over bumps, most of the impact is taken by the tires. Your cornering, braking, and acceleration also have huge impacts on your vehicle’s tires. If you have a punctured or a worn-out tire, it can negatively affect your driving.
The bushings, bearings, and linkages are responsible for keeping the linkages linked to the larger components. These parts also allow some twisting and sliding movement of specific suspension parts. Because of these parts of your suspension system, the system might not need lubrication. However, the bushings can quickly wear out if they are of rubber. The joints might also lose with time.
So if you notice any problem with your vehicle’s suspension system, it might be the fault of one of the bushing, bearings, or joints.
Tie rod ends
Your vehicle’s tie rod is a vital component of the suspension system you should be aware of. The steering wheel of your vehicle is linked to the steering gear that allows your wheels to be turned by the steering wheel, and your steering gear is linked to your wheels through the tie rod ends.
The tie rod end’s design is to make sure that there is the proper alignment of your vehicle’s wheels to prevent the outer and inner edges of the wheel from wearing out. A worn-out tie rod can cause your vehicle’s wheels to start shaking.
Several rods connect the various components of your suspension system. These rods are made up of metal, which is durable throughout the lifespan of your vehicle. The only situation that can severely affect the functionality of the linkages is when the linkages are severely damaged due to an accident.
This is considered to be one of the major parts of the suspension system of your vehicle. The frame is the outside structure that lifts up your whole vehicle’s weight and load; its components included. The frame also supports the engine and body of your vehicle. A lot of other parts of your suspension system also assists in this function.
The steering system might not be one of the direct components of a suspension system. Nevertheless, this system works in accordance with your suspension system to ensure the wheels turn. The joints, wheels, linkages, and some other various components are controlled to an extent through the steering system. Each time you turn your steering wheels, it makes your vehicle’s wheels to turn simultaneously.
Anti-sway bars are not really a part of your vehicle’s suspension system. The anti-sway bars, sometimes referred to as anti-roll bars, gives extra stability to your vehicle while driving. These types of bars are used in tandem with your suspension shock absorbers or struts.
When motion occurs in the suspension of one wheel, the movement is transmitted by the anti-sway bars to the other wheel so that you can have an even ride. This function reduces the swaying tendency of your vehicle, mostly when you are about to make a turn.
Ball joints are also a component of the suspension system of your vehicle that helps to connect your steering knuckles to the control arms. The ball joint is basically a flexible joint that allows the easy movement of the movable suspension components, including the steering wheels.
Most vehicles have many ball joints assemblies in their suspension system, but this depends on the type of suspension system the vehicle is designed with. If you have faulty ball joints, your vehicle’s suspension system can fail, and this will lead to vehicle control loss while driving.
Types of the suspension system
Different types of suspension systems are used for vehicles, trucks, or other heavy-duty automobiles. The type of suspension used during manufacture is dependent on the vehicle’s design and its purpose. This is the list of the types of suspension system you need to know:
Dependent Suspension system
The dependent suspension system consists of springs, which are mostly leaf or coil spring. Linkages and absorbers are also a part of this type of system. This system has a lot of set-ups, and it is not easy to assemble. Two classifications of suspension systems are known till today; the dependent and independent suspension systems.
A dependent suspension system means that there is a beam or axle that links the left wheel to the right wheel so they can operate in tandem with one another. This type of suspension system can be made by combining either a coil spring and shock absorbers or a leaf spring and shock absorbers. This combination is what is marketed as a dependent suspension system, which is known to be durable and affordable.
The torsion beam is seen as the twist beam suspension, this type of dependent suspension system is easy to manufacture, and it requires a low budget. This system uses trailing arms that are integrated with the cross member that turns as the wheel is in motion. The torsion beam is usually found in the middle of the solid axle and the independent suspension,
This design provides a spacious cabin as the suspension system is more simple and together. It is cheap to manufacture, and it is mostly used in smaller hatchbacks and sedans.
The live axle is a driven solid axle. This means that it transfers power to the wheel of the vehicle, which is contrary to the torsion beam. Live rear axle suspensions are mostly used in the design of buses, SUVs, and some light trucks. This type of system can be sprung by either using a leaf or coil springs. You need to also know that this system is more reliable when considering heavy load duties.
Independent suspension is a type of suspension system that does that requires a bar to connect the wheels of the vehicle. Instead, each of the vehicle’s wheels has its own shock absorbers and springs; this gives the driver a more comfortable experience while driving. When part of the wheel is stepped over a bump on the road, it will not affect the other wheels of the vehicle. Independent suspension systems can be used in the design of the back or front wheel of a car. Below is an example of an independent suspension system diagram:
It is common to see this type of suspension system in most cars’ front wheel so that the front tires will be kept on the ground making sure that your car is aiming towards the right direction while driving. Over the years, various automobile industries have used different types of independent suspension systems in manufacturing different types of automobiles. The various types include;
Macpherson strut is a type of independent suspension system that uses a compression linkage or wishbone that is stabilized by another linkage. Most people see it as a shock absorber that is embedded inside the coil spring. This type of suspension system is mostly seen under front-wheel drive vehicles. The MacPherson strut is seen as one of the most efficient and less expensive independent suspension systems due to the fact that fewer parts are used during manufacture.
This suspension system is seen in the suspension system of most vehicles. It doesn’t take up a large space, so it is a perfect fit for small vehicles. It is also easier to fix than other various types of suspension system.
The double-wishbone suspension system consists of two arms that are wishbone-like. These arms are connected to the vehicle’s wheel. Each of the arms has various mounting positions; one is located at the vehicle’s frame while the other is located at the wheel. The MacPherson strut has similar features with the wishbone suspension system as this system also has coil springs and shock absorbers.
One of the major benefits of the wishbone suspension system is a rise in the negative camber as a result of the movement of the two arms. The wheel of your vehicle will keep full contact with the road while cornering; this results in better vehicle performance and handling. This implies that if your vehicle leans to one side when trying to corner, the vehicle’s wheel will remain perpendicular to the road. This makes sure your tires have full contact with the surface of the road.
The multi-link suspension system uses three or more arms connected to the vehicle’s wheel, unlike the double-wishbone that utilizes just two arms. The multi-link system is much more expensive than the MacPherson strut and the double-wishbone suspension system. It is also more complicated and difficult to manufacture. It is used in a few modern cars that use the set-up of the MacPherson strut and the multi-link suspension at the back of the vehicle. Since it is more expensive to produce, this type of system is mostly found inexpensive vehicles.
This suspension system is able to have a freer movement than the earlier mentioned independent suspension systems because of its high number of linkages connected to the vehicle’s wheel. Another benefit of the Multi-link suspension system is that it provides more options for the proper alignment of the wheel.
Car Suspension System (FAQs)
Which type of suspension is best for the car?
MacPherson suspension strut, which is a type of independent suspension, is the most widely used front suspension system in the automobile system today. European brands mostly use this. This is widely known as a shock absorber that is built in a coil spring to perform as a single cohesive unit. It is more definite in most front wheel of drive vehicles.
After various research done by several automobile industries, the MacPherson Strut has been proven to be the simplest and cheapest choice for independent suspension; this has been in use since it was invented far back in the 1940s.
How long does a car suspension last?
Like most automobile parts, the car’s shock should follow a specific maintenance pattern. The durability of your vehicle’s suspension depends on several factors, including the type and materials used in manufacturing the suspension. Expert mechanics say that your vehicle’s shock absorber has to be replaced every 45,000 to 90,000 miles.
However, it is difficult to place a specific duration to this as they are a lot of variables that need to be considered. Though on an average scale, if you have a good quality suspension system, it should last for roughly four to five years. Note that you need to regularly maintain the suspension system of your vehicle.
Is suspension repair expensive?
After long usage of your vehicle, the suspension system may need to be replaced or repaired as a result of damages, aging, or other environmental reasons. The cost of a suspension repair is usually within a range of $700-$4000. The actual cost of repair is determined by the type of your vehicle’s suspension system and the model, the manufacturing date of your car.
Your suspension repair cost also depends on the wear, tear and rust under your car, which makes the suspension repair hard to perform. For an average vehicle, the cost of repair is $150-$1000. For expensive cars, the cost of repair is $1500-$4900. If you decide to do it yourself, repair costs should be reduced to about $110 – $200.
Can you drive with a bad suspension?
No, you can’t because it is considered dangerous to drive with a damaged or collapsed suspension system; this can easily lead to sagging or noise and affect the aligning parts. The ride will become rough and unpleasant; this makes the vehicle becomes very difficult to control when there’s an emergency.
This means that the strut becomes worn out, and it even results in longer stopping. The car’s weight may shift unnecessarily and unexpectedly during braking. This may negatively affect one’s ability to stay in control of your car when driving, which is a result of the bad suspension causing a break in the wheel or a flat tire. Driving with a bad suspension (strut) can lead to an accident.
How long will it take to change a suspension system?
Replacement of suspension varies with different mechanics; it depends mainly on the knowledge and level of expertise and also the understanding of that part of the vehicle.This is very important because of the system’s complexity. However, replacing a single set of suspension system takes about 3-4hours. But have in mind that repair varies drastically in time as much as it can in the cost of repair.
How much does a suspension inspection cost?
If you decide to carry out this process yourself, an inspection of a suspension system will cost about $100-$300. Suspension inspection is carried out bychecking the bushes, shock absorbers, and other components.
A road test is also done to check for noises or excessive body roll, so for this to be carried out, charges for inspection raises to $300-$500. The price also depends on what part of the suspension system needs to be inspected, e.g., shock absorber inspection causes $100-$700. Suspension bush inspection cost between $100-$300.
How do I upgrade my suspension?
If you have a mechanic tools box, suspension upgrade is simply done by adjusting suspension settings, which are shocks, leaf springs, switching to bigger wheels, torsion bar, lift kit, strut braces, mostly indifferent racing environments. This can be done by adjusting the anti-roll bar in your vehicle, which are also called blade adjusters. Potentially, a lever is found in the vehicle, and it can be manipulated to adjust the setting of anti-roll bars. For a successful suspension upgrade
Upgrading of the suspension system can be in different forms. The main aim is to reduce or stop ride height, improve center of gravity, transitional weight transfer under acceleration, downward movement, and cornering loads. Upgrade suspension is done by upgrading the full suspension system or making sure that the full package is faultless.
That’s all you need to know about yourcar suspension system. We hope that this has been able to give you a broad insight regarding this topic. However, you can still drop a comment to us if you need more clarification on any aspect. Make sure you check your vehicle’s repair manual before conducting any form of repair and if you do not understand the technical know-how, make it a job for your mechanic.