Leaf Springs vs. Coil Springs: Which Suspension System is the Best ?

The car suspension system is very diverse, featuring several essential components. The springs are some of the parts that make up this unit. There are two main types of springs, which are the subject of our discussion, leaf spring vs. coil springs. Besides the two, there are also torsion bars.

The primary purpose of the spring is to balance the vehicle on irregular road surfaces for the best driving experience. It works with other suspension parts to ensure the car is stable at the predetermined height and does not sag.

This article will discuss the leaf spring and coil springs to see their differences and how they work. Before proceeding, you should understand that spring is an elastic material storing mechanical energy.

What Are Leaf Springs?

Leaf springs are the most common types of springs that you will encounter. They have been around for a long time, with their use going back to the 18th century. The leaf spring has a rectangular appearance and appears arched.  This spring connects to the vehicle’s frame to offer stability on the road.

Leaf Springs

Let us look at a brief history of the leaf spring.

History of the Leaf Spring

As earlier hinted, the leaf spring has been in extensive use for a long time. You can trace early forms of this spring to France in the mid to late 1700s. This was a precursor to the modern-day leaf spring, used in horse carriages. 

A major milestone in leaf spring technology came in 1804 with the patent of the elliptical leaf spring by Obadiah Elliot. Obadiah was a British inventor and came up with the design of the full elliptical spring, consisting of two sides of metal arcs. This invention was a game-changer, evident from the smooth-moving carriages at the time.

Leaf springs are still prominent in the auto industry, especially among heavy vehicles. Its design helps in the uniform spread of vehicular weight, making it more practicable in buses and vans than coil springs. Parts of this spring include the main leaf, supporting leaves, and rebound clips. The rebound clip prevents the spring from falling due to impact.

There are several types of leaf springs, varying by their structure. The first one is the elliptical or full elliptical spring, which, as earlier mentioned, consists of two arcs joined at the edges. This type of spring is common in older vehicle models.

The semi-elliptical spring consists of a single arc of metals. You will find it prominently on trucks and vans due to its action of uniformly spreading the load’s weight. The transverse spring is similar to the semi-elliptical, only that it appears inverted. There are also quarter and three-quarter elliptical leaf springs.

Pros of the Leaf Spring

The leaf spring’s longevity in the automotive scene is due to its many benefits. One of the perks of this car suspension part is its affordability. The metallic parts are easy to get, the same as their installation. Leaf springs also do an excellent job in damping, a role mainly owed to their robustness. As a result, they are suitable for heavy-duty applications, like on trucks and buses.

This spring types also provide ample support to the axle and vehicle chassis. Another perk is their simple design, which eliminates the need for linkages.

Cons

Onto the downsides of this type of vehicle spring, you may encounter the hurdle of installation. Fixing this part to the vehicle may be quite difficult, especially if you are not a professional. Then there is the interleaf friction, which may result in a rough ride. You may notice this issue when off-roading.

The leaf spring is also prone to axle wrap, affecting components like the driveshaft, making it lose. The other downside of the leaf spring is that it may bend and lower the vehicle’s height on degradation. Such an occurrence can get into the way of the car’s stability.

What Are Coil Springs?

The coil spring is typical on most modern vehicles, mainly the smaller ones like sedans. The spring has a helical appearance and goes around the shocks or struts. However, in some applications, you have it mounted individually.

You may also find the spring is soft or hard, depending on its use. For instance, if used on a heavy vehicle, the spring will be hard to offer maximum support for the load. The coils go to each wheel, forming a central compression zone. This is advantageous, where you have a smooth ride.

While the use of coil springs dates back to the early 1900s, its prominence shot during the 1970s with the change in automobile technology. Presently, it has many applications due to its versatility. You find it on sports cars, standard sedans, vans, SUVs, and even in trucks.

Coil Springs
Image Credit: amazon.com

Pros of the Coil Spring

The coil spring offers a smooth drive even on rough roads due to each wheel having a stable central compression zone. It is one of the main reasons that you find it on off-road vehicles. In addition, installation is very more straightforward compared to that of leaf springs.

These spring types are also easily customizable as they allow for a wide range of movement. You can tune them to your preferred specification, especially when using rough roads. Coils springs are very durable, meaning they will serve you for a long time.

Cons

The main downside of spring coils is that they are pretty expensive. This is true especially for sporting and off-road vehicles as they have to be heavy-duty. The spring coils are also not ideal for heavy vehicles like trucks and buses. However, there are models in the market that can go to such cars.

Read Also: Best Lowering Springs Reviews

Leaf Springs vs. Coil Springs Off-Road

The leaf springs vs. coil springs off-road debate is a critical area to look at when picking a suitable suspension part. Both work fine in rough road conditions, though their significance shows in different areas.

For instance, leaf springs are the better option if it is a heavy vehicle. It is so because they have a high weight-handling capability. On the other hand, if you want a profound off-road experience with the upper hand in performance and comfort, coil springs are the better option. You can easily tune coil springs to the desired degree for off-roading. This answers leaf spring vs. coil-spring ride quality.

Leaf Spring vs. Coil Spring Differences

Despite having the same function, leaf springs and coil springs heavily differ. Their major point of contrast is their structure. The leaf spring consists of metal plates arranged atop each other to provide the damping function. On the other hand, coil springs have a helical appearance.

The other area they differ in is their functionality. Here, we will look at leaf spring vs. coil spring applications. You will realize that leaf springs are ideal for heavy vehicles as they can support a massive load. Coils springs offer individual wheel support, making them perfect for sporting due to their handling capability. They also do well on rough roads, ensuring a comfortable drive.

Can you use a leaf spring and coil spring at once? While they are different, there are suspension units that use both of them. Most of the time, it is in the form of a coil-over damper intended to boost the leaf spring’s function.

“Coil Springs vs. Leaf Springs for Towing”

When towing, the vehicle handles heavy loads. Therefore, it needs stability to pull through. The most stable suspension part is the leaf spring. Considering that most cars that tow are bigger ones, you will also enjoy ample weight support from the springs.

This does not imply that coil springs do not hold their ground in towing. You can tune the springs to a great degree to handle the load. In some situations, the coil spring is the best option as it ensures smooth movement of the load. Unlike the leaf spring, it is not prone to friction. The leaf spring’s plates move over each other; hence, a fast wear rate.

In summary, leaf spring vs. coil spring for towing, the latter has an upper hand.

“Leaf Spring vs. Coil Spring Suspension”

A look at the leaf springs’ pros and cons reveals that it is a stable part of the vehicle suspension, ideal for bigger builds. The coil spring suspension is also excellent for your vehicle, more so if it is a sports-oriented model. Coil and leaf springs are durable, especially if you get the part from a trusted dealer.

So, which of the two is the best? There is no definite answer to this question as each of them has an area to their advantage. For example, if you have a heavy vehicle, go for leaf springs; for rough road driving, coil springs will work well.

You may use the leaf and coil springs together, where the latter complements the function of the former. You can see this in some SUVs, where they have leaf springs and coil-over strut or shock absorber.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Which Is Better, Leaf Spring Or Coil Spring?

The leaf spring vs. coil spring debate tries to answer which of the two is the best. The go-to option depends on the intended function, as each has an area they are good. For example, if you have a heavy-duty car, pick the leaf spring due to its high resilience that helps it support the load.

The coil spring is an excellent choice for smaller vehicles, bringing excellent attributes like driving comfort and improved performance.

Q: “Can You Replace Leaf Springs With Coil Springs?”

There are several reasons why you may want a leaf spring to coil spring conversion. It is possible, though it needs some keenness as it is like changing your vehicle’s suspension. Automotive pundits recommend using both the leaf springs and coils springs for effective balance on the road.

Q: Is It Dangerous To Drive With A Broken Leaf Spring?

One of the issues that affect the leaf spring is breaking, primarily due to wearing or supporting heavy loads. If you notice that you have a broken leaf spring, replace it immediately. Some of the problems you may encounter when driving with a damaged leaf include rough driving and vehicle slanting due to poor balance.

It may also affect other parts of the suspension system like the axle and wheels.

Q: How Much Does It Cost To Replace Rear Coil Springs?

In some vehicles, the rear spring bears a lot of weight; hence, they wear out quickly. For your convenience, you should know the cost of replacing the rear col springs. The price of this part is the same as that of other coils at around $250 without labor. If you go for heavy-duty components, the cost may appreciate to roughly $50 exclusive of labor. Inclusive of labor, you may have to part with $300 to $600.

Q: How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Leaf Spring?

Averagely, leaf springs have a lifetime of 200000 miles. However, some may break down before this limit. Once the leaf springs are past their service limit, you focus on getting a new set. Here, you may want to know the price for your convenience.  The average cost of replacement is $400 to $800, though it depends on many factors like brand and location. The price is inclusive of labor.

Q: How Long Does It Take To Replace Rear Coil Springs?

If your springs wear out, you need to replace them for a good time on the road. Replacing the coils is pretty easy compared to leaf springs. The rear springs are the simplest, and it may take you 30-45 minutes to have the suspension unit in proper shape. The process may be quite challenging for the frontal springs, taking up to an hour or more for replacement.

Q: Can You Replace Just One Coil Spring?

Coil spring replacement is a crucial part of car suspension maintenance. But what happens if only one coil gets damaged? While you may want to minimize your expenses and replace the damaged one, it is not a sound move to pull. Doing so might compromise the vehicle’s balance. Driving may also be rough.

Always replace the springs as a set as they are at the same loss factor level.

Final Word

The spring is a crucial part of your vehicle, taking on the role of balance maintenance, particularly on rough roads. We look at the two popular types of vehicle springs, coil and leaf springs. Despite having the same function, they contrast in many ways. Go through the various takeaways in this article to know more about these springs.

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Tito

Hi There, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanics (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I have been working as a mechanic for over fifteen years. I worked for a long time at Global Rebound Automotive companies (Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others ) as a Mechanic and Mechanics Supervisor.

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