Suspension systems are often a vital part of the car design, especially when it comes to 4x4 cars and off-road vehicles. They keep the wheels in contact with the road and, generally, control car stability.
How does suspension affect a car? What can poor suspension do to your car tyres? Let’s take a look at what roles a car suspension system plays.
The purpose of suspension systems
A car suspension is a technical system that has a number of functions. They serve to keep the car wheels in contact with the road while also providing comfort for the driver and passengers. A well-tuned suspension reduces the discomfort of riding over bumps on the road.
A lower suspension generally improves the tyres’ grip on the road, which results in higher responsiveness of the car and, consequently, more stability and safety. This gives car manufacturers a bit of a conundrum - if they design suspension to push the wheels down onto the road, this will cause the vibrations and uneven surfaces on the ground to influence the passengers. Since neither objective can be completed without the other, most engineers settle for a finely-tuned balance between the two.
Components of a suspension system
The primarily element to these systems are the springs. By compressing and extending, they can keep the car in an even position, even when the tyres are moving up and down over difficult terrain. The downside to this, however, is that the vertical movements often make the vehicle sway uncomfortably. For this reason, the springs work together with shock absorbers.
Car suspension systems and shock absorbers are vital in creating comfort for the driver and passengers.
Shock absorbers serve to reduce the shock or vibrations passed to the passengers. While many variants exist, the most common systems use struts alongside hydraulic or gas absorbers. When you push down on a car, it is the struts that prevent the car from shaking, countering the spring’s natural desire to oscillate.
Struts are used to house the absorbers and springs together. They are usually mounted on bearings to allow them to pivot with the steering system. This allows them to move with the wheels and axis, allowing for a comfortable drive whether you’re using a front wheel steering system, rear-wheel or 4x4 drive.
Driving with bad suspension
Like any other part of a car, struts, shock absorbers and springs all suffer from wear and tear. A reliable suspension system will offer improved fuel efficiency, less maintenance and well not damage your tyres. When it starts to falter, you start to lose these benefits.
For example, because the suspension system turns with the car, you can often notice the vehicle dip or sway when turning - it can even cause the car to start skewing while driving in a certain direction. The same can be said for the front dipping down (similar to a nose dive) when applying the brakes. In these instances, the suspension isn’t able to withstand the normal forces, which is why the car moves erratically.
If you have worn out shock absorbers, your springs may still work. This would result in the car shaking as you drive, since the struts aren’t able to counteract the side-effects of the springs. If this is the case, the absorbers still need replacing, as this would otherwise lead to uncomfortable cornering.
For more information on specific problems, you might want to check the suspension toe or camber angles as these can influence your drive and damage your tyres.
Inspections and repairs
It’s always worth doing regular inspections. You should check shock absorbers for cracks or leaks. Also, pushing down on your vehicle and monitoring how often it bounces will give you a working idea of the springs inside.
Always inspect your suspension system or shock absorbers if you notice a change in your car’s handling and comfort.
When you decide these parts need replacing, it is often better to get a mechanic or garage involved. This is because there are a number of different factors and systems to consider, including whether your car has a rack and pinion steering system or a traditional standard variant.
As with tyres, struts, springs and shock absorbers that make up suspension systems are replaced in pairs. This is to maintain a balanced driving experience and, as far as springs are concerned, it’s vital in maintaining the correct driving height. If the springs were not balanced, the car would be lower in one corner.
Suspension systems and tyres
If there’s a problem with your suspension, your car tyres will be the first to suffer. Since suspension is vital in keeping the tyres on the road, the wear and tear of your tyres may become uneven if the system is not balanced. This is because less responsive springs on one tyre may cause that tyre to be used less.
In fact, if you notice an uneven amount of wear and tear across your tyres, this itself might indicate you have worn out (or at least partially damaged) suspension parts. The same can happen when cornering: if the system focuses on one tyre more than another, this will wear out along the edges of the tread faster.
A poor suspension system will quickly wear out your car tyres.
Finally, it is worth keeping in mind the type of road you are driving on. A suspension system must be strong enough to withstand various road surfaces. If your system is worn out, you might not notice the difference until you move to a rougher, irregular surface, such as off-road terrain.
Also, that’s why particularly deep potholes can damage suspension systems - they often put a lot of immediate strain on one specific corner of the vehicle
Because of all these factors, as well as for your own safety, it is always worth having your suspension inspected on a regular basis. Modern systems are fairly robust and long lasting, so an annual inspection would certainly be advisable.
If something goes wrong, an immediate inspection is necessary. A great suspension system offers a comfortable driving experience, better fuel efficiency and it helps to maintain long lasting car tyres.