For many vehicles, suspension is a vital part of the car’s design. Suspension is important regardless of how smooth the surface is, but is often vital in 4x4 cars and off-road vehicles.
With that in mind, how do suspension systems work? What are the factors behind them and, perhaps more importantly, what can poor suspension systems do to your car tyres? We’ve previously looked at the benefits of a lower suspension system, as typically see in sports cars. Here, we will look at the wider factors involved with suspension systems.
The Purpose Of Suspension Systems
Suspension systems are often rather technical systems, as they have a number of goals. Primarily, they serve to keep the car wheels in contact with the road, while also providing comfort for the driver and passengers. Of course, this gives car manufacturer’s 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.
Suspension System Components
The primarily element to these systems are the springs. There are many different springs involved, but these all serve to support the vehicle’s movement. 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 cause the vehicle to sway uncomfortably. For this reason, the springs work in unison 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.
What Happens If You Have Unbalanced Or Poor 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 more erratically than you would be use to.
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-effect 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
Because of this, it’s always worth doing regular inspections. You should check shock absorbers for cracks or leaks. Likewise, 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, the 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 also be experienced 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 going off-road. This is also why particularly deep potholes can damage suspension systems, as 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. Of course, if something goes wrong, then an immediate inspection is also recommended. A great suspension system offers a comfortable driving experience, better fuel efficiency and it helps to maintain long lasting car tyres.