Suspension, when referring to vehicles, talks about the rear and front springs that suspend a car’s weight. Currently, the springs used on vehicles today can be made to various shapes, sizes, types, capacities, and rates. Types can include coil springs, leaf springs, torsion bars, and air springs. Usually, each vehicle gets a set of four, but they can be paired off in multiple configurations and combinations. They can also be attached using a variety of mounting techniques.
When automobiles were initially created, most of the car’s weight was in the rear of the vehicle on the rear axle. This weight included the engine itself. Therefore, steering only required you to turn a tiller, which ultimately pivoted the whole front axle. However, carmakers started creating cars and trucks with the engine in the front of the vehicle, which means they had to create more complex steering systems, as well.
Along with such, consumers want more than being self-propelled in a moveable vehicle. They want new features, new technology, and much more. Therefore, carmakers have significantly improved the suspension and steering capacities, made advancements in tire design/construction, and have ensured that the components are more durable and stronger than ever before. This means that comfort is greatly improved while driving and drivers/passengers are safer, as well.
There are two primary steering mechanisms your vehicle can have, including the standard (recirculating ball) system and the rack-and-pinion system. Both can be manual or power-assisted.
The rack-and-pinion system was primarily designed for sporty vehicles. It’s rarely seen in larger or heavier vehicles because it requires too much muscle from the driver to get it to go and get to higher speeds. However, a workaround is power steering, which allows heavier vehicles to respond better to the steering wheel regardless of the speed, so it usually comes standard on large cars and trucks.
The Functionality of the Suspension System
Primarily, your car’s suspension system is there to make your ride more comfortable and keep the wheels of the vehicle on the road or surface on which you are driving. Most of the work is done with the springs. In normal conditions, your springs support the car’s body evenly by rebounding and compressing whenever an up-and-down movement is felt. The up-and-down movement you experience does cause swaying and bouncing after the bump, which is usually uncomfortable for drivers and passengers. Therefore, shocks and/or struts are also used in conjunction with the suspension system to ensure that most of the bumpy feeling is absorbed and not felt.
Common Suspension Problems and What to Do
In most cases, the shocks and struts are going to wear out faster than the rest of the system, which can affect your handling of the vehicle. If you notice more bumpiness when going over bumps and potholes, it could be time to have the shocks and struts checked. Along with such, another way to determine if your shocks are worn is if your vehicle leans hard during corners. Another sign of wear is if there is leaking oil behind the strut or shock.
Ball joints are also going to wear out faster than other components. You may notice that the car wanders into another lane while driving. If they were to separate while driving, you can lose control of the vehicle easily. Therefore, it is best to have a trusted mechanic or auto-repair technician check them and replace them if necessary. It is also recommended to have the shocks, struts, and ball joints checked once a year or as often as recommended by the manufacturer.