Even if your vehicle is full of exciting features and brand-new technology, there is nothing more important than maintaining a comfortable ride, the ability to drive in a straight line, or stopping on command. Your car’s suspension system is responsible for all of these and helps keep you safe on the road.
No matter what type of suspension may be built into your car, the purpose of them all is the same – provide a smooth ride over any terrain, improve handling on turns, and provide the necessary traction to your tires. Let’s take a look at how a suspension system operates.
How does a suspension system work?
Your vehicle’s suspension system acts like a cushion against potholes, rough roads, or other terrain irregularities. Anytime your vehicle goes over a bump, energy travels through the tires and wheels. A good portion of that energy is absorbed by your suspension, so the energy you feel from the driver’s seat is very minimal. Without your suspension, the force of every bump would have you bouncing around all over the place.
Your suspension also keeps your vehicle stable when performing turns. Whenever you complete a turn, there is a force created that would otherwise throw your vehicle off center. As the car body leans to one side when you turn, the suspension system shifts to compensate, reducing body roll and keeping your tires planted to the road. Your suspension also adds stabilization while accelerating or braking, since the weight of your vehicle shifts during these movements. This works by reducing the amount of lift created on either the front or rear of the vehicle when you accelerate or brake hard. Without this, your brake power would be significantly hampered when braking hard.
Parts of a car suspension
There are several different kinds of parts that go into a suspension system. The suspension system incorporates the vehicle frame, steering system, wheels, and tires. Major components of a vehicle’s suspension includes the springs, dampeners, and the anti-sway bars.
The springs are the cornerstone of your vehicle’s suspension system. Their job is to support the vehicle’s weight, prevent the vehicle from bottoming out, and provide room for the wheels to move. There are several different types of springs that may be included in your suspension system.
The coil spring is the most common type of spring that you will find in a suspension system. It is a simple component – just a piece of steel wound up into a coil shape. It will compress and expand as you drive over bumps or other rough terrain.
Leaf springs are comprised of many metal “leaves” that are stacked together to form a single spring component. This allows for more weight support without adding to the vehicle’s ride height. Leaf springs are common in trucks and some high-performance vehicles like sports cars.
Air springs are cylinders filled with air that are located between the control arm and car body. A rubber compressor fills the spring with air which props the vehicle up. The air absorbs energy from the wheels to reduce bumpiness. Found in many luxury cars, air springs can sometimes be adjusted from inside the vehicle to modify the ride height while driving.
Hydraulic springs are powered by hydraulic fluid that is sent in by a pump. The fluid acts as a cushion, absorbing the force from bumps and grooves in the road. Found usually on higher end vehicles, hydraulic springs may also be accompanied by small computers that adjust the ride height as needed.
Torsion bar springs are used in larger vehicles, such as SUVs or pickups. Torsion bars a long pieces of metal that attach to your control arm or axle at one end and to the vehicle body on the other. When you drive over a bump, the bar will twist, absorbing the energy of the bump and providing you with a smooth ride.
Since the springs will expand and compress at such fast rates, components known as dampeners are necessary to control their movements. There are two kinds of dampening components: shocks and struts.
Shocks control the rebound and compression of your spring components. They ensure that your tires never leave the ground while driving. Shocks are typically located near each spring, but this may vary depending on the model and type of vehicle. Shocks also contain pistons encased in tubes filled with hydraulic fluid. As the shock moves up and down, the fluid travels around the piston to control the dampening power of the shock and provide a smooth ride.
A strut is the combination of a coil spring and shock into one component. The shock is connected inside the coil spring, allowing it to be removed and replaced as one single unit. Struts are used in many different type of cars and have a significant advantage due to their compactness and economical size.
Also called the anti-sway bar, a sway bar connects your suspension and frame of the vehicle and plays a large role in keeping everything stable. Each end of the sway bar may also connect to the control arms. Thanks to all of these connects, the sway bar helps in preventing body roll and keeps your inner components intact while completing a turn. Most newer vehicles will have two sway bars: one for the front and one for the rear.
Active suspension simply refers to suspension systems that incorporate computers and sensors for optimal performance. Active suspension will typically improve the function of your struts and shocks via computer control and oftentimes you will be able to customize settings like the ride height through controls inside of the vehicle.
Types of suspension systems
There are two main types of vehicle suspension systems: independent and dependent suspension systems. Your vehicle may also have the suspension mounted on the front, rear, or both and may also use two different types of systems.
Dependent suspension system
Dependent suspension systems mounted on the front of the vehicle are typically found in older cars and rear-mounted dependent suspension systems are common on trucks and heavy-duty vehicles. This style of suspension incorporates standard shocks with leaf, coil, or torsion springs. This layout gives the suspension more strength and off-roading capabilities.
Independent suspension system
A front-mounted independent suspension system is the most common type of suspension setting you are going to come across for most vehicle. They are called independent suspension systems because they allows for each of the wheels to move independently of one another – with no axle connecting them to each other. This variety of suspension is compact, light, and provides a smooth ride. The rear-mounted variety of the independent suspension operates in the same way with the only key difference being that it does not contain steering components like the front-mounted variety does. They also do a great job at isolating bumps to one wheel at any given time, minimizing the impact that is felt from inside the car.
Car suspension maintenance
Shocks, struts, and springs will wear out slowly over time. It is important to get your suspension checked out by a car care professional during regular check-ups to watch for wear on these important parts. The best way to schedule car suspension maintenance is by booking your appointment through CarAdvise. CarAdvise makes booking services simple and guarantees that you will pay less than the shop price every time!