Vehicle Suspension Basics


The vehicle suspension system is probably ignored by many drivers. If you are used to driving old rickety jalopies, where you are constantly fighting the steering to keep the car on a bumpy road, you may hardly appreciate what suspension is all about or its worth to a car. It’s probably when one has driven a new truck or car on the same road that they may begin to appreciate. Then again, suspension can also be a function of the type of car and the road. Different vehicles are created for various applications and roads. 

Some suspensions are generally soft to maximize on comfort, whilst others are hard to cater for load-carrying ability on a rough dirt road. The need to drive in comfort for the regular farm or country home visitor certainly has its consequences. Your lovely German luxury saloon’s suspension may be too soft for a bumpy dirt road drive. It is worse when combined with over-loading. It would be wiser to borrow a truck from a friend. That’s where probably the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) comes in, with a suspension that is good both home and away, though obviously not as comfortable as the saloon. It is always hard for the engineers to completely cater to both worlds equally. 


What is a vehicle suspension system? 

For the uninitiated, it simply is about the connection between the driver and the car or the car and its occupants. The suspension system makes the car feel so comfortable to drive. It makes the road smooth, and the steering so soft you can just handle it with your index finger (not advisable though). A good suspension makes the car feel like it’s gliding on air, hardly touching the surface. That is what the driver and occupants feel. However, for the engineer, the suspension system is a complex interaction of so many components, made up of rubbers, shocks, springs, struts, control arms, and many more; that combine to bring about the desired effect for a particular car. 

A sound suspension system allows the driver to take sharp curves easily at speed. Suspension is about vehicle handling and drivability. A good suspension system makes the vehicle tug to the surface as if it is being pulled down towards the road surface. A poor one will make the vehicle feel like it wants to drive off the road as if it has a mind of its own. It makes it take every little surface bump as if it wants to fly off the road. 

, jumping off it at the slightest instigation, exaggerating the bumpiness of the road surface. 

Those that have driven different trucks can relate to what I am saying. The suspension system, therefore, means a lot to the driver. It won’t stop your car from moving, but it is dangerous to drive a vehicle with a faulty suspension system. Any handling challenges should be fixed early. Procrastination on fixing small things eventually results in huge costs. It starts off with a small failure that leads to another until many parts have to be replaced. Under the worst conditions, a simple swerve to avoid a dog or cow can be catastrophic if the suspension system is compromised. The vehicle becomes difficult to control. 

A sound suspension system means the vehicle responds to driver input well. It brakes straight and stops perfectly. It takes curves well and protects the occupants without throwing them around. It also extends the life of your tires.

You need to drop the habit of fixing only the broken and adopt the habit of preventive maintenance. Always get your suspension checked by a qualified technician periodically. Report on unfamiliar noises. Test your vehicle’s handling on braking and swerves. The best way to get it checked is to go for wheel alignment. Numerous workshops offer the service for a small fee and give a comprehensive report on the state of your vehicle’s suspension.


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