Most drivers concerned with their car’s performance tend to focus on the brake horsepower, torque, and their 0-100 kph time. However, no matter how powerful your internal combustion engine is, that power means nothing if the driver can’t actually control the car at speed. Automotive engineers have invested thousands upon thousands of hours on developing better suspension systems almost as long as they have been perfecting more powerful engines. Here’s what your car’s suspension does to keep it drivable, as well as why taking good care of your vehicle’s suspension is so important.
The Basics: What Your Car Suspension Does For You
Your car moves forward thanks to friction between the tire and the asphalt, and your car’s suspension is the system responsible for maximising that contact’s efficiency and effectiveness. Rubber meeting the road efficiently is what makes effective steering and better handling possible, and it also makes for a far less bumpy ride for the driver and their passengers.
How Your Suspension Works
Anyone that’s ever driven any distance on any road or highway knows that the surface is not perfectly flat or perfectly smooth. There are bumps and irregularities everywhere. When your tires strike one of those irregularities, the wheel experiences a sudden vertical acceleration of varying magnitude depending on the size of the bump or rough patch.
If there is no system in place to absorb that impact, the energy of the wheel striking the bump is transferred directly to the car’s frame, causing the vehicle to move in the same direction as the energy from the wheel. Upward motion means that your wheel is not making efficient contact with the road, and you experience a loss in traction. Further impacts follow, and there is a continued gradual loss in traction over distance.
Various suspension types seek to minimise the impact which is passed on from the road surface to, ultimately, you – the occupant. This minimisation is achieved through various types of springs (coil, leaf) and shock absorbers (gas, hydraulic, hybrid types).
Ride and Handling
Your car’s suspension (in this case shock absorbers) allows the wheel to move upward over irregularities and bumps without disengaging from the surface of the road to the same degree. This improves what is called the “ride” of your car’s suspension. However, it isn’t just bumps and potholes that your suspension takes care of for you. Sudden sideways motion of the vehicle due to a change in direction can cause the tires to lose their grip due to loss of contact with the road as well.
Apart from just the up and down motion which suspension processes using springs and shock absorbers, there are other suspension components which address other types of motion, such as twisting, rubbing and sideways movement. It is worth mentioning some of these as they will adversely affect your driving experience depending on their condition: Bushings, sway bars, torsion bars, wishbones, ball joints, to name a few.
Properly calibrated and balanced suspension allows the wheels to compensate for these rapid changes in direction, keeping your wheels and tires as close to the road as possible even when the vehicle is changing direction and gravity/momentum is still carrying the vehicle in its original direction of travel, prior to the turn. This compensation aspect of suspension is called handling, and it greatly affects your car’s ability to maneuver, especially at high speed, without losing traction.
Overall, taking good care of your car’s suspension ensures that you are able to get the most out of your vehicle’s overall performance, as well as keeping you safe on the road. Make sure you are getting your suspension inspected regularly by an auto repair expert, even if you are a DIY maintenance kind of driver. The life you save could be your own. Don’t forget to get in touch with the Dodson’s Autospares team for any suspension componentry you need to get your car back up to spec.