Like most people, when you spend a lot of money buying a new car, you would generally want to keep it in good working order in order to get the most out of your investment. There are many systems on a car to help keep it moving and stable. Right now, we’re looking at the suspension systems of cars to learn exactly what they are and why they are necessary.
Why do we need suspension systems?
First, the key point to understand is that a suspension system is meant to maximise the amount of friction your tyres apply to the road. This provides traction or rather ‘grip’ in the road whilst you drive. If you were driving on a perfectly flat road, then suspensions wouldn’t need to exist. However no road is truly flat. All of the imperfections in tarmac, no matter how fresh, will interact with your wheels and change how they work. Specifically, wheels going over these imperfections will find themselves thrown up thanks to the laws of gravity. Then, gravity just pulls them straight back to earth. Now this process happening constantly in any given day will wear away at the cars frame as it is forced to absorb each impact, big or small. Suspension adds heavy duty springs that absorb this ‘vertical energy’ and takes the pressure off of the body and frame. Whilst doing this, it also keeps the wheels on the road, ensuring you keep grip on your tyres.
The proper name for studying this and other forces on vehicles is ‘vehicle dynamics’. Understanding some basic concepts from this field will help you understand why suspension is necessary in the first place. The first two things to understand are the perspectives of ‘ride’ and ‘handling’.
The former being a description of how the car smooth’s out the ride on a bumpy road. The latter is your cars ability to brake, corner and accelerate safely.
These two concepts can then be further subdivided into the following concepts.
Road isolation is the cars ability to absorb forces transferred from the road into the passenger compartment. If a car does a good job of this, it will give the driver a smoother ride. Something like this would normally be achieved by absorbing, nullifying or redirecting the forces absorbed from a bump in the road.
Road holding is the degree to which your car keeps its position on the road whilst changing directions as well as in a straight line. If you accelerate rapidly, you ‘feel’ the car rise at the front and dip at the back (squat). Similarly, if you feel the rear of the car rise and the front dip, it’s ‘diving’ when you brake. The aim is to keep the cars wheels on the ground so that no matter the situation, you maintain control. This would be achieved by minimising how the vehicle shifts its weight under such circumstances.
Cornering is what it sounds like. Officially, it’s how well your vehicles maintains its direction whilst traveling on a curved path. The general aim of this would be to prevent the body from rolling as it changes directions. This can be done by transferring the weight of the lower end of the car to the higher end as either one has weight shifted on to it.
A good suspension system takes care of all of these features.
The suspension itself is actually a part of chassis. The part that absorbs all of the forces per wheel is a coil spring. Each one is responsible for compressing and then absorbing the energy from a bump.
Another type is the leaf spring. They are typically made by layering thin sheets of metal over one another. Interestingly, they were the first suspension systems used for horse drawn carriages. In the modern day, leaf springs are used on trucks or vans.
Then there are torsion bars. These springs use twisted steel springs to absorb energy but are mounted at ninety degrees to the wheel. Torsion bars are popular amongst European cars.
This covers most of the types available but overlooks a key point.
Over time, parts wear down and render themselves either useless or worn out. Considering your suspension is responsible for helping you keep grip on the road, it would be prudent to make sure this doesn’t happen. When you need to get your car serviced, try another way of getting MOT and service deals. This site looks at the type of work you need doing to your car and then finds quotes from nearby mechanics along with user ratings to help you find a good deal amongst the hundreds of possibilities.
Classic car enthusiasts, of Mini Coopers for example, need to pay attention to these details more than most drivers. Older car components tend to degrade faster than new ones. A good Mini service can be difficult to come by considering the age of the car, but click on the link and you’ll be able to focus on quotes for those that are closer to you.