What Is Suspension In a Car and How Does It Work?

However, while most people know a little bit about their cars’ wheels, steering systems, and brakes, many don’t understand what suspensions are or how they work.

In a nutshell, your car’s suspension system is a protective lattice of shock-absorbing components such as springs and dampers. Your car’s suspension helps ensure that your drive is safe and smooth by absorbing the energy from various road bumps and other kinetic impacts. Furthermore, it helps your tires stay in contact with the road by increasing tire friction.

Think of the suspension of your car as a kind of carriage on which the car’s main cabin sits. Your cabin is made more comfortable because it is sitting on the suspension, which is connected to the car’s wheels. The vehicle and its cabin are insulated against impacts that are common when driving, even on well-paved roads.

Keep reading to find out how the suspension works and why it’s important to maintain.

What is Suspension In a Car?

Suspension is the system of tires, tire air, springs, shock absorbers, and linkages that connect a vehicle to its wheels and allow relative movement between the two. Suspension systems must support both road holding/handling and ride quality, which is at odds with each other.

Tuning of suspensions is all about finding the right compromise. The suspension must keep the road wheel in contact with the road surface as much as possible, as any road or ground forces acting on the vehicle will do so through the contact patches of the tires.

The suspension also protects the vehicle itself and any cargo or luggage from damage and wear and tear. The design of the front and rear suspension of a car can be different.

Put simply, it’s a part of a car that negates most of the forces the car receives from driving on the road and keeps the cabin quiet. It can be small rocks on the road or big potholes, the suspension can handle them.

This is a normal understanding we have that a suspension’s job is only to provide a cushion when a bump or crack occurs in the road. It does a lot more than that. Honestly, it makes a car easier to drive. What are the other things suspension does?

Your car’s suspension system also likely has an anti-sway bar. The anti-sway bar can help to shift the movement of your wheels relative to your steering wheel. It effectively stabilizes your car’s direction as it moves along the road.

Your car likely has a suspension system for both its front wheels and its back wheels. Suspension systems can be either independent or dependent:

  • Independent suspension systems are used when your back or front wheels move independently of the front or rear axle, respectively.
  • On the flip side, dependent suspension systems are used when wheel direction is bound by axle movement.

What Does a Car Suspension Do?

Car suspensions are designed to help maximize the amount of friction between the tires and the road. This helps make car rides more comfortable, as well as ensure there is steering stability and good handling for the driver.

Roads are filled with imperfections, so a suspension system must be designed to handle these and support a vehicle. The suspension helps absorb energy from the tires to allow the body and frame of the car to remain stable.

According to vehicle dynamics, the car’s ride is the ability to smooth out a bumpy road, and a car’s handling allows it to safely accelerate, corner, and brake. Principles known as road isolation, road holding and cornering are important to understand — and are why the suspension system is so important.

  • Road isolation is how a vehicle is able travel undisturbed over rough and bumpy roads.
  • Road holding is the principle that tires need to be kept in contact with the ground, as this is what ensures you can steer, brake and accelerate safely.
  • Cornering refers to the ability of the vehicle to travel a curved path while minimizing body roll.

The suspension system and the parts included in it help solve the challenges associated with those principles and help ensure a smooth and safe ride.

Car Suspension

Why is your car suspension so important?

Any modern car is equipped with a suspension due to its advantages. For example:

  • Suspension systems maximize the friction between your car’s tires and the road. By maximizing friction, you can steer your vehicle more stably and experience more comfortable handling. The more contact your tires have with the road, the safer and more confident you can drive.
  • Your car’s suspension system also provides additional comfort. By limiting the kinetic energy transferred to your cabin from road imperfections such as bumps, you will experience much less bobbing and your passengers will also enjoy a smoother ride.
  • In addition, suspension systems can help increase the life and durability of your car. Your vehicle’s components are subjected to much less stress over time by limiting how much energy is transferred from bumps and potholes in the road. Therefore, the other components of your car will last longer.

How does a car suspension work?

A suspension works on the principle of force dissipation which involves converting force into heat thus removing the impact that force would have made. It uses springs, dampers, and struts to achieve this. A spring will hold the energy while a damper will convert it into heat.

The job of a car suspension is to maximize the friction between the tires and the road surface, to provide steering stability with good handling, and ensure the comfort of the passengers.

If a road were perfectly flat, with no irregularities, suspensions wouldn’t be necessary. But roads are far from flat. Even freshly paved highways have subtle imperfections that can interact with the wheels­ of a car.

It’s these imperfections that apply forces to the wheels. According to Newton’s laws of motion, all forces have both magnitude and direction. A bump in the road causes the wheel to move up and down perpendicular to the road surface.

The magnitude, of course, depends on whether the wheel is striking a giant bump or a tiny speck. Either way, the car wheel experiences a vertical acceleration as it passes over an imperfection.

Without an intervening structure, all of the wheel’s vertical energy is transferred to the frame, which moves in the same direction. In such a situation, the wheels can lose contact with the road completely. Then, under the downward force of gravity, the wheels can slam back into the road surface.

What you need is a system that will absorb the energy of the vertically accelerated wheel, allowing the frame and body to ride undisturbed while the wheels follow bumps in the road.

The study of the forces at work on a moving car is called vehicle dynamics, and you need to understand some of these concepts in order to appreciate why a suspension is necessary in the first place.

Main Car Suspension Parts

The suspension system is part of the chassis, which is the framework and underpart of a vehicle. The body of a car is mounted to the chassis. Many components make up the suspension system, including:

parts of a car suspension
  • Coil springs: Coil springs are parts that help absorb impact when a car is driven over bumps, helping to absorb the motion of the wheels.
  • Shock absorbers: These parts work alongside the coil springs and help control the impact from them. Shock absorbers also help ensure that tires are in contact with the road’s surface.
  • Struts: These are structural parts of the suspension. Struts often combine several suspension parts in one assembly, which include shocks and coil springs. You can read more about the difference between shocks and struts here.
  • Control arms: Control arms are links that connect the frame of a vehicle to the steering knuckle or wheel-hub assembly. They move up and down alongside springs when a car goes over a bump or other hazard, helping the tires maintain contact.
  • Ball joints: Ball joints are important parts that help the vehicle turn left and right for turns. They also help the control arms with their up-and-down motion.

These are just a few of the main parts of a vehicle’s suspension system, all of which play important roles in keeping things functioning properly.

Types of Car Suspensions

There are 8 Types of Car Suspensions as mentioned below:

  • Multi-Link Suspension
  • Rigid Axle Suspension
  • Macpherson Suspension
  • Double Wishbone Suspension
  • Independent Suspension
  • Rigid suspension
  • Trailing Arm Suspension
  • Air Suspension

Multi-Link is a suspension developed by Double Wishbone and Multi-Link into a suspension that has a fairly complicated construction design because it has separate parts that are held together by joints.

This suspension also has component ends that pivot on two sides of the arm. Construction is made by manipulating the direction of the force that will be received by the wheel.

Multi-Link is a type of suspension that has a quality grip and with this suspension, controlling the car becomes easier. The Multi-Link suspension also has many variations.

If this suspension is damaged, then the replacement process takes a long time and the spare parts are still rare, so the price is relatively more expensive than other suspensions.

2. Rigid Axle Suspension

Rigid Axle suspension is usually placed at the rear of the car. The main feature of this suspension is its wheels on the rear left and right. The two wheels are connected into one axle which is commonly referred to as the axle.

The rigid axle suspension has 2 models at once, namely the Axle Rigid model which is equipped with leaf springs, and the Axle Rigid model which is equipped with a coil spring or often referred to as a spring.

This suspension has fairly good quality and can be applied in various types of cars. It is fairly simple because it can work with just one solid piece and is equipped with 2 springs.

The axle rigid is also considered a strong suspension, so it can support large loads stably, making it suitable for various types of large cars.

Suspension can help dampen the vibrations or shocks that occur when you are on a road that is uneven or tends to be bumpy. With a good-quality suspension car, you can stay seated without any disruption.

The suspension is not only useful to help reduce vibrations when the car is driving but can make handling safer and let the car can run stably on the road.

With its very significant use, of course, the suspension is a must-have component in a car and it must get extra care.

Now, there are many types of cars around the world and this makes a variety of suspension types available. Even the use of suspensions in each car brand is always different, due to a large number of quality suspensions.

Differentiating the type of suspension in each car brand is certainly a way to balance the type of car. At least several types of suspension are widely popular and used in cars produced nowadays.

3. Macpherson Suspension

Macpherson is a suspension whose name is taken from its inventor, Earle Macpherson. Lots of cars around the world use Macpherson suspension.

Many automotive manufacturers like this suspension, because it has an affordable price and also has fairly simple components.

The Macpherson suspension has an upright shape and is supported by shock absorbers which are used as the center point of the corner caster in the car. This suspension is also very easy to obtain because it’s distributed widely.

The disadvantage of Macpherson’s suspension is that it is less able to receive loads and the tilt angle always changes when the car is turned or turns, this makes the tires less able to grip the road asphalt properly.

4. Double Wishbone Suspension

Double Wishbone is a type of suspension that has 2 arms that support the suspension system, namely the upper and lower arms. With this suspension, the car can run stably.

5. Independent suspension

Independent suspension is a specially designed suspension because the right and left wheels at the rear are not connected directly but instead by axle joints

If the rear wheel steps on a hole, of course, the car will not rock and this is because only the left suspension moves. Independent suspension is indeed widely used in luxury cars.

The independent suspension has a more complex construction and the axle movements are mutually independent. This suspension is also equipped with two flexible joints. This type of suspension is still fairly expensive, so its use is mostly in luxurious cars.

6. Rigid Suspension – Leaf Spring

Rigid – Leafspring is one type of suspension that is widely applied in cars circulating in Indonesia and is mostly used in commercial-type cars or old-type cars. This suspension is usually used at the rear of the car because this suspension is stiff.

This suspension has a fairly simple and simple construction. This type of suspension usually consists of an Axle Housing that is intentionally tied using a U-Bolt already attached to the frame. Cars that use this suspension usually have a fairly high level of resistance.

7. Trailing Arm Suspension

Trailing Arm is a type of suspension whose instructions are almost the same as 3 Links – Rigid, even though the working system is very different. The way it works is also different from the 3 Links – Rigid or other types of suspension.

The Trailing Arm suspension has connected from the right side to the left. This type of suspension is usually placed at the back of the car.

8. Air Suspension

Air Suspension is one of the developed suspensions that has excellent performance, so this type of suspension is widely used in luxury cars.

Even in luxury cars, the car’s suspension can be adjusted using a computer and this allows the adjustment to be done properly.

The drawback of this suspension is that it has a very complicated construction when compared to other types of suspension. Not only that, but this suspension also has a very expensive price.

Recognizing the Signs: Is Your Suspension in Trouble?

Unusual Noises Over Bumps

Hearing odd noises when your Volkswagen hits a bump in Londonderry or a pothole in Milford? This could be a tell-tale sign of suspension trouble. Often, these sounds indicate worn or damaged parts that need immediate attention.

Pulling or Drifting During Turns

If you feel your car pulling or drifting when turning around Nashua or Derry, it’s a red flag. This symptom suggests that your suspension fails to stabilize the vehicle against the centrifugal force during a turn, putting your safety at risk.

Uneven Tire Treads

Have you ever noticed uneven tire wear while parked in Amherst or Hudson? This could point to a suspension problem. It means your vehicle isn’t evenly distributing the weight, causing uneven tire wear.

A Rough Ride

Driving through Bedford and feeling every bump on the road? When the suspension is in good condition, it absorbs the impact. A rough ride can mean that your shock absorbers aren’t working effectively.

Dipping or Nose Diving on Stops

Experiencing a forward dip when stopping in Merrimack? This is a strong indicator that your shock absorbers are not functioning properly, which can increase your vehicle’s stopping time.

Most car owner manuals suggest the average life of struts and other suspension system parts is around 70,000 miles depending on the driver and the roads.

Ultimately, your car’s suspension system is just one of the many crucial components required to ensure a safe ride whenever you hop in your vehicle. Without suspensions, vehicles would be bumpy at best and, at worse, hazardous.

Make sure that you keep your suspension system in good condition by periodically taking your car in for an inspection with a certified mechanic. We strongly suggest taking your vehicle in for repairs if your ride ever becomes too bumpy or you suspect that your suspension is possibly wearing down.