The suspension system fitted to a car or truck is very sophisticated. Its primary aim is to ensure that the vehicle remains stable and under control at all times while also giving the occupants as smooth a ride as possible. How is the typical suspension system configured, and how do you know if something has started to go wrong?
Of course, suspension systems will vary according to the particular manufacturer, but one of the most popular approaches today involves upright struts and coiled springs. These struts are sometimes known as "shock absorbers" but are more accurately called dampers.
Dampers are designed to counter the balance caused by those coiled springs, which will come into play whenever the vehicle encounters an obstacle. The word "obstacle" in this definition includes not only surface undulation but a change in direction. The entire suspension system needs to be carefully tuned so that the vehicle can turn a corner without any major drama or tendency to fall over.
The dampers are contained within an outer strut mechanism that is bolted to the vehicle frame. Each damper will be attached to a road wheel, and the spring fits in between the frame and the top of the strut. At the bottom of the strut, you will find the hub and various control mechanisms. These particular parts can be adjusted to ensure that the vehicle handles correctly and so that the ride is as smooth as possible.
Signs of a Problem
Usually, each damper will be filled with a lubricating solution that is forced through internal passages under pressure to create the damping effect. Unfortunately, the efficiency of the damper will break down with time. Sometimes, the liquid will seep through some of the seals, which will definitely affect the way the vehicle performs.
Also, some of the rubber bushes that connect the associated moving parts will begin to perish. These bushes come into contact with a lot of road debris and moisture and will inevitably suffer over time.
Regular Servicing Essential
With so much at stake, you will need to take your vehicle in for a suspension check on a regular basis. Your vehicle manual will tell you when you should book your next service, and you should always keep up with the schedule. When you do this, a car mechanic will look at the condition of each strut and its associated spring and will also have a look at the rubber bushes and other perishable components.