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How Do Car Suspension Systems Work?

Oct 5, 2021 ·

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Many different systems exist under the hood to ensure a vehicle functions properly. The suspension system ensures that the vehicle can handle bumps, dips and anything else that’s encountered during a drive.

The suspension system is composed of several parts that all play a role in stabilizing and controlling a vehicle. Keep reading to find out how the suspension works and why it’s important to maintain.

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.

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:

  • 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.

Car Suspension Types

Just like there are many different suspension parts, there are also different kinds of suspension systems. Most vehicles use different suspensions for the front and back wheels. Typically, the two front wheels are connected by the front axle and the two rear wheels are connected by the rear axle.

There are two types of suspension systems: dependent and independent. Dependent systems utilize a rigid axle, while independent systems allow wheels to move independently.

Signs of Suspension Wear and Tear

Different parts of the suspension system can wear out or become damaged. It’s important to pay attention to potential signs that a part needs to be repaired or replaced. Some common things to look for include:

  • Car pulling to one side: Your car drifting or pulling to one side of the road can be a sign that the shocks are having trouble keeping the body of your vehicle stable.
  • Corner sitting low: Worn or damaged springs in your suspension can cause a corner of your vehicle to sit lower to the ground.
  • Increase in bumpiness: Damage or wear on suspension parts can cause you to feel an increase in bumpiness while driving.
  • Clunking noises: Loud noises happening when you hit a bump or other imperfections in the road could be the sign of a suspension issue.
  • Vibrations: Noticeable vibrations coming from the steering wheel area could signal issues with the shock absorbers in the suspension system.
  • Irregular tire wear: The suspension system helps keep your car balanced. If something is off here, you might notice there is irregular wear on the tread of your tires.

Taking your vehicle to a trained technician when you notice these problems can help you get repairs when you need them. Interested in learning more about why suspension damage can happen? Check out our blog on the subject here.

Get Hands-on Experience With Suspensions at UTI

In the 51-week Automotive Technology program offered at Universal Technical Institute, you can get the training and education needed for an entry-level career in the industry.1

Learn the fundamentals to repair and maintain vehicles, including experience working on suspensions during the Vehicle Steering and Suspension Service and Repair course. Our relationships with more than 35 leading brands can help give you access to state-of-the-industry technology while you train, as well as opportunities to connect with manufacturers as a graduate.

Want to find out more? Request more information to get in touch with an Admissions Representative today.

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1) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

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Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.


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