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Suspension Damage: What to Look For

Apr 9, 2021 ·
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There are a number of areas on a vehicle that can be affected in the event of a collision, and it’s important that a proper inspection is given to each.

One area that can be somewhat difficult to visually detect problems on is the suspension. Typically, one of the first priorities after an accident is to restore the exterior body of the car. Once you or a technician looks underneath the vehicle, you might find there is damage to the suspension as well.

Correctly diagnosing suspension problems will ensure you can get them properly repaired. Having an understanding of the suspension system can help when trying to determine if there are issues with your vehicle. Keep reading to learn more about how a suspension system works and how problems are often detected.

Basics of the Suspension System

The suspension system helps play a major role in the drivability of a vehicle and helps to maximize performance when you’re on the road. It keeps you in control behind the wheel and ensures there is plenty of friction between the tires and the road surface.

A properly functioning suspension system improves steering stability and handling. Many components are a part of this system, including a chassis, springs, shocks and struts. These parts help support the weight of the car and help absorb impacts from bumps or dips in the road.

Many vehicles have both front and rear suspensions, which can operate differently depending on whether a car utilizes front- or rear-wheel drive.

Front Suspension

Most modern vehicles utilize front-wheel drive, which means the front suspension system is extra important. It helps with both steering and stabilizing, with the responsibility of sending the car forward.

Rear Suspension

Rear suspension systems operate differently for cars with rear-wheel drive capabilities. Rear suspension helps manage traction of the rear tires against the ground. The rear suspension will typically have more parts than the front suspension if the car is running on rear-wheel drive.

The basic setup for both front and rear suspensions includes axles, shock absorbers, upper and lower control arms, bearings and hub, and steering knuckles.

What Causes Suspension Damage?

Many things can cause suspension damage. Different parts can be affected in the case of an accident — and any broken parts can affect how smooth your ride is. Both front- and rear-end collisions can cause suspension problems.

In particular, accidents that result in the following issues typically correlate with suspension damage:

  • Front wheel direct damage
  • The car going off the road during the collision
  • Damage to the unibody, front rail or cowl (the space between the hood and the windshield)

Signs of Suspension Damage

While you should get your car inspected by a collision repair technician after an accident, you might be able to determine if you have suspension issues if you notice the following:

  • Car pulling to the side while driving
  • Feeling an increase in bouncing or bumps on the road
  • Difficulty while steering
  • Vehicle sitting lower on one side
  • Overly greasy/oily shock absorbers
  • Nose diving forward when braking

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, getting your car looked at right away is an important step to take!

What Does a Collision Technician Look For?

While you might be able to tell if your suspension system is not working properly, collision repair technicians are trained with the skills needed to help restore and reshape vehicles after an accident. If a technician suspects there is suspension damage on a vehicle, there are certain things they will look for.

The technician will first do a walk-around inspection of the vehicle, which consists of:

  • Inspecting the tires to see if they are centered in the wheel wells
  • Checking whether the tires are leaning out or in at the top
  • Looking to see whether the vehicle sits level at all four corners (does one corner sit lower than the others?)

An Automotive instructor helps a student adjust a vehicle's suspension in a UTI lab.

After completing the inspection and taking notes, the technician will take the vehicle for a test drive, where he or she will be looking for a number of things, including:

  • If the vehicle pulls to one side
  • If the steering wheel is level and centered while driving straight
  • Listening for unusual noises

After the test drive, the vehicle is put on a lift or alignment rack where the technician can inspect the underside and look for damaged suspension parts. They might find severe bends and deformation, or slight visual damage.

Sometimes a technician may need to mount the alignment equipment on the vehicle itself to help determine what side the suspension damage is on and whether it is in the front or rear. For example, when aligning the vehicle, the technician might not be able to adjust the dimensions on the left-front side back to factory specifications, which could be a clear sign of damaged suspension parts.

Learn How to Diagnose Suspension Problems at UTI

Accidents happen. When they do, collision repair technicians are there to help assess and fix damage to vehicles. If a hands-on career helping restore vehicles sounds like a good fit for you, the Collision Repair & Refinish Technology (CCRT) program at Universal Technical Institute (UTI) can help prepare you for a career in the industry.1

During the program, students are trained in what to look for when inspecting suspension parts. They are taught how to do two- and four-wheel-drive vehicle alignments using state-of-the-industry equipment, and they get hands-on training replacing suspension parts. In the Vehicle Undercar and SRS course, students learn how to service alignment and suspension assemblies.

Want to take the next steps toward your future? In just 51 to 54 weeks, you can graduate with the experience you need to feel confident as a collision repair technician.2 Learn more about UTI’s Collision Repair & Refinish Technology (CCRT) program here and request more information here.

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By submitting this form, I agree that Universal Technical Institute, Inc., Custom Training Group, Inc., and their representatives may email, call, and / or text me with marketing messages about educational programs and services, as well as for school - related communications, at any phone number I provide, including a wireless number, using prerecorded calls or automated technology. I understand that my consent is not required to apply, enroll or make any purchase.

By submitting this form, I further understand and agree that all information provided is subject to UTI's Privacy Policy available at uti.edu/privacy-policy

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