If you’ve ever ridden in a Ford Model T from the beginning of the 20th Century, one of the first things you’ll notice is how bumpy the ride is. The same goes for horse-drawn carriages, even if you’re riding on a perfectly-smooth road. While these old vehicles might have some rudimentary form of suspension system, it’s nothing when compared to the tires, shocks, and springs of today. Let’s take a look at the basic parts of a suspension system and why we all need a suspension shop eventually.
When most people think about the suspension system, tires aren’t usually the first thing to comes to mind. But tires are made of rubber (and synthetic rubber) for a couple of reasons. First of all, rubber grips the road. But from a suspension standpoint, rubber is a great material because it also helps to absorb the impact from the many rocks you run over every day. Any material that didn’t flex to some degree would transfer all the impacts to the rest of the suspension system, and you’d feel every grape-sized rock you drove over.
Tire air is the least expensive part of your suspension system, and might be the least expensive form of maintenance on your entire vehicle! Once again, tire air isn’t often thought of as being part of the suspension system, but the compressibility of air provides important shock absorption. Whenever the tire distorts, the molecules inside the tire are pushed closer together. A solid tire, or one filled with liquid, would transfer more energy to the rest of the suspension system instead of absorbing the impact.
While every vehicle’s suspension system has tire and tire air, the following parts of suspension may change depending on the type of vehicle you bring into our suspension shop.
Perhaps the most easy-to-understand aspect of a suspension system is the spring. The most common type of spring is the coil spring, which is a torsion spring. (A small version of a torsion spring can be found in a standard retractable pen.) Such springs expand and contract depending on the energy received from the tires and wheels. Other types of vehicle springs include leaf springs (still used on many heavy-duty trucks today), torsion bars (which use a principle similar to coil springs), and air springs.
So why do we need something more than just springs in our suspension system? Because springs are excellent at absorbing energy, but not all that great at getting rid of that energy. Since the energy has to go somewhere, it returns to its regular shape and delivers the bounce that we’re all familiar with. That’s when shock absorbers take over.
Shock Absorbers and Struts
A shock absorber, also known as a shock damper, takes the energy from the spring and dissipates it. Energy has to go somewhere, and shock absorber take the kinetic energy from the bump you just hit and turns it into heat energy. That heat is then dissipated by channeling it away from the damper via hydraulic fluid. That’s a lot of science going on it a relatively small part of your vehicle!
An anti-sway bar is a bar that spans axel to axel and joins the two sides of your vehicle together so that they can work in tandem. This reduces vehicle sway by putting equal pressure, as much as possible, on both sides of the vehicle at the same time.
So Why Do We Need Suspension Service?
Driving a car is such a common task that many of us forget we’re moving a two-ton vehicle at high speeds. That weight is pushing down on the entire suspension system at all times, and there are always going to be those surprise potholes that come along, or a speed bump that seems to come out of nowhere. Even roads that seem perfectly smooth can affect your suspension if you brake too hard, which transfers the weight of the entire car onto your front shocks. When the suspension system gets worn, you’re going to experience a bumpier ride and your tires are going to wear unevenly.
If we all drove on a perfectly smooth, glasslike surface, no one would ever need a suspension shop. But because we live in the real world with bumps around every corner, your suspension systems will eventually need repair. When you need the best in suspension service, bring your vehicle into Elite Automotive.