“If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Automotive 101

The Suspension System

Next to the engine, the suspension is the next most important part of a vehicle. Its functions are: 1) to allow the vehicle to adapt to road irregularities, even the most minute ones; 2) to maximize traction between the tires and the road surface; 3) to support the weight of the vehicle; 4) to maintain ride height; 5) to improve steering, accelerating and braking stability, and; 6) to improve ride comfort. That seems to be a lot, but surprisingly that’s not all. Specific suspension components have their own individual functions.

A typical automotive suspension has three fundamental components, and these are the springs, dampers and anti-sway bars. The first two are responsible for absorbing and reducing the oscillations that result from the encounter of the vehicle with road irregularities. Anti-sway bars provide additional stability by reducing the swaying motion of the vehicle, hence the name. These three along with secondary suspension parts work as a unit to serve all the functions mentioned above.

There are different kinds of suspension according to location, linkage presence/absence, design and even application. The most common types are the front and rear wheel suspensions. These two can be further subdivided into dependent, independent and semi-independent systems. But theoretically, they work the same way, so it really doesn’t matter what kind a vehicle has. And besides, car engineers wouldn’t have placed them there if it wasn’t the right one for the vehicle.

Just like the engine, it should be regularly inspected. Anything unusual should be checked out at the soonest possible time. One big difference between an engine part and a suspension part is that if the former breaks down, at worst the car will stop, but if a suspension component breaks down, at worst it could lead to an accident.