Suspension maintenance is key
You know how people sometimes say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” This statement is probably the worst thing to ever live by when it comes to automobiles.
If you want to ensure that your vehicle remains in topnotch conditions for as long as possible, then maintenance is key.
From replacing the tires to checking the engine and even recharging the coolant for the AC, everything should be sound before you can confidently go out on the open road. Today, we’re focusing on the suspension parts.
Suspension system - what is it and what does it do?
In the simplest of terms, the suspension system consists of the parts of a vehicle which supports it as it moves on the road. If all roads were smooth, straight, and devoid of imperfections, then this system might not even be necessary.
Realistically though, from bumps and potholes to sharp bends and more, roads are anything but perfect. A standard suspension system works to maximize the friction between the tires and the road, thereby enabling the driver to steer and handle the vehicle with relative ease and comfort.
To put this further into perspective, imagine a moving car has a combination of two forces – ride and handling. Ride is the car’s ability to smooth out a bumpy road, whereas handling is its ability to accelerate, brake, and turn corners safely.
These are all a direct result of a functional suspension system. Your vehicle wouldn’t be the same without it, and probably wouldn’t survive a drive without these parts.
Note that a functional suspension system still requires an equally functional frame, steering system, and tires and wheels to provide the perfect automobile experience.
A review of the suspension parts
- Shock absorber
Also called dampers, these parts minimize spring bounce to ensure the wheels are always in contact with the road. This reduces the impact of bumps for a much smoother ride.
When these become damaged or weak, the vehicle tends to bounce somewhat erratically. There can also be tire cupping and shock absorber oil leaks as the shock absorber becomes worn out.
- Shocks and Struts
These reduce vehicle bounce, keep the wheels on the road, and ensure a smooth ride, all while supporting the vehicle’s weight.
When there is excess ball joint play and vehicle bounce, oil leaking from the shock body, missing bushings, or cupped tire wear, make sure to check this system. Chances are there’s something wrong with them or they’ve just gotten worn out.
- Coil springs
These not only absorb impact from irregularities on the road but also support vehicle weight to maintain optimum ride height. Without the function of springs, a vehicle would have excessive tire wear on one side, lower ride height, and also provide for an unstable ride.
Vibrations, strange noises, wobbling, and steering difficulties are issues you would have to deal with if your bushings get worn out. Functional bushings are meant to encase the ends of the control arms and provide a cushioning effect for the vehicle.
- Ball joint
These are a sort of a pivot point that allows the wheels to turn alongside the suspension. Without them, you will be subjected to a rather rough ride with some real steering difficulties.
- Strut mount/bearings
While the mount helps improve strut operation, the bearing enables it to turn with the wheels. When either of these features gets weak, expect difficulties with returning the steering wheel to the center, as well as some weird suspension noises.
- Control arms
These enable you to maintain appropriate wheel alignment. They attach the wheel hubs to the vehicle frame. A common sign of wear from them is the misalignment of the suspension.
Signs your suspension needs replacement
For some reason, this part of auto maintenance is not given the attention it deserves. Perhaps because issues with it are not as visible as a flat tire or smoke from under the hood.
However, a bad suspension doesn’t just affect the smoothness of your ride but also plays a huge role part in your ability to control your vehicle. At this point, you don’t need to be told that it’s pertinent to take it more seriously for your own sake.
How can you tell when your suspension parts have gone beyond minor maintenance efforts, but require a full replacement?
Call TLC For Immediate Assistance Regarding Your Suspension Needs
Here’s a few signs that should let you know when to take the car to the repair shop
- Rough ride
Just as mentioned in the reviews of each suspension part, most worn out parts significantly affect the smoothness of a car’s ride. When you begin to feel every bump on the road, then it’s probably time to check or replace some suspension elements.
- Uneven tire treads
You’re probably wondering what tire treads have got to do with the suspension system. However, it makes sense that an uneven car (due to suspension issues), would put pressure on different parts of a tire, therefore resulting in those uneven tire treads.
- Stopping with “nose dives”
Noticing a dip in the front end or a “nosedive” when stopping a car, or being lurched forward in your vehicle as you try to stop is a clear sign that your car shocks are worn out. This results in the jerking movement and its inability to minimize bounce.
- Issues with the steering
Almost all the suspension parts we discussed above had some part to play in turning the steering, keeping it in the right position, or just returning the wheels and steering column to center.
Poor steering response or even a stiffer steering wheel is an indication of worn-out suspension parts letting you know it’s time to get them checked out. That way, you can determine whether it’s an issue of the realignment of the wheel or full-on replacement of the suspension system.
Sometimes it’s best to stick with the consensus. Several automobile experts and manufacturers have determined most cars require suspension replacement after 50,000 miles.
Consider being a bit proactive here and not wait until it breaks before changing. Perhaps, when it reaches that 50,000 milestone or a little over it, you could replace it, or at least get it thoroughly checked out.
How often should your suspension system be inspected?
Like we mentioned above, most experts recommend replacing suspension parts after 50,000 to 100,000 miles. However, this is simply a recommendation that is based on general conditions.
Every driver has something unique about their car, driving style, and even the roads they drive on often. All these factors will affect the suspension parts differently. The bumpier the roads and more “James Bond” your driving style is, chances are your suspension parts are will wear faster than others.
Irrespective of how long you’ve been driving for, there’s only so much you can tell about the state of your suspension from a “wobbly” car. It’s best to have a professional inspect the car and let you know whether or not to replace the suspension system.