The suspension role in a car
Although you may not consider your suspension a critical component, it is vital for every car. The suspension separates the wheel tyres from the body, absorbing all the recoil caused by irregularities in the road surface. It makes driving more comfortable and helps maintain control of your car. It also aids in steering by absorbing the lateral forces that cause cars to want to roll.
There are three suspension components: linkages, shock absorbers, and springs. The links are the brackets and bars that support the tires, springs and shock absorbers. The springs that cushion the vehicle dampen the shock load from bumps and other road imperfections. Shock absorbers also use hydraulic pistons or cylinders to ease the car from shock loads. They can also dampen spring oscillations and quickly bring the vehicle to a neutral position after it has been shock-loaded by road obstructions.
The shock absorbers
Shock absorbers, also known as dampers, are the technology that has revolutionised the way we drive. They cushion the chassis and protect it from the jarring force of a wheel hitting a bump. They also prevent the springs from constantly bouncing and push the wheel back onto the road surface.
Shock absorbers consist of two cylindrical chambers, one inside the other, and a piston (integral with a rod directly connected to the car body) that slides in the innermost one. The latter is filled with an oily liquid (hydraulic fluid) into which the piston slides. Recent shock absorber models also contain a pressurised inert gas inside them that prevents the formation of air bubbles in the viscous mixture.
When the wheel is suddenly lowered or raised following a pothole or bump, the shock absorber stretches or compresses, forcing the oil it contains to pass between the two chambers, subjecting the piston to a strong resistance, which slows its movement, making it more gradual. In practice, the shock absorber functions as a real hydraulic brake that slows down the rebound of the springs.
Signs of a damaged or not correctly functioning suspension
The most obvious sign of a damaged or not correctly functioning suspension is when you will feel every bump your car encounters on the road, making it uncomfortable for you to drive.
Does one side of your car sit lower than the other? This could be an indication that the spring is not working correctly and needs professional attention to be fixed.
Do you have difficulties steering? It could be due to the car’s suspension. You could have a problem with the power steering rack or a lack of power steering fluid. It doesn’t matter what the problem is; fixing it as soon as possible is vital. It is hazardous and can lead to severe injuries driving while your steering wheel is working incorrectly.
You should visually inspect the suspension system immediately if you have hit a kerb or bump. If driving in severe conditions, the inspection should be done regularly to avoid unpleasant surprises. You may check for the presence of oil on the shock absorbers and other suspension components. It may indicate that the suspension system is not functioning properly, and it is advisable to consult a professional mechanic.