Aside from the chassis and body experts, the inner workings of a vehicle’s suspension system remain a big mystery to the casual automobile enthusiasts. the suspension system of an automobile is the complex system of springs, shock absorbers, tires, tire air, and linkages that connect the vehicle to the wheels, allowing for a relative motion between the two.
Suspension systems essentially support the handling and grip of the vehicle, as well as its ride quality. These two tasks are often at odds with each other, and suspension tuning involves striking the right balance between handling and ride quality, which is not an easy task. Plus, the suspension has to keep the wheel in contact with the road’s surface for as much as possible, since the ground or road forces that bear down on the vehicle usually do so with contact patches of the tires.
Early on, suspension systems were made in the form of ox-drawn carts, which had platform swings placed on iron chains, and attached to the wheeled frame of the carriage. The system was used as the basis for all subsequent suspension systems until the turn of the 19th century, though by the 17th century, the iron chains were replaced with leather straps.
Initially, the automobile was developed as a self-propelled alternative of horse-drawn carriages. But the horse drawn vehicles were made for use in relatively low speeds, and their suspension systems therefore were not well suited for the higher speeds that the internal combustion engines would reach. The first workable spring suspension system came to realization on the advent of industrialization. The first ever patent registration for a spring suspension is credited to Obadiah Elliot.
In his system, each wheel has a pair of sturdy leaf springs on every side, and the carriage’s body is directly fixed onto each pair, and are then linked to the axles. Fast forwarding to today, most vehicles come with an independent suspension system for all the four wheels.
The Purpose of the Suspension System
Simply put, the role of a suspension system in a vehicle is to provide comfort and safety, though it goes deeper than that. The system makes the vehicle much safer because it determines how the car will behave in terms of grip (road holding) and handling. The suspension system is designed to make the most out of the tires that are fitted onto the vehicle.
A tire will have a much better grip when more force is pushing it onto the road. The suspension system is tasked with applying this force when the car starts to turn into a bend. The suspension system also absorbs the various imperfections on the road, and without it, each pothole and bump would be transferred directly onto the car and its passengers. However, some systems tend to do this much better than others.
How Suspension Systems Work
The suspension system in a vehicle should maximize the friction between the tires and the road surface, so as to offer steering stability and positive handling. All this needs to be achieved while maintaining ample comfort for the passengers. This is no easy task, and the suspension system has to work with a number of components in the vehicle to provide ample road isolation, grip and cornering. This is done by:
• Absorbing much of the energy from road bumps and then dissipating it efficiently while minimizing any undue oscillations on the vehicle.
• Minimizing the shifting of the car’s weight from front to back and side to side. This transfer of weight reduces the amount of tire’s grip on the ground.
• Shifting the vehicle’s weight from the high side of the car to the low side during cornering.
What Makes Up a Suspension System
The suspension system is part of the chassis, and is comprised of all the important systems that are placed beneath the body. These include:
• The frame – the load-carrying structural component that supports the car’s body and the engine, which are all supported by the suspension.
• The steering system – the complete mechanism that allows the driver to direct and guide the vehicle.
• The suspension system – the setup that absorbs and dampens shock, supports the vehicle’s weight, and helps to maintain tire contact.
• The Wheels and Tires – components that enable the motion of the vehicle through friction and grip with the road.
In this case, the suspension system is just one of the many systems in a vehicle. Now let’s look at the fundamental components that make up a suspension setup:
• Springs – the springing systems of modern vehicles are based on 4 key designs, leaf, coil, torsion bars, and air.
• Shock absorbers/dampers – unless the car has a dampening structure, the spring will extend and release all the energy it absorbs from a bump at an unregulated rate, and the spring will continue to bounce naturally until all the energy it absorbed is used up. The dampers control the unwanted spring motion through dampening; the process of reducing and slowing down the vibratory motions by turning the kinetic energy of the suspension into heat energy.
• Antisway bars/struts – struts are basically forms of shock absorbers that are mounted inside the coil springs, while anti-sway bars are typically used together with struts or shock absorbers to give additional stability to the moving vehicle.
Which is the Best Suspension System?
Faulty or poorly made suspension parts can lead to serious wear and tear on the steering system, tires, brake components, and even the car’s frame. To make sure that the suspension system performs at its optimum standards, it’s best to use only the ones made by top-rated suspension parts manufacturers, such as Bilstein and Rancho.
What are Top Performance Suspensions?
The major brands’ products in the suspension and handling space are widely available online as well as in the conventional brick and mortar stores. This lets you choose the best options for your vehicle when it’s time to change the suspension and handling components. A number of the top range performance lift kits and suspensions come from the likes of GReddy, Eibach, Bilstein, KYB, HKS, Ohlins, Continental, H&R, TEIN, AC Delco, KW, Moog Suspension, and Air Lift.