Suspension Repair and Maintenance

November 22, 2023

If you’ve noticed a stark contrast between driving a newer vehicle and an older one with a basic suspension system, you’re likely familiar with the importance of a reliable suspension. Your vehicle’s suspension is responsible for cushioning bumps, minimizing jolts, and ensuring a smoother, more controlled ride. When in need of suspension repair in Calgary, maintaining this crucial system ensures both comfort and safety on the road.

The suspension system is quite complex, as it is made up of many interconnected and interdependent parts. Different suspension systems are used in different vehicles. Each system has its own advantages and disadvantages that can affect the handling and ride of the vehicle.

Suspension Basics

The suspension system of your vehicle is located in the undercarriage, where the wheels attach to the rest. The suspension system of a modern car is composed of springs and clamps as well as wishbones, dampers and links. These components work together to adapt to the road surface or conditions.

There is no one default suspension type for all vehicles, or even a majority. Over the years many different suspension systems were created and implemented. The suspension systems of vehicles can be divided into two broad categories and several subcategories.

Dependent Suspension

In a suspension system with a rigid connection between each wheel, the wheels on either side of the axle are connected. This means that any impact on one wheel will likely and potentially impact the other. The main benefit of a dependent suspension was its ability to carry weight. Dependent suspensions are only found in certain buses, large trucks or commercial vehicles. Most cars and passenger trucks have different types of independent suspensions.

Independent Suspension

Independent suspension is the best suspension type for cars or passenger trucks. Each wheel is connected independently to the rest the vehicle with an independent suspension. The suspension system of one wheel will deal with any impact that occurs. Other wheels are not affected. Many passenger cars have independent front suspension, and today many have independent rear suspension.

There are several types of independent suspensions, which each solve the problem of road condition in a slightly different way.

MacPherson Strut

MacPherson Struts are a type independent suspension which uses coil springs placed over struts to absorb shocks. MacPherson Strut is one of the oldest independent suspension types invented. It has been used for over 80 years.

MacPherson struts are lightweight and require few parts. They also take up little space underneath the vehicle. MacPherson struts are often used on smaller vehicles.

Double Wishbone Suspension

Double wishbone suspensions use a pair wishbone-shaped arms that connect the wheel and the body of the car, providing control on two axles. The double wishbone suspension has a similar feel to the MacPherson Strut, but with an additional point of connection.

Double wishbone suspension systems provide an extra level of control, as well as shock absorption. They are often used in sports cars or other vehicles that require special methods to achieve a comfortable and smooth ride.

Air Bag Suspension

The air bag suspension system, also called air suspension, uses a compressor or air pump powered by the car’s motor or electricity to inflate the rubber bellows at each wheel. In a suspension system, air suspension replaces springs.

Air suspension has traditionally been used primarily for trucks and buses. However, in recent years, many car manufacturers, including Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and Ford, have started using airbag suspension on their vehicles.

Semi-Independent Suspension

Independent suspensions are expensive to produce and take up lots of space. Dependent suspensions, however, offer poor handling as well as a number of safety hazards. Semi-independent suspensions are a compromise between these two options.

Semi-independent suspensions link the tires directly on each side of the axle, but they also have a mechanism which offers some flexibility and yield to improve control and safety. This type of suspension can also be called a torsion or twist beam suspension. Twist beam suspension is used by many vehicles, mainly on the rear wheels.

Suspension System Components

Each suspension system from the list above is made up of several subsystems that each have a specific job. These parts are all subject to failure and stress in different ways.

Shocks and Struts

You’re probably familiar with shocks and struts. It’s possible you don’t know what shocks or struts are, and how they relate.

Both shocks and struts have similar functions. They cushion your vehicle and stop it from bouncing uncontrollably or excessively in response to road conditions. A shock is not structurally part of the suspension, while a strut can be. A shock or strut in either case is a hydraulic device that uses oil as a cushion to dampen the bounce of the vehicle.

Leakage is a very common issue with shocks and springs. This can be caused by cracks, blowouts of seals, or simply wear and tear after thousands of miles. Leakage can be caused by any kind of accident.

It is necessary to replace a leaking shock or suspension strut. The performance of your vehicle can be negatively affected by non-functional shocks and struts, along with the damage to tires or other suspension parts.

Control Arms

Control arms are hinged connections that connect the car’s chassis to its wheels. Control arms are often found as part of MacPherson strut suspensions, and they are connected to the steering system by ball joints. Ball joints are the most stressed component of a suspension system. Over time, they tend to wear more quickly than other suspension components.

Ball joints that are worn out can lead to many problems, including steering that pulls in one direction or another, excessive vibrations and clunking sounds while driving. Unrepaired worn or failed balls joints can cause major damage to control arms, suspension systems and even the vehicle itself.

Suspension bushings

Bushings are used at different points in your suspension system as insulation and padding. The suspension bushings absorb impacts and bumps, and reduce noise. Over time, these suspension bushings begin to wear out, crack, and in some cases, tear through.

As with cartilage in the human skeleton, suspension bushings act as a cushion or shield between bone-onbone contact. Similar to suspension bushings, they protect and cushion suspension components against metal-on-metal contact. When bushings become worn, metal parts rub against each other, increasing wear in the suspension system.

It is always better to replace worn bushings sooner than later. It may be necessary to replace damaged metal parts instead of just worn bushings if you drive on worn bushings for too long. This will always cost more. It is important to perform routine vehicle maintenance and periodic vehicle inspections.

Sway Bars and Sway Bar Bushings

The motion of turning the car, or driving on uneven roads, puts pressure on the entire vehicle frame. The tendency for the vehicle to lean too far to one side is a dangerous stress. The sway bars and sway links counteract this vehicle lean by applying force in the other direction.

The sway bar is important because it can be dangerous to have your car lean in one direction or another. It can also cause the vehicle’s alignment to go out of balance. If a swaybar fails, the problem is usually at the swaybar links. This can cause a dangerous driving situation and/or alignment problems that require expensive repairs.

Suspension Routine Maintenance

When it comes to routine car maintenance, the suspension system is often the area that gets the least attention. The majority of people know how to change their oil and understand the importance of brake pads and similar vehicle maintenance.

Many people ignore warning signs when it comes time to replace worn-out bushings or have their wheels aligned. They end up paying a price in the long term when they cannot ignore a major component and it fails.

Your vehicle’s suspension requires regular maintenance and inspection, just like any other system in your car. Periodic wheel alignments can help identify suspension issues and maintain a good suspension. Call us today or click on this link to schedule a complimentary inspection for your steering and suspension. Keep an eye on the condition of your steering and suspension to enjoy a more comfortable ride. You can also avoid costly auto repairs in the future by staying informed. Pun intended!

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