If you, like many people, have to daily drive on terrible roads then chances are you might have some type of car suspension problem. Car suspension problems can sometimes be easy to ignore, mainly since a lot of times your car can still run and function with these problems.
But what can these squeaks, roars, and whistles mean. Before we get into the top car suspension problems lets first get an understanding of the basic suspension parts.
What is a car’s suspension?
A car’s suspension is made up of many different systems that all work together to enable the car to most efficiently move. Their sole purpose is to enable the car to move. These systems consist the following:
The tires are a key component to the suspension system. Most people don’t even realize this is part of your suspension. The tires are what immediately transfers the energy produced from the engine to the ground. It is very crucial to keep your maintenance up on your tires.
Issues with your tires can affect your gas mileage, rideability, and your other suspension components. If left unchecked, you could have a tire failure which has been the cause of many major traffic accidents.
Springs and Struts
Your springs and struts are the components of your car that help dampen the vibrations caused by the many bumps in the road. The spring is simply a coiled piece of metal while your strut is the rod commonly found inside of the spring. Both the springs and struts work together to provide a smooth ride and help with weight distribution during car movement. These parts are usually referred to as the spring struts since they usually are coupled together.
Your ball-joints are what connect your steering and suspension systems. They work very similar to the way a person’s hip joint works allowing rotational movement between the two systems of the car. Most of the time ball joints are encased and filled with grease to allow constant lubrication.
Anti-sway bars are basically a metal bar that connects the left and right wheels. These bars help keep the car from swaying during turns as the name suggests. This is to ensure your tires stay on the ground during turns to continue movement.
Types of Suspension Configurations
Suspension systems can come in a variety of configurations. As technology advances these systems continue to evolve. I will only explain the basic suspension configurations which are incorporated in the majority of cars.
Independent Front Suspension
Independent front suspension is where your two front wheels act independently of each other. This allows each wheel to react and adjust to the movement of the vehicle and road independently allowing for a smoother ride, especially when it comes to cornering. This is the most common configuration for today’s front suspension. Independent front suspensions traditionally have spring struts mentioned in the previous section.
Dependent Front Suspension
The dependent front suspension is when the two front wheels are connected to each other by a rigid bar (this rigid bar is different from the anti-sway bar mentioned earlier). This configuration is not very common on pedestrian vehicles but is still used on commercial trucks. Included with the metal bar is usually some type of dampening system such as a leaf spring (which will be explained in a later section) and/or struts.
Independent Rear Suspensions
In independent rear suspensions the configuration is very similar to the front system, almost identical. The only difference is the absence of all the steering components, simplifying the system. Just like the independent front suspension, this configuration allows both rear wheels to react independently to the movement of the car and road.
Independent rear suspensions are more common on cars, especially performance vehicles for better handling.
Dependent Rear Suspension
The dependent rear suspension is commonly known as a “live rear axle”. With this configuration the rear wheels are connected via the rear axle. This configuration usually still contains springs in the rear for dampening of the body to the axle and is very common in trucks.
With a dependent rear suspension trucks will usually have leaf springs for rear dampening. These leaf springs are a flexible material that are attached from the frame of the vehicle to a connection point on the axle.
Now that you have a better understanding of the suspension system lets discuss the top car suspension problems.
Top 5 Car Suspension Problems
1. Excessive Movement When Braking and Turning
If your car is constantly diving to one side or the other when turning and braking, then this usually means there is something wrong with your spring struts and or your tires.
With low air pressure in your tires this can cause more movement than usual when your car body moves. Other symptoms included with this are usually a bumpy ride and roaring noise during normal driving.
If your spring struts are the issue you will have the same symptoms as the low tires, but you might also here a squeaking noise coming from the front or rear of the car.
If you are experiencing this issue you can do a quick inspection of your tires to ensure they aren’t the issue. It might be a little difficult to visually determine if the spring strut is the issue. In any case, it is a good idea to have a mechanic inspect your tires and spring struts to ensure the issue isn’t bigger than it may seem.
2. Pulling to One Side When Driving
Pulling to one side when driving is a very common sign of a car suspension problem. Once again, your tires can be the culprit causing this to occur. If one of your tires is low, it can throw the balance of your car off causing it to pull to one side. Doing a quick check of your tires can quickly diagnose the issue or rule it out.
Another possible reason your car is pulling to one side can be due to a wheel misalignment. Your wheel alignment is adjustable and if you like to test your suspension by driving over speed bumps at 50 miles per hour chances are your wheels are no longer aligned. Most repair shops can quickly check your alignment to see if this your issue.
3. Unusually Bumpy Ride
When driving you should not feel every bump in the road. Your suspension is designed to prevent this from happening. Of course, not all suspensions feel the same, depending on the type of vehicle, but if you feel a substantial change there might possibly be a problem with your suspension system.
Once again, the first component you should check is your tires (if you haven’t noticed your tires are a key component to how your car feels when driving). Low tire pressure can make the road seem unusually bumpy.
Loose ball joints can also be the reason you are experiencing a bumpy ride. If the ball joint is not seated well or is damaged due to normal wear your ride can be much bumpier than usual.
With a bumpy ride there can be many possible things causing this. If you are experiencing these symptoms you should take your car to your trusted mechanic.
4. Car Leaning to One Side or Corner
If your car is leaning to one corner, no you do not miraculously have hydraulics. I’m sure you can guess the first thing to check for based off the other suspension problem above. If you guessed, your tires, then you are correct. If you have a low or flat tire this will cause your car to lean to one side or corner.
This can also be caused by a collapsed or malfunctioning strut. The struts are to move freely within the spring and can sometimes get jammed or not function properly due to wear. To check, while parked on a flat surface, you can simply have a look at both sides of your car and compare the two spring struts. If one spring strut is lower than the other, then your spring strut is malfunctioning and more than likely needs to be replaced.
5. Uneven Tire Treads
Due to the many things low or flat tires can cause your driving experience it is a very good idea to periodically inspect your tires. If while inspecting your tires you notice uneven tread (the ridges on your tire) wear this can be a sign you might have a problem with your suspension system.
In most cases this is due to a wheel alignment issue. As stated earlier, this can be a very simple check made by most repair shops.
The suspension system plays a key role in how your car drives and feels. If you are experiencing any of the top suspension problems, it’s best to consult a mechanic as soon as possible to avoid further damage.
If you have any questions or comments drop them below or send us a message here. We’d love to hear from you. And remember – knowledge is the key to a fair repair.