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Your vehicle's suspension system

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Your vehicle's suspension system

You have purchased an automobile. You know how to drive the vehicle but do you know about the parts that make up your vehicle? This article will explain the parts that make up the suspension of your auto.

The suspension of your vehicle is directly related to the comfort of the drive and the handling of the car. A car can be set up for either comfort or for handling. It is very tricky to get a vehicle set up to be both a very smooth, comfortable ride and to handle like a sports car.

The suspension system is part of your vehicle's chassis. Other main parts of an auto's chassis are the frame, steering and tires. The suspension is the system that supports the weight of the vehicle as well as absorbs and dampens energy from road shocks while it helps to sustain tire contact to the road.

When you think of an auto's suspension you probably first think of shock absorbers. It is nice that the name actually explains what these parts do. They take up some of the "shocks," the bumps and potholes, which a roadway places on your car. In reality shock absorbers handle the abuse produced by the rebound of your cars springs.

Your coil or leaf springs actually handle the abuse from the road. So the combination of both the coils and the shock absorbers is what helps keep your car under control. These two parts are vital to your cars suspension so we will look at them more in-depth.

There are different types of springs. I have listed the coil or leaf springs since they are the most widely used type. Coil springs are the type that most people picture when you bring up springs. They compress and expand to absorb the abuse of the wheels hitting pavement. Coil springs look like a stiff pulled-out Slinky.

The leaf spring was popular in the 1980s and now is mostly used only on trucks and sport utility vehicles. This type of spring is made up of several tiers of metal, named leaves, which are fastened together so that they perform as a single entity.

Vehicles with tightly wound springs are the sports cars that are built for handling. They are stiff to ride in so you feel more bumps on the road but they minimize the body movement of the automobile so you can drive it more aggressively. This differs from loosely wound springs. Loosely wound springs are found in luxury cars, think Lexus. These types of springs have a lot more give when you hit potholes or drive on a bumpy road but do not handle as well as cars with tightly wound springs.

Springs are built to absorb energy but not to dissipate it. The part that is built for that function is the shock absorber. A shock absorber can also be called a dampener. Without this dampener the springs would bounce to take in the energy and then continue to bounce and bounce until the energy was dispersed. This would cause a very bouncy, uncomfortable ride. The shock absorber controls that bouncing movement by dampening it.

A shock absorber is like a small oil pump that is placed between the vehicle's wheels and frame. One of the most common styles of shock absorbers is called the twin tube design. There is an upper mount attached to the frame and a lower mount attached to the axle near the wheel. The upper mount transfers the energy of the spring to the shock absorber after your car hits a bump on the roadway. This transference continues though cycles called the compression and extension cycles until the energy is dissipated.

Though shock absorbers and springs are essential to an auto's suspension they are not the only components that make up your suspension. The remaining main parts of a suspension system are the struts, anti-sway bars and tires. Next we will take at look at the struts.

Most vehicles have what is called a strut suspension system.A strut system brings together the coils and shock absorbers of a conventional system and places them into one unit. This does away with the need for many other parts. With fewer parts to the strut system there are fewer parts to break or replace during the ownership of the vehicle.

Due to the design a strut system is lighter and takes up less space. The strut functions in two essential ways. The struts perform as a dampener, similar to the shock absorber as well as providing structural support for the automobile's suspension. The result of a strut system should be a smoother ride and better handling. Struts can affect the tire alignment and actual tire wear on your car as well.

Anti-sway bars are what transfers movement to the tires. Their purpose is to stabilize the vehicle. An anti-sway bar is the technical name for a metal rod that extends across the axle and joins each side of suspension together. Thus when the suspension at one side (wheel) moves up or down the bar transfers the movement to the other side (wheel).This transference allows for a more balanced ride and reduces the roll of the vehicle's chassis.Do not be confused if you hear the term sway bar instead of anti-sway bar, it is the same thing just a shortened down name.

Tires are the final suspension component. Tires are part of the suspension system because they must be in good working order for the suspension to work properly.The suspension system's function is to capitalize on the friction between the roadway and your vehicle's tires. It is the friction between the tires and the roadway that affects the auto's ability to accelerate, brake and steer properly. Tires that are worn down or improperly inflated can hinder the suspension system from functioning correctly.

This article gives only a brief description of the most common parts of a suspension system. There might be more parts to your vehicle's suspension depending on the type of car, if it is front or rear-wheel driven, etc. Improvements and new developments are always occurring so your vehicle might be even more advanced. The best way to find out about your vehicle's particular suspension is to find a model specific book written about your vehicle.

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