Today one can hardly imagine a vehicle without a suspension system. We take it for granted but not all of us know what the suspension actually is. It is a sort of a mechanical 'cushion' that does a bang up job of supporting the vehicle's weight, absorbing and dampening road imperfections, and finally, keeping tires in contact with the ground. Basically, there are three main components of the suspension: shock absorbers (aka shocks or dampers), anti-sway bars, and springs. Let's talk about the springs now.
Suspension utilizes one of four basic spring types: coil, leaf, rubber air springs, or torsion bars. The coil springs are what most drivers are familiar with: they're steel bars bent into a flexible coil. The leaf springs are metal layers connected to the axles. The air springs are rubber components containing a cylindrical chamber of air. The torsion bars are contraptions that provide coil-spring-like performance.
Regardless of the type, any spring must cushion the ride as well as prevent the vehicle's body from excessive sagging. But however great the parts are at absorbing energy, they're not so good at dissipating it. Therefore, they act along with shocks. Every time we talk about springs, there are two main things to consider: the sprung weight, to wit, the mass of the vehicle supported by the springs, and the unsprung weight, which includes parts of the suspension and steering not supported by the springs.
If you were asked to explain how springs function, you would say that they extend and compress over and over while driving. Yes, that's the case. One thing that you probably wouldn't mention is that all springs eventually experience metal fatigue. As a rule, their original height is reduced, affecting the suspension geometry. You may not realize the changes in the handling characteristics until you need the suspension most. But what you'll obviously notice is the serious physical damage to the springs because they'll considerably alter the suspension height.
How to know that the system is not as effective as it used to be? Well, a worn out suspension will be incapable of absorbing the bumps of the road. Such driving will make you and your passengers feel uncomfortable. Besides, poor handling will accompany you on turns or, for example, when you need to steer quickly so as to avoid a road hazard. It would look like this: you want to turn right but the car sways in the opposite direction from the turn, causing the car to flip over. As you understand, the replacement is the only sensible option in such a case.
Finding out in time that the suspension system is endangered may save you from serious accidents. Therefore, have the suspension parts examined at regular intervals and if necessary, replace the worn out components as soon as possible. If you intend to fix the problems yourself, don't forget to test drive the vehicle several times during the repair job. What for? To see whether or not the vehicle sways or bounces when turning and braking. One more useful tip for all the drivers is to clean the underneath of the vehicle in the winter and early spring in order to extend the life of the springs.
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