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Taking Care Of A Car’s Suspension

On normal, properly maintained roads, a car’s suspension has a tough job to do, keeping the ride comfortable, the car level and cornering without drama. However, as many motorists have discovered to their cost and alarm, our roads are rarely as smooth as the green baize on a snooker table; many are like the surface of a remote goat track in the back of beyond and it’s on these roads that our suspension systems take a beating. Fortunately, for the most part, they stand up to the punishment well and are designed to last a long time; but damage can happen and wear and tear takes its toll. So how do you know when there’s something amiss?


The Shock Absorbers


When shock absorbers get worn, there are tell-tale signs. Of course, if you have your car serviced and MOT tested annually, then your local professional car servicing garage should spot the symptoms for you and recommend a course of immediate action.


       But there are a few things to watch out for:


Inconsistent handling, for example. If you sense the vehicle bouncing excessively at one or more corners, or swaying from side to side when going over bumps or driving around bends, it may indicate a problem with the shock absorbers. Similarly, uneven tyre wear could be an indicator of worn-out or faulty parts which can cause wear patterns like bald spots or excess wear on one side or the other. (Note: This could also mean the wheel is out of balance or other parts, like steering joints, are worn). Check tyres weekly and get your professional service technicians to give the vehicle a check-over for any signs of abnormal wear.


In the same vein, excessive diving or squatting under braking could also be a factor. Watch for and listen for any leaks around the wheel area or odd noises; vibration through the steering wheel is another indicator.


The Springs


There’s a coil spring at each corner behind the wheel, normally around the outside of the shock absorber. With proper maintenance and good fortune, these should last pretty much the lifetime of the car, but who know with our roads? Should anything untoward happen to the springs then replacement (they can’t be repaired) is very much a job for a professional garage who have the correct training and equipment as the springs are under compression and can cause injury when released inexpertly.


If your car has a broken coil spring you'll probably hear knocking noises when driving over rough or uneven ground. Broken coil springs cause misalignment, meaning your car's suspension angles of travel are altered, causing components to scrape or knock against each other. Your vehicle may sway or bounce more than usual. Further, with a coil spring failure, a visual inspection of your car will likely show one corner is lower than the others. If unsure or concerned, ask the experts.


Truly, you should not drive if a spring is broken. The car will handle badly and may not behave as expected. If on the road, call for assistance. A broken or damaged coil spring will also put extra strain on the shock absorber.


If the protective coating on the spring gets damaged it could cause corrosion which, over time, could lead to failure. An unbalanced wheel may cause the suspension to not behave as it should and a flat tyre will certainly cause suspension problems if not immediately attended to; that’s why it is always best to have wheels and tyres checked for wear and balance routinely.


As mentioned, a car’s suspension is tough; it is designed to take whatever the roads dish out and last over very high mileages. Regular servicing will ensure that suspension componentry doesn’t give owners another problem to deal with, but, well, you never can tell what the next day’s driving will have in store.


The four corners of a car have a lot to do; wheels and tyres, brakes and suspension, ball joints and steering: All these components are toiling away, hidden from view. Spare a thought and ensure your car is regularly checked and serviced. You’ll save money in the long term too.

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