As we do our daily driving, deep underneath that shiny exterior our cars are working hard to deliver a swift and pleasant ride. We don’t really think about our car’s suspension on a daily basis, but maybe we should. Consider this: Our roads in general, especially locally, are rarely what you would call as smooth as a snooker table. Despite the money we pay for the privilege of driving they are often in poor condition with, it goes without saying, plenty of potholes and our vehicle’s suspension parts have to soak all this punishment up. The various components that aid ride and handling come in for some mighty bad treatment. So how do we know if our suspension is failing?
What’s Wrong With My Suspension?
Briefly, the suspension parts that take the strain are the dampers (or shock absorbers) which in turn are encased by the springs. Working in tandem, these are the parts that are set up to provide ride comfort or enhance handling, in the case of performance cars, which generally have a ‘harder’ ride.
1. The Bump Test
If it is felt that the car is rocking from side to side more than is normal then it may be time for the bump test. Lean heavily on and push down on each corner of the vehicle. If any one corner continues to bounce after having stopped applying force and takes a while to settle to rest, chances are that shock absorber has failed.
Faulty suspension will, as mentioned, affect ride and handling adversely and will encourage tyre wear. Note that it is prudent when a spring or damper fails, to change both sides on that axle. This is a job for your local car servicing garage as, although it is not particularly difficult to change a spring or a shock absorber, the spring has to be compressed during removal and assembly. This is a risky job in amateur hands. A professional garage is equipped to deal with it.
In motion, if the car’s steering wheel judders on an otherwise straight road it could be an indication that the suspension, or part of it, could have failed or bushes have worn. If a car jolts and changes direction of its own accord, well, this could also mean suspension problems. Alternatively or as well, if the car ‘dives’ in corners or veers to one side, then that’s another sign that you’ve got an issue.
Good, tight springs are vital to suspension performance. They take the weight of the whole car and its contents and over time will wear and sag. Park on level ground and look at the vehicle from a distance. If one corner looks lower than another then it’s a worn or damaged spring. Ask any driver who has hit a massive pothole at speed.
In general use, if any ‘clunking’ or ‘creaking’ noises are heard when driving over rough surfaces then there’s a suspension fault and handling will be compromised. There are certain noises any car makes in use; if something is heard other than the regular sounds then there may be a problem. Once again, suspension work needs to be carried out by a professional garage.
5. Abnormal Tyre Wear
Obviously car tyres need to be inspected as part of routine weekly maintenance. Often if any uneven wear is noticed it will be caused by faulty wheel alignment; that’s not uncommon. It could however be caused by faulty suspension as described above.
It’s likely that we are all guilty of taking our car’s suspension for granted and that could be a costly mistake. We get used to our vehicles and we sort of know when things don’t seem quite right. It pays to heed that automotive sixth sense so if in doubt get your local car servicing garage to check out the suspension.