Imagine driving down the road at a normal rate of speed and hitting a bump that was hidden from view by pavement or the angle of the sun, and then bumping your head on the roof of your ca. If you’re really lucky, you spill hot coffee on yourself at the same time.
That’s a very likely picture of every single commute to work or trip to the store without a car’s suspension system, vital to ensuring that your car not only rides down the road but also does so without being a danger to yourself and others.
What Is Your Car’s Suspension?
The car suspension system, according to one history, was invented in 1904 when William Brush was driving his brother’s Crestmobile (a touring car made from 1901 to 1904 by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Crest Manufacturing Company), which took a curve at 30 miles an hour and hit a rut that was hidden from his view. Brush wrecked his brother’s car, of course, but it led to an important invention by that brother, Alanson. Two years later, Alanson, in an effort to keep cars more stable on the road, especially curves, had come up with an innovative suspension system. It featured coil springs mounted on flexible hickory wood axles, which acted as shock absorbers when hitting potholes or bumps.
Today’s vehicle suspension – while born from Alanson’s brother’s driving – is a much more complicated system made up of tires, springs, shock absorbers, and connectors to the vehicle’s wheels. They work to not only provide a smooth ride with good road handling but also to allow movement between the wheels and the rest of the car.
It includes, in addition to tires:
- Springs to absorb energy.
- Shock absorbers or struts, which combine springs and shock absorbers, depending on the vehicle make and model, to stop the energy generated by driving over the bump from continuing, like lowering the height of a bouncing ball.
- Anti-sway/roll bars. These metal bars connect each side of the suspension together via the axles, and basically work together to take pressure off one wheel when necessary to help limit the amount of sway that occurs.
- Control arms. These connect the front tires in two places (back tires too if you also have a rear suspension system), and are the key to the suspension system. They differ somewhat in vehicles that have struts.
- Spindles. Spindles connect the control arms at each tire – again, all four if your vehicle has a rear suspension – with ball joints that allow the spindles and control arms to move.
- Ball joints. Ball joints join the spindle to the control arms and not only allow smooth motion going forward but also prevent the vehicle from swaying.
Without a suspension system, riding in a car would be a game of ducking our heads during bumps. There would be few road trips, so suspension systems were an absolutely magnificent invention, beginning more than 115 years ago when a brother wasn’t careful with his brother’s car, which would have likely been priceless today. (Or maybe not. In 2017, a 1901 Crestline – the first year the car was made, sold for just under $40,000).
Signs You Have a Suspension Problem
There are, as with any vehicle problem, things to look out for to determine if there are any issues going on with your suspension that demand your attention.
Here are some that could be cause for concern:
- There’s a bit of a tip forward when your car comes to a stop. This could be a sign of worn shocks, and could cause you to have trouble coming to a stop in an emergency, which could be deadly depending on your rate of speed.
- Your vehicle pulls to one side while you’re driving. This might not be a suspension problem – it could be your tires requiring replacing or it’s time for an alignment – but it could mean your suspension is becoming worn out and needs attention. Seeing a mechanic is the best way to find out which of these is your real issue.
- Your car sags on one side. If all of your tires are inflated to the proper weight, the sag could be letting you know exactly where your suspension issues are occurring.
- Your car is difficult to control around corners. If your vehicle feels as if it is pulling around corners, your suspension system is not doing its job, which could lead to a rollover accident.
- If there is more than one bounce when you hit a pothole, you might have a suspension issue. The suspension system is there to keep you from bouncing too much when you hit a bump in the road, so if you do, your suspension system is not stabilizing the car as it should.
- Your ride is rough. If a once-smooth ride is now a little bumpy, getting your suspension checked out is a smart thing to do.
Is My Suspension Under Warranty?
Of course, the big concern keeping many from making an appointment with the mechanic is the cost of repairs.
If you’re concerned over whether or not your car’s suspension is covered by your vehicle’s factory warranty, the answer is both yes – if it was a factory or manufacturer’s defect it is covered – and no. Suspension problems are considered a wear-and-tear issue, and for wear and tear, we turn to an extended warranty.
Depending on the warranty itself, an extended warranty will likely cover suspension issues for a period of time that’s quite a bit longer than your initial warranty provided, oftentimes the life of the car under current ownership.
Finding the best vehicle protection plan will help ensure that your ride is as smooth as possible by protecting your vehicle’s suspension system. An extended warranty also helps keep your financial situation equally smooth by protecting your bank account from unwelcome vehicle expenses.