We all know that your car suspension helps protect your car from bumps and potholes in the road and all those other nuisance items you may run over, but what else does it do?

  • It makes steering the car easier and more stable
  • Improves friction between the tyres and the road surface
  • Enables handling and effortless driving
  • Smooths out accelerating, braking, and cornering
  • Prevents excessive tyre wear
  • Prevents excessive brake wear
  • Maximises passenger comfort

As you can see, as well as delivering the best driving and passenger experience, your suspension system is also responsible for the stability and drive of your vehicle, transferring to higher speeds, better cornering, and a whole lot more.

Ride and handling

Imagine if the government did their job and every road in the UK was free from potholes, bumps from roadworks, uneven surfacing, and other hazards. Every car would roll around without issue, as smooth as you like, with no need for a suspension system.

But hang on! What about speed bumps, sleeping policemen, and other road features designed to slow down speeding drivers? Okay, we’re going to need suspension, after all.

And that’s not all; your suspension is also responsible for control while travelling around corners and braking. Imagine if your car was one solid entity; as you steered around a corner, the weight working with gravity would encourage your car to tip to the leading side and possibly flip over.

It works in a similar way when braking. If you jumped on the brakes, the car would either skid or push all the weight to the front, causing it to upend itself and perhaps even flip over (admittedly, they’d have to be really good brakes!).

Isolating road shock

Your car suspension system absorbs energy when travelling over road bumps, dissipating the force to allow the vehicle to continue its forward movement, undisturbed, for both the operation of the car and the comfort of the passengers.

Road holding

The suspension absorbs directional energies created under braking and accelerating to keep the tyres in contact with the ground. As a result, it minimises the transfer of weight from side to side and back to front, ensuring proper contact and friction without tipping or skidding.

Cornering

As a car travels around a corner, centrifugal force pushes the car’s centre of gravity outwards, creating what we call roll or sway, encouraging the inside side of the vehicle to rise from the ground. The suspension manages that force, minimising the rise and distributing the weight for best handling and safe driving.

How does a car suspension system work?

The suspension is part of the car chassis, fastened to the frame that supports the engine and body. It consists of several components, as we’re about to discuss.

Springs

Most suspension springs are big, heavy-duty metal coils. They’re easy to spot if you look behind your wheels. However, other types, such as leaf and air springs, are still used in some specific types of vehicles.

Shock absorbers (or dampers)

A spring, by nature, bounces when affected by an outside force. Without something to control that bounce, your car would keep rebounding up and down after it passed over a rock, bump or other items.

Shock absorbers are hydraulic pistons designed to control the bouncing of the spring.

Struts

A strut consists of a shock absorber mounted inside a coil spring. An alternative to independent springs and shocks, they don’t just provide comfort for your drive but support the car’s weight.

Anti-roll or sway bars

Anti-roll bars connect one side of the suspension to the other. They link both sides of the suspension system, providing a more level ride while cornering.

Signs of suspension problems

If you’re not sure whether or not your car suspension is behaving as it should, we’ve listed some of the most common suspension problems and how to spot them.

1. A rough ride

This usually means that the shock absorbers are worn and aren’t controlling the bounce of the springs efficiently.

2. The car pulls to one side

This could be down to tyre wear or wheel alignment, but it could also be a damaged track rod, spring or suspension arm.

3. Your car sits low

If the front of the car has dipped or is dipping more than usual, it’s a fairly sure sign of a damaged spring. The car will sit at the bottom of its suspension if it’s broken completely or will bottom out regularly if it’s suffered some other damage that results in the suspension relying solely on the shock absorber.

4. Oily shock absorbers

Efficiency will be pretty low when your shock absorbers have sprung a leak. Putting all of the pressure on the springs will lead to an overly bouncy ride. One way to check this is to park your car and lean heavily on the bonnet. When you let go, it should return to its usual position smoothly. If it bounces more than a few times, there’s probably an issue with the shock absorbers.