It’s estimated that the average car on the road today has over 30,000 parts. And while it’s not important to know every part, you should learn the basic systems and how they operate. This helps you stay on top of the condition of your car, and can alert you to when things go wrong.
Let’s start by discussing the braking system and your suspension, and how the two work together.
How car brakes work
A car’s braking system is fairly simple to understand. When you press down on the brake pedal, the car slows down or stops. If you’ve ever ridden a bicycle, you know how the process works.
The brake pedal is connected to a part called the master cylinder with a metal rod. The master cylinder chamber is filled with brake fluid, which is what makes the brake system work. Brake lines are connected from the master cylinder to the brake calipers, which give passageway for the brake fluid to flow.
When you press down on the brake pedal, the metal rod moves up and down, compressing the brake fluid in the master cylinder. As pressure builds, it moves through the brake lines and creates the force the brake system needs to operate. More force on the brake pedal pushes more pressure in the brake line, and ultimately more force for stopping the car.
When you take your foot off the brake pedal, it releases the pressure via spring action. It moves back to resting position, releasing the brakes at each wheel and allowing the car to move freely.
How steering and suspension work
The steering and suspension work together to keep your car under control.
The steering system gives you directional control over your vehicle. The suspension system supports the weight of your vehicle and gives it a smooth ride, while providing stability for the current road conditions. Together, they keep your car under control and give you both drivability and handling.
If you’ve ever had a problem with your steering, you’ve probably heard the term “rack and pinion.” This is one of the most common steering systems used for many cars on the road today. As you turn your steering wheel, it’s rotating on a pinion. This movement rotates a rack, which controls the direction of your wheels from one angle to another. Think of the rack and pinion as a gear shift that work together. As you rotate the steering wheel, the pinion catches in the circular gear connected to the rack, giving you a turning radius.
While rack and pinion is one of the most popular, it isn’t the only format. Other popular types of steering design include parallelogram steering, which includes power steering pumps, Pitman arms, idler arms, and a center link. They have joints and levers work together to form the modern day steering and suspension system.
Ultimately, no matter what type of steering and suspension system you have, the goal is to provide you with a smooth ride.
How brakes and steering and suspension work together
It should be fairly easy to see how the two systems work together. The steering and suspension provide stability to keep you safe on the road, while the braking system gives you the control you need to adjust to traffic conditions.
If your suspension is off, your car won’t handle well when braking. It may nosedive. It can cause you to swerve. All of which can cause you to pound on the brakes, wearing them out before their time.
Does your car have problems with the suspension? Have you noticed any of these signs?
Your car rides roughly
Every system in your vehicle is designed to tell you in advance that it’s reaching end of life. When the shocks and struts of your suspension system are wearing out, you’ll start to feel every bump on the road. Have you noticed a bounce when you ride? That’s an indication your suspension system is having problems.
Your car drifts or pulls as you turn
When a car’s suspension system fails, it starts to drift or pull as you make a turn. This means the shocks are no longer doing their job to keep your car stable as it moves through turns. This can increase your risk of rollover if you take the turn too fast.
Your car nose dives as you stop
When shocks wear out, you’ll likely feel the car nose dive as you apply the brakes. This can reduce the stopping power of your brakes, meaning it will take more distance to safely come to a stop.
Your tires will wear unevenly
Glance at your tire tread from time to time. If you see uneven wear, it could be a sign your suspension system isn’t doing its job. It applies pressure on the tires in different ways, creating bald spots in certain places.
Your shocks are oily
If you take a look under your vehicle, or glance at the ground as you drive away, do you notice wet spots? It a greasy, oily liquid appears where your shocks and struts were lined up, it could be they are leaking fluid. Anytime fluid leaks, it’s a sign the system isn’t doing its job at full capacity.
Try the bounce test
One of the easiest ways you can determine if your suspension system isn’t working is to apply the bounce test. With the car in park, press down on the hood of the car, then release. Do the same thing on the trunk. If the car bounces as you release it, it’s a sign your suspension system is wearing out.
Do you have a problem with your brakes, steering or suspension system? We can help.
Your brakes and suspension system are designed to help your vehicle function properly, while giving you a safe, smooth ride. Letting either system continue to operate at a less-than-optimal rate puts you at risk as well as costs you money as more damage continues to accrue.
Stop by today and let assess your vehicle’s performance. Together we can help keep you on the road longer, and enjoy the ride.