When you climbed into your car for the very first time, what did you focus on?
- The way the seats folded around you, preventing you from jolting and jostling with every bump?
- How quiet the car was when you took it out on the highway?
- How comfortable you were as you drove at different speeds?
You can thank your car’s suspension for that.
A car’s suspension system is responsible for two things:
- Creating a smooth driving experience
- Keeping the car under control
This may be an innate structure of every car on the road today, but it is also something that fades over time.
A suspension system is made up of several different components:
Wheels and tires
While not everyone considers tires a part of the suspension system, we’d say it would be hard for a car to handle well without tires in place. Tires protect the wheels as you move your car over every bump in the road. They protect jarring from rattling other pieces of the suspension system loose.
Every car on the road today has a spring mechanism to absorb large bumps. They are built to take extreme pressure, and to prevent failure in other suspension components.
Shock absorbers and struts
While springs absorb bumps, shock absorbers and struts dissipate the motion and give you a smoother riding experience.
Every component of the suspension system is placed together with kinks, bushing, bearings, and joints. These connections can be made from metal, plastic, or rubber, and wear down over time.
The steering system is created from a steering box and a steering column, and allows you to gain control over your vehicle in all sorts of conditions. The type of steering system can change depending on the car you drive, with hydraulic or electric power steering systems being at the top of the list.
That’s a lot of parts!
One rule of thumb that mechanics often use is that soft parts will wear faster than hard. Rubber joints and hoses will need replacing sooner than a metal rod.
Yet every vehicle on the road today experiences driving conditions differently.
Today you might slide on a sheet of ice. A few months from now, you may sit in a traffic jam in the scorching heat. You may take a dip into a pothole at 40 miles per hour. You may hit the speed bumps in your area multiple times each day.
All of that can wear your suspension differently over time.
To keep your car in good condition, it’s important to pay attention to the various systems that make your vehicle operate smoothly. A car suspension system needs maintaining in the following ways:
Check the air in your tires – this is one of the easiest maintenance items. Properly inflated tires help protect the entire suspension system from damage. If they are under-inflated, they hurt handling and performance, and may reduce gas efficiency in the long term. If the air becomes too low, you risk safety while you drive. If you don’t have a computerized system that warns you if your tire pressure falls outside the norm, check the pressure every thousand miles or so to ensure proper inflation.
Check tire tread – as you check tire pressure, check the tread too. An easy test is often referred to as the penny test. Place a penny in one of the grooves. If you can’t cover up a portion of Lincoln’s head, you don’t have enough tread for safety. This means you’re more at risk of your vehicle moving out of control, especially in rainy, snowy, and icy conditions.
Get your wheels aligned – proper alignment means you’ll have proper handling in all driving conditions. This keeps you safely on the road in all sorts of conditions. Check your owner’s manual for guidelines on how frequently you should have your wheels aligned, keeping in mind that the rougher your daily drive, the more often it should be a part of your maintenance routine.
Check power steering fluid – if you have a hydraulic steering system, a mechanic should check fluid levels at every oil change. Power steering fluid is usually changed about every 30,000 miles or so, or you can check with your vehicle’s manufacturer for specific guidance.
Inspect shock absorbers and struts – there are a variety of telltale signs your shocks and struts are failing. If you’ve noticed your car bouncing as you drive, or diving forward as you brake, it’s time for new shocks and/or struts. Different vehicles use different systems; not every car has both shocks and struts. Check with your car’s manufacturer for guidelines on how often they should be replaced.
Have you been in an accident – even minor bumps can shake your suspension system loose. If it was strong enough to put a dent in the body of your vehicle, it’s worth having one of our mechanics check your car over. An inspection will ensure that your car is working the way it should, and will get you where you’re going safely and securely.
Pay attention to where and how you drive – even here in the Denver Metro area, people live and work in different conditions. Do you routinely drive on dirt roads? Is there a pothole-ridden road right outside your door? Do you mostly put on highway mileage, or are stop signs and stop lights a big part of your routine?
Because every component of your vehicle’s suspension system is connected and operates in a unique way, there isn’t a proper sequence of where and when things will start to fail. If one part is damaged, it can quickly accelerate problems, and impact many other parts in the suspension system.
Whether you suspect damage, aren’t sure how long it’s been since your suspension system was inspected, or are planning a major road trip in the coming weeks, make today the day you schedule an inspection to ensure your vehicle is working as it should.