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The primary purpose of a car suspension is to maintain maximum tire contact and friction with the road resulting in a smooth drive. A complex system of components work together to accomplish this under many conditions.
The suspension absorbs impacts from bumps and other road imperfections. This keeps the tires in contact with the road and provides a comfortable ride to the occupants. The suspension also works to improve steering feedback and control weight transfer in corners.
Without a suspension system, it would be very difficult to drive a vehicle safely. It would also be uncomfortable with lots of jerking and rocking among other things.
There are several basic checks to find out if your suspension is working properly. The simplest check is inspecting the tires. Tires that are unevenly worn indicate suspension problems or alignment issues.
A test drive can also reveal problems. Listen for unusual noises over bumps or around corners. Notice if the vehicle pulls to one side while driving in a straight line. Observe if the vehicle continues to bounce after driving over bumps.
You've probably heard of the "bounce test" before, too. If you suspect your suspension is suffering, this is the time to do a bounce test. Try it on both the front and rear bumper.
If your vehicle fails any of the above checks or you otherwise suspect a problem, have the suspension thoroughly inspected on a lift at the shop. Taking the vehicle weight off the suspension can help diagnose worn components.
Common symptoms of a bad suspension include clunking sounds and uneven tire wear. When you are driving, you might feel like the car is leaning to one side or it's just plain bumpy. A bad suspension could also result in a rocking feeling from front to back or side to side.
If you suspect a problem, have the suspension system including shocks, struts, seals, bushings, control arms, springs, and more thoroughly inspected.
Suspension parts can fail from age, environment, or wear. Rubber or plastic seals and bushings can fail from age. Metal parts like control arms can corrode from road salt or salt air exposure. Moving parts like ball joints can fail from high mileage or severe use. Shock absorbers and struts can leak hydraulic oil with age.
Brakes can sometimes affect the performance of the suspension. The suspension system is designed to keep the vehicle under control while braking. Worn or malfunctioning brakes can put additional stress on the suspension components.
Brake bias is the front-to-rear distribution of braking force. It prevents sudden vehicle weight transfer when coming to a stop. Brakes must also apply force evenly to each side of the vehicle. Worn or damaged brake parts can upset this balance. A malfunction by any of the following brake parts could result in a problem: