How to Identify Bad Car Suspension System

The suspension system is the backbone of the automobile as it serves many significant functions that help the vehicle with traction, handling, movement and stability. The suspension system in modern vehicles also has added benefits such as ride adaptability, traction control, etc. which are configured either by manual input or recognised by the vehicles computer to define the parameters automatically. 

There are many different types of suspension systems which are defined based on many different parameters, most of which are comfort, stability  and handling characteristics. The front and rear suspension in most front engine front wheel drive vehicles is different from that of the rear wheel drive and features different technologies. Typically the front suspension has two types: MacPherson strut and Double Wishbone. Whereas the rear has many different types of suspensions and are categorized based on the live and solid rear axle and whether the vehicle is rear wheel drive or front wheel drive. To exemplify here are a few rear suspension system types: Multi lInk, Torsion Beam, Dependent, Independent, Semi- Independent, etc.

Symptoms Of Bad Car Suspension System

To understand the failures of the suspension system before major problems arise and to have them fixed is necessary for the best vehicle operation, a smooth ride, proper handling and most importantly - stability. Here are a few suspension system failures symptoms:

  • The vehicle experiences a lot of bumps on the road but when it is all transferred to the cabin and is felt by the driver, it is an indication that the struts or shock absorbers have failed and do not dampen the road disturbances effectively. Experiencing a bumpy ride can mean that there is an issue with the dampening of the bumps which means that the shock absorbers or struts are failing to their job. In such a situation, to verify if the shock or struts are worn out, one can do a  bounce test. Simply push your entire weight down on your car’s bonnet. Release and count the number of times the car bounces. If it bounces more than three times, then there is a problem with your shock absorbers or struts.

  • Pulling the vehicle to one side. The suspension needs to be aligned precisely for the correct operation and therefore any misalignment in says the toe-in or camber, caster etc can cause the vehicle to pull to one side while trying to drive in a straight line. Alternatively, even the suspension system may be the reason as a worn-out spring may allow the wheel to rest higher than the corresponding wheel with a proper spring causing a shift in the load and ultimately, the pulling of the vehicle in one direction. Tires may also be the culprit as low tire pressure or uneven tire tread can cause similar results.

  • Another prominent failure symptom of the suspension system can be observed while accelerating, braking or cornering. If the vehicle leans backward during acceleration, or nose-dives during braking, or leans from side-to-side while making a turn then the shock absorbers and struts are worn out causing a complete failure of the system. Of course, these indications can also be experienced in case of extreme driving such as during very fast maneuvers, during high-speed braking, or heavy acceleration. But if these signs are seen during regular vehicle operation then there may be a suspension system failure.

  • If the vehicle sits unevenly i.e. if one of the wheel corners is lower than the others then it can be pointed out that that specific spring may be damaged or worn out. Make sure to fill both tires evenly and remove any cargo or loads in the car. If the corner still sags then apply all your weight on that corner and check for any sounds that emanate from the suspension system that will indicate the failure point. 

  • One of the most dangerous suspension system debacles may be the loss of the steering system. If the steering effort is drastically increased at low speeds, or if there is too much play of the steering wheel without any feedback then there may be a serious steering system problem which may be a result of the low levels of power steering fluid, a faulty power steering pump, a leaking power steering rack or worn control arm bushings. It is best to have a professional look at the vehicle in case of a steering system failure as it can have catastrophic results if left unnoticed.

The suspension system, therefore, controls the overall movement of the vehicle and any loss in movement can result in accidents due to lack of control, stability and handling. The proper functioning of the suspension system can be the reason you avoid the next unforeseen accident.

Assess And Fix Bad Car Suspension System

Knowing the symptoms takes you one step closer to understanding the potential problems with the system, but countering them is necessary for a safe and comfortable drive. Here are a few factors can help you assess the damage and take precautionary actions to mend the suspension system:

  • One of the best techniques for identification of shock absorber or strut damage is to conduct a bounce test. As mentioned earlier, the bounce test involves pushing your entire weight down on your vehicle’s bonnet. Release and count the number of times the car bounces. If it bounces more than three times, then there is a problem with your shock absorbers or struts.

  • The shock absorbers are filled with fluid, typically oil, which is a damaged shock that can leak and is an obvious sign to look out for. Simply doing a visual check of the suspension system at regular intervals can help you determine their potency. If shock absorbers or struts look greasy or oily, there is a good chance they are leaking fluid, meaning they won’t be working optimally.

  • One essential way of determining suspension system failure is to observe how the vehicle comes out of a pothole. If the vehicle is completely dangled from the experience then it is an obvious sign of failure, whereas, if the vehicle is able to effectively counter the effects of the disturbance then there may still be living in your suspension system. Although it is recommended to not try this on purpose and only observe if in case the vehicle is subjected to a pothole.

  • Visual inspections can be useful for determining the number of problems most significant of which is rust, which is prone to happen on struts and shock absorbers with prolonged usage, which can ultimately cause leakage. 

  • Listening for clunking or bumps, which you may hear or feel. If you hear tapping or ticking on a relatively smooth road, you may have a problem with shock or strut mounts, sway bar links or bushings. On rough roads or over bumps, clunkiness could indicate worn bushings or ball joints. A loud bang could signify a problem with the jounce or frame bumpers. With the vehicle stationary, turn the steering wheel left and right. Clicking could indicate a tie rod end or a bearing problem. A groaning sound may point to a power steering or strut bearing problem.

Now if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms it is highly recommended that you have them fixed or attempt to do it yourself since suspension system is a crucial part of your vehicle and having a broken or even faulty one can severely affect the overall performance of the vehicle. The effects of defective shocks or struts are as follows:

  • Increased braking distance.

  • Loss of vehicle stability.

  • Increased Aquaplaning risk.

  • Loss of tyres' lateral guiding when cornering.

  • Increased Tire wear.

  • Reduced ESP and ABS performance.

Failing to replace the shocks can result in severe damage to the vehicle and its performance and can pose a variety of safety hazards that put your life at jeopardy. 

To restore your vehicle's suspension system to factory conditions purchase the best in line products for your Suspension System including the following:

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