Get to Know Your Car’s Suspension System

get to know your car’s suspension systemWith this helpful article from Key Transmission and Gears in Englewood, Colorado, you can get to know your car’s suspension system. You don’t have to be an expert but it is interesting to at least learn a little bit about how the different systems in your vehicle function. Have you ever stopped to think about what the suspension system does, or why it is important? Well, you’re about to find out.

There is no doubt that the various engine systems are invaluable and, of course, your car wouldn’t function well or at all without them. But the suspension system plays a critical role as well, and you wouldn’t be able to drive your car without it safely.

The purpose of a vehicle’s suspension system is to increase the friction between the tires of your car and the road. In so doing, the tires better grip the road, lessening the chance of your tires slipping and providing safer handling and significantly improved stability.

Suspension systems would be unnecessary if the roads here in Englewood and Sheridan were perfectly flat, but we all know that is not true. Even freshly laid asphalt has a certain amount of irregularity to it.

To get to know your car’s suspension system, let’s think back to high school science for a moment. Newton’s laws of motion state that all forces have magnitude and direction. This means that when your tires hit a bump in the road the force created has a magnitude (higher magnitudes at greater speeds or for bigger bumps and lower for the opposite) and a direction (perpendicular to the road).

If the magnitude is sufficient, the tire could even leave the road and come slamming back down onto the pavement, uncomfortable, jostling the occupants of your vehicle. Therefore, your car needs some system that allows the wheels to bounce and absorb the shock and while still creating a smooth ride for the vehicle’s occupants. That’s your suspension system.

The vehicle is also subject to forward and backward forces during acceleration and deceleration and side-to-side forces when taking turns. The suspension system is responsible for redistributing the weight so that the vehicle better handles those forces.

For example, when accelerating, the weight of the vehicle will naturally squat back putting more weight on the back tires and leaving the front tires lighter and with worse contact to the road. The suspension system actively works to pull the weight of the car forward and minimize the weight transfer during acceleration as much as possible. The same applies to stopping and side-to-side forces in turning.

All of this is referred to as the car’s handling. The better a car handles, the safer it is to drive, the more stable it is at higher speeds (i.e. the car is less likely to flip over during turns) and the smoother ride the occupants of the vehicle will enjoy. Nobody is going to complain about that!

There is a whole lot more to explain if you want to get to know your car’s suspension system, but this overview from our experts at Key Transmission and Gears will at least help you understand the basics.

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  1. Steering Wheel Not Centered

When driving on a straight, flat surface, your steering wheel should be perfectly centered. Or close to it at least. The vehicle’s emblem that is usually in the center of the steering wheel should be level. If your steering wheel has to be turned to go straight down a straight road, that’s an indication that your car is not aligned correctly.

  1. The Car Pulls One Way or the Other

Some people still check their alignment by letting go of the steering wheel on a straight road and seeing if the car continues straight. The truth is that not only is this dangerous as you should never let go of the steering wheel entirely but also road conditions may make the car pull a little.

A better way to check is to see if the vehicle will drive straight but with very minimal effort on your part, to keep the steering wheel from turning. You can do this at a slower speed, perhaps in a parking lot or on a quiet street.

  1. Tire Wear

Remember that we mentioned driving a car out of alignment causes wear on the tires? It can cause all sorts of different wear patterns. If you notice that your tires are not wearing evenly, be sure to check the alignment of your car. Being out of alignment is not the only problem that can cause tire wear. A knowledgeable mechanic can make a good guess as to what the issue is just by examining the wear pattern.

  1. Loose Handling

Some vehicles naturally have more play in the steering wheel than others. However, if your vehicle has unusually loose handling, especially around corners and such, the alignment may be to blame. Be sure to have it checked quickly to ensure maximum safety on the road.

  1. Steering Wheel Doesn’t Return to Center

After completing a turn, the steering wheel in a properly aligned vehicle will seek to go back to center. Of course, you should never let go and let the car straighten itself on its own. But if the steering wheel doesn’t even attempt to seek center, that’s an indication that your vehicle is out of alignment.

As soon as you notice one or more of these signs you need a car alignment, bring your car in. Driving a vehicle out of alignment for an extended period will eventually cause a host of other problems, not just with your tires. If you need help or further advice related to your vehicle, don’t hesitate to give us a call here at Key Transmission and Gears. We’re here to serve you!

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