The suspension plays the key role in optimizing both the ride comfort and handling of a car.
The function of the car suspension is to ensure that bumps, jerks and road imperfections are controlled and absorbed so that they don't make the ride uncomfortable or weight transfers dangerous. A car running on air-filled rubber tires will bounce, oscillate, wobble, and sway alarmingly even on smooth roads if it is not fitted with a suspension. Modern cars weigh tons and run at very high speeds. Without the suspension, a smooth, controlled ride would be virtually impossible. Even a racecar needs a suspension system to run properly.
Components of the suspension system include a variety of springs, dampers, control arms, and links. Springs convert the jerks and bumps involved in the ride into kinetic energy. A car running on springs alone will continue to sway and wobble until the force generated by the impact is dissipated. Springs are used with dampers, such as shock absorbers and struts to dissipate the kinetic energy (the up and down movement of the spring), converting it into heat and smoothing out the ride.
The car suspension also controls the extent to which the tires tilt inward or outward. This angle of tilt is known as the camber angle. The suspension determines the extent of rotation and the angle of inward or outward tilt and helps ensure maximum friction between tires and the road surface. The sway bar or anti-roll bar helps counteract body roll in corners. In some advanced luxury cars, sophisticated computer programs have now replaced many of the jobs of a typical car suspension.
The earliest suspension involved suspending the body of horse carriages from poles fitted to the chassis using leather belts. This is why the mechanism was called the suspension. The earliest automobiles made use of dependent suspensions on all wheels. As technology improved, car engineers came up with semi-dependent and finally independent suspensions. Most modern automobiles use independent suspension in all four wheels. This ensures that each wheel can be controlled and manipulated independently.
A family car if often fitted with a more compliant suspension for a comfortable ride for the passengers. Sports cars, on the other hand, have stiffer suspensions that help ensure tighter control and better handling. Modern suspensions are designed to last throughout the life of the car. However, proper maintenance and upkeep is essential to ensure the car's performance does not suffer. A faulty suspension will affect both safety and comfort.
The car suspension is one of the most important systems on an automobile. A properly functioning suspension will minimize engine stress, prevent early damage to tires, and help the driver and passengers enjoy the ride.