Suspension Systems


Suspension Systems Fundamental principles
Principles of suspension
Sprung mass refers to vehicle parts supported on the springs, such as the body, frame, and engine. Unsprung mass includes parts of the steering and suspension not supported by springs, such as wheels, tires, and brake assemblies.

Unsprung weight
Parts of a vehicle not supported by the suspension system are known as unsprung weight.

Suspension force
Leaf springs absorb applied force by flattening out under load. Coil springs absorb force of impact by twisting. Torsion bars twist around their center.

Wheel unit location
Driving thrust, braking torque, and cornering force operate to displace wheel units. These forces must be transferred to the vehicle frame, but the wheel units must stay aligned with each other, and with the frame.

Dampening prevents or reduces the bouncing effect of oscillation by absorbing the energy from the oscillation.

Types of suspension
Suspension systems
The purpose of the suspension system is to isolate the vehicle body from road bumps and vibrations, while keeping the wheels in contact with the road.

Solid axle
The solid, or beam, axle is used in the rear suspension of many front-engined, rear-wheel drive cars, and light commercial vehicles, and as the front suspension on many heavy commercial vehicles.

Dead axle
A dead axle only supports the vehicle and doesn’t transmit any drive. With a live axle, the drive is transmitted through the final drive unit and axles to the wheels.

Independent suspension
Independent suspension helps keep unsprung mass low. Also, if a wheel hits an irregularity, it won’t upset the opposite wheel on the same axle. It allows wheel camber to be adjusted, or designed into the suspension geometry.

Rear independent suspension
For independent suspension on the rear of a vehicle, many FWD cars use a McPherson strut at the rear. On RWD vehicles, the suspension has to allow for the external drive shafts.

© 2005 DVP Licensing Pty Ltd

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Driving thrust transfers through the front half of the spring to the fixed shackle point.Suspension Systems Summaries Suspension Systems Types of suspension (continued) Rear-wheel drive independent suspension On rear-wheel drive vehicles with independent suspension. the overall spring diameter. Coil springs can look alike but give very different load ratings. Suspension system layouts Driven rear suspension layouts There are several different driven or ‘live’ axle rear suspension system layouts. © 2005 DVP Licensing Pty Ltd page 2 . Front suspension layouts Front suspension layouts can use ‘live’ or ‘dead’ axle systems. and the spacing of the coils. and braking torque on deceleration. Drive is transmitted to each wheel by external drive shafts. the final drive unit is fixed to the vehicle frame. its shape. Leaf springs A leaf spring locates the axle housing longitudinally and laterally. Independent rear suspension layouts There are several different layouts that use independent driven or ‘live’ axle rear suspension systems. Torsion bars A torsion bar is fixed to the chassis or sub-frame at one end. Suspension system components Coil springs The load-carrying ability of a coil spring depends on the wire diameter. which are often color coded for identification. Adaptive air suspension Adaptive air suspension is an electronically controlled air suspension system at all four wheels with a continuously adaptive damping system. Adaptive air suspension operation The height sensor uses the induction principle to constantly monitor the distance between the vehicle’s axle and its chassis. to provide the springing action. Deflection of the suspension causes the bar to twist around its center. It sustains torque reaction on acceleration. Non-driven rear suspension layouts There are several different non-driven or ‘dead’ rear suspension system layouts. and the suspension control arm at the other.

Hydraulic shock absorbers The dampening action of a hydraulic shock absorber comes from transferring oil. When the load is removed. the position of the valves in the piston can be changed. and varying the force needed to open the valves. according to the load placed over the rear axle. © 2005 DVP Licensing Pty Ltd page 3 . and the stiffness of the suspension. under pressure. the rubber’s elastic properties tend to return it to its original state. and to vary the force needed to open the valves. Manual adjustable-rate shock absorbers In a manual adjustable-rate shock absorber. Automatic load-adjustable shock absorbers Automatic load-adjustable shock absorbers maintain vehicle ride at a pre-set level. and high when its velocity is high. Electronic adjustable-rate shock absorbers The electronic adjustable-rate shock absorber has a rotary solenoid that can alter dampening rate by changing the number of restrictions the oil must pass through. Changing the pressure in the cylinder can alter ride height.Suspension Systems Summaries Suspension Systems Suspension system components (continued) Rubber springs Increasing the load on a suspension causes the rubber cone to act like a spring being deformed. to vary the number of restrictions the oil has to pass through. through valves that restrict the oil flow. Gas-pressurised shock absorbers Shock absorber dissolve can be reduced by pressurising the fluid with nitrogen. Load-adjustable shock absorbers The rubber air cylinder in the load-adjustable shock absorber can be pressurised to assist suspension springs that are under load. Resistance to motion is low when the piston moves slowly.

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