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Chapter 26

Suspension
Systems

Objectives (1 of 2)
Identify and describe the types of suspension
systems used on current trucks.
List the components used on leaf and multi-leaf
spring suspension systems and explain how they
work.
Describe a fiber composite spring.
Identify equalizing beam suspension system
components and explain how they function.
Identify torsion bar suspension system components
and explain how they function.

Objectives (2 of 2)
Identify air spring suspension system components
and explain how they function.
Troubleshoot suspensions and locate defective
suspension system components.
Outline suspension system repair and replacement
procedures.
Explain the relationship between axle alignment
and suspension system alignment.
Perform full chassis suspension system alignments.
Describe the operation of the cab air suspension
system.

Suspension Systems (1 of 2)
A suspension system plays a number of
roles.
It stabilizes the truck when traveling over
smooth highway as well as over rough terrain.
It cushions the chassis from road shock and
enables the driver to steer the truck.
It maintains the proper axle spacing and
alignment.
It provides a smooth ride when both loaded
and unloaded.

Suspension Systems (2 of 2)
Leaf spring
Equalizer beam
Leaf spring and solid rubber spring

Torsion bar
Air spring
Pneumatic-only and combination air/leaf
spring

Suspension Terms
Jounce literally means bump.
In suspension terminology, it means the most compressed
condition of a spring. For instance, many suspensions use
jounce blocks to prevent frame-to-axle contact known as
suspension slam.
Rebound is the reactive response of a spring after being
jounced; it kicks back.
Unsprung weight, an important factor in a suspension, means
the weight of any chassis components not supported by the
suspension, for instance, the axles.
Ideally it is kept as low as possible because of the reaction
effect, which is one of the reasons for specing aluminum
wheels.
Oscillation is either rhythmic or irregular vibrations or movements
in a suspension.
For instance, a good suspension will minimize jounce/rebound
oscillations by using dampening devices such as shock
absorbers and multi leaf spring packs.

Leaf-spring Suspensions
A leaf spring is a steel plate or stack of clamped
steel plates.
Most leaf springs used in trucks today are
manufactured from spring steel.
Spring steel is middle-alloy steel that has been
tempered, that is, heat-treated.
The result is to provide a leaf spring plate with
considerable ability to flex without permanently
deforming.
Leaf springs may consist of a single leaf or a series
of leaves clamped together, known as a spring
pack.

Spring Pack Principles

Self-dampening
The reason for using multiple leaves clamped together rather
than a single piece of metal cut to the same shape has to do
with what happens when a load is applied to the spring.
Interleaf friction
Interleaf friction provides a self-dampening characteristic to
the spring pack. Two factors ensure a spring pack retains its
self dampening.
First, when a spring pack is assembled, the individual
leaves must never be lubricated or painted. This would
reduce interleaf contact friction.
Second, the function of the center-bolt that clamps the
leaves is critical. The tension it loads the leaves under
helps define the self-dampening ability of the spring
assembly. In the event of a broken center-bolt, much of
the self- dampening properties of a spring pack are lost.
Shock absorbers not necessary
The advantage of the multi-leaf spring pack is that shock
absorbers can be eliminated.

Shop Talk
When assembling multi-leaf spring packs,
never paint or lubricate the contact surfaces
of the individual leaves.
The result would limit the self-dampening
characteristics of the spring.

Types of Leaf Spring Assemblies


Constant rate
Leaf-type spring assemblies that have a
constant rate of deflection

Variable rate
Leaf-type spring assemblies with a variable
deflection rate obtained by varying the
effective length of the spring assembly

Progressive Spring Operation

Multi-leaf Shackle Spring

Single Drive Axle Spring Suspension

Tandem Axle, Equalizer Spring


Suspension System

Semi-elliptical Springs with Shocks

Equalizing Beam Suspension


SystemLeaf Spring-type

Equalizing Beams
with Rubber Cushions

Leaf and Air


Suspension System (1 of 2)

Leaf and Air


Suspension System (2 of 2)

Height Control Valve

Air Springs

Leaf Spring Suspension


Troubleshooting Guide
See Table 261 on page 810 of the textbook.

Rough Ride Diagnosis


See Table 262 on page 811 of the textbook.

Caution
When checking U-bolts, torque to the original
specifications.
Rusty U-bolts should be disassembled,
cleaned, and lubricated to ensure that the
clamping pressure achieved by torquing is
accurate.

Caution
Do not operate a vehicle with a shock
absorber removed or defective because this
places undue stress on other suspension
components.

Shop Talk
Some shock absorber mount brackets have a
stud welded to the bracket, rather than a nut
and bolt.
This does not alter the installation procedure.

Caution
Failure to properly torque suspension
fasteners can result in abnormal tire wear
and damage to the springs, spring brackets,
and frame rail.

Shop Talk
It is common practice to use SAE grade 8 fasteners
in suspension systems but not universal.
Grade 5 bolts flex more than grade 8 bolts and that
is required in some applications so replacing them
with grade 8 fasteners is not appropriate. The body
bound bolts with an interference-fit shank used by
some OEMs are always grade 5.
When replacing suspension Huck fasteners with
bolts, it is generally safe to use grade 8 bolts.

Caution
Failure to properly torque suspension
fasteners can result in abnormal tire wear
and damage to the springs, spring brackets,
and frame rail.

Caution
You must apply Alumilastic compound, or
an equivalent, to areas where aluminum and
steel contact each other or the result will be
metal corrosion and severely seized
components.

Caution
It is not recommended to remove bushings
by burning them out.
Once alight, they burn for a long time
producing high heat and noxious fumes.

Torque Rod Disassembly

Caution
Most ride height control valves have a
reaction delay that can be as long as 15
seconds.
This is used to prevent continuous correction
cycling.
Remember this when diagnosing height
control valve problems.

Height Control Valve Centering Pin

Air Spring Replacement

Air Plumbing Diagram

Typical Laser Aligner

Using a Tram Bar


to Measure Axle Spread

Use of Framing Square,


Straight Edge and Plumb Bob

Axle Alignment Dimension A

Axle Alignment Dimension B

Eccentric Bushing to
Adjust Dimension A

Eccentric Bushing
Movement for Dimension B

Alignment Shims

Cab Air Suspension

Summary (1 of 8)
A suspension supports the frame on a vehicle and
acts as an intermediary between the axles and the
frame. With no suspension, road forces would be
transferred directly to the truck frame.
A suspension system plays a number of roles.
It stabilizes the vehicle over both smooth and rough
terrain.
It cushions the chassis from road shock, enabling the
driver to steer.
It maintains the proper axle spacing and alignment.

Summary (2 of 8)
There are four general categories of suspension
used on trucks.
Leaf spring
Equalizer beam
Leaf spring and solid rubber spring

Torsion bar
Air spring
Pneumatic-only and combination air/leaf spring

Jounce describes a spring in its most compressed


state, whereas rebound is a spring when it extends
after reacting to jounce.

Summary (3 of 8)
Unsprung weight is the vehicle weight not
supported by the suspension.
It includes the wheel and axle assemblies. Because
unsprung weight reacts directly through the
suspension to the frame, it is kept as light as possible.

Constant rate and progressive or variable-rate


springs are two types of leaf spring suspension
used on trucks.
Auxiliary springs are helper springs and only become
a factor when a vehicle is fully loaded.

Summary (4 of 8)
Steel springs are often assembled into semielliptical spring packs consisting of a stack of
sprung steel plates clamped by a center-bolt.
Spring packs are self-dampening because of
interleaf friction.
Shock absorbers are used in suspension
systems to dampen suspension oscillations.
Shock absorbers reduce tire wear, front wheel
shimmy, and spring breakage.

Summary (5 of 8)
Leaf spring and rubber cushion are both equalizing
beam types of suspension used on heavy-duty
trucks.
A majority of todays trucks are equipped with aironly or combination air/steel spring suspension
systems.
Air suspensions use truck system air pressure to keep
the air springs charged with compressed air.

Air bags can be either the reversible sleeve type or


the convoluted type.

Summary (6 of 8)
A reversible sleeve air bag consists of an
inflatable rubber compound bag mounted on
a pedestal assembly.
Convoluted air springs can be single, double,
or triple convoluted.
A major advantage of truck air suspensions is
that they are adaptive, having the capability
to adapt to changing load and road surface
conditions.

Summary (7 of 8)
Ride height is managed by a height control valve in
air suspensions.
Most ride height control valves have a built-in reaction
delay that should be recognized when troubleshooting
the system.

Air springs have no self-dampening capability so


they almost always use shock absorbers.
Equalizer beam suspensions are used in tandem
drive and bogie arrangements to effectively balance
suspension stresses and maximize tire-to-road
contact.

Summary (8 of 8)
Axle alignment is a key to a properly functioning
suspension system.
Axles can be aligned using laser beam alignment
equipment and cruder shop equipments such as
plumb bob, straight edge, and tram bars.

The air suspension cab system is the most common


method of mounting a cab on a truck chassis
because of the driver comfort it provides.
Driver seats may be solid mount, mechanically
suspended, or pneumatically suspended. Air driver
seats are the most common in current trucks
because of the comfort it provides the driver.