By Amit Saini

they normally think of horsepower. That's why automobile engineers turned their attention to the suspension system almost as soon as they had mastered the four-stroke internal combustion engine. and you need to understand some of these concepts in order to appreciate why a suspension is necessary in the first  place . The study of the forces at work on a moving car is called vehicle dynamics. When people think of automobile performance. torque and zero-to-60 acceleration. But all of the power generated by a piston engine is useless if the driver can't control the car.

Because the nose of the car dips toward the road. Transfer the weight of the car during cornering from the high side of the vehicle to the low side. Cornering The ability of a vehicle to travel a curved path Minimize body roll. Solution Absorb energy from road bumps and dissipate it without causing undue oscillation in the vehicle. as this transfer of weight reduces the tire's grip on the road." The opposite effect -. . raising one side of the vehicle and lowering the opposite side. because it is the friction between the tires and the road that affects a vehicle's ability to steer.) Goal Allow the vehicle body to ride undisturbed while traveling over rough roads. which shifts the weight of the car from the front tires to the back. this type of motion is known as "dive. Minimize the transfer of vehicle weight from side to side and front to back. which occurs as centrifugal force pushes outward on a car's center of gravity while cornering.occurs during acceleration. Road Isolation Road Holding Keep the tires in contact with the ground.Some basics to overview Principle Definition The vehicle's ability to absorb or isolate road shock from the passenger compartment The degree to which a car maintains contact with the road surface in various types of directional changes and in a straight line (Example: The weight of a car will shift from the rear tires to the front tires during braking. brake and accelerate."squat" -.

. all forces have both magnitude and direction. which moves in the same direction. A bump in the road causes the wheel to move up and down perpendicular to the road surface. the wheels can slam back into the road surface. of course. The magnitude. all of wheel's vertical energy is transferred to the frame.How suspension system work According to Newton's laws of motion. allowing the frame and body to ride undisturbed while the wheels follow bumps in the road. under the downward force of gravity. Without an intervening structure. depends on whether the wheel is striking a giant bump or a tiny speck. Then. the car wheel experiences a vertical acceleration as it passes over an imperfection. the wheels can lose contact with the road completely. In such a situation. Either way. What you need is a system that will absorb the energy of the vertically accelerated wheel.

4. The frame .mechanism that enables the driver to guide and direct the vehicle The tires and wheels . 2. which are in turn supported by the suspension The suspension system .setup that supports weight.structural. load-carrying component that supports the car's engine and body. 3.1.components that make vehicle motion possible by way of grip and/or friction with the road . absorbs and dampens shock and helps maintain tire contact The steering system .

it's time to look at the three fundamental components of any suspension: springs. dampers and anti-sway bars.With this big-picture overview in mind. .

The spring will continue to bounce at its natural frequency until all of the energy originally put into it is used up. A suspension built on springs alone would make for an extremely bouncy ride and. compressing the hydraulic fluid in the chamber below the piston. The compression cycle occurs as the piston moves downward. a car spring will extend and release the energy it absorbs from a bump at an uncontrolled rate. a device that controls unwanted spring motion through a process known as dampening Shock absorbers work in two cycles -the compression cycle and the extension cycle. The extension cycle occurs as the piston moves toward the top of the pressure tube. the shock absorber. depending on the terrain. compressing the fluid in the chamber above the piston . an uncontrollable car. or snubber.Dampers: Shock Absorbers Unless a dampening structure is present.

the anti-sway bar transfers movement to the other wheel. although if they're not. kits make it easy to install the bars at any time. For this reason. almost all cars today are fitted with anti-sway bars as standard equipment. it combats the roll of a car on its suspension as it corners. An anti-sway bar is a metal rod that spans the entire axle and effectively joins each side of the suspension together When the suspension at one wheel moves up and down. Photo courtesy HSW Shopper Anti-sway bars . This creates a more level ride and reduces vehicle sway. In particular.Anti-sway Bars Anti-sway bars (also known as anti-roll bars) are used along with shock absorbers or struts to give a moving automobile additional stability.

Coil springs . Coil springs compress and expand to absorb the motion of the wheels Photo courtesy Car Domain Coil springs .This is the most common type of spring and is. a heavy-duty torsion bar coiled around an axis. in essence.

This type of spring consists of several layers of metal (called "leaves") bound together to act as a single unit. Leaf springs were first used on horse-drawn carriages and were found on most American automobiles until 1985.Leaf springs . They are still used today on most trucks and heavy-duty vehicles Photo courtesy Leaf spring .

yTorsion bars . through the 1950s and 1960s. vertical motion is transferred to the wishbone and then. European carmakers used this system extensively. through the levering action. as did Packard and Chrysler in the United States. which acts like a lever that moves perpendicular to the torsion bar. When the wheel hits a bump. Photo courtesy Torsion bar . This is how they work: One end of a bar is anchored to the vehicle frame. The other end is attached to a wishbone.Torsion bars use the twisting properties of a steel bar to provide coil-spring-like performance. The torsion bar then twists along its axis to provide the spring force. to the torsion bar.

Air springs from this era were made from air-filled.Air springs . which consist of a cylindrical chamber of air positioned between the wheel and the car's body.Air springs. The concept is actually more than a century old and could be found on horse-drawn buggies. much like a bellows. use the compressive qualities of air to absorb wheel vibrations. they were replaced with molded-rubber air springs in the 1930s Photo courtesy HSW Shopper Air springs . leather diaphragms.

Types of suspension systems Suspension Types: Front Dependent Front Suspensions Independent Front Suspensions Suspension Types: Rear Dependent Rear Suspensions Independent Rear Suspensions .

This provides a more compact and lighter suspension system that can be used for front-wheel drive vehicles. kept in place by leaf springs and shock absorbers. is another common type of front independent suspension . developed by Earle S. dependent front suspensions haven't been used in mainstream cars for years. especially in cars of European origin. MacPherson of General Motors in 1947. Basically. the front wheels are allowed to move independently.Dependent Front Suspensions  Dependent front suspensions have a rigid front axle that connects the front wheels. The MacPherson strut. Common on trucks. The MacPherson strut combines a shock absorber and a coil spring into a single unit. The double-wishbone suspension. is the most widely used front suspension system. this looks like a solid bar under the front of the car. also known as an A-arm suspension. Independent Front Suspensions In this setup.

Longer shock absorbers replace the standard shocks to lift the body higher and to provide for maximum wheel travel. the VW Bug isn't ready for off-road conditions with its factory equipment. Of course.Specialized Suspensions: The Baja Bug   Baja Bugs The Volkswagen Beetle. an aftermarket item that combines both the spring and shock absorber in one adjustable unit. Most Bugs require some modifications. With a low center of gravity and engine placement over the rear axle. or conversions. Such a car can easily navigate rough terrain and often appears to "skip" over desert washboard like a stone over water. off-road wheels and tires. was destined to become a favorite among off-road enthusiasts. Baja Bug converters remove the torsion bars entirely and replace them with multiple coil-over systems. The result of these modifications is a vehicle that allows the wheels to travel vertically 20 inches (50 cm) or more at each end. can be raised to make room for heavy-duty. or Bug. In some cases. to get them ready for racing in harsh conditions like the deserts of Baja California. standard equipment on the front and back of most Bugs between 1936 and 1977. One of the most important modifications takes place in the suspension. the two-wheel-drive Bug handles offroad conditions as well as some four-wheel-drive vehicles. . The torsion-bar suspension.

they are oriented along the length of the car and are controlled remotely through a series of pushrods and bell cranks. Formula One racecar .Specialized Suspensions: Formula One Racers  . however. Instead. the pushrods and bell cranks translate the up-and-down motions of the wheel to the back-and-forth movement of the springand-damper apparatus. Unlike road cars. In such an arrangement. the shock absorbers and coil springs of a Formula One racecar don't mount directly to the control arms.

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