Car Suspension Types Explained

Everyone knows that cars have suspension, but many people - even those in performance car circles - are often unaware that there are actually several different types. These different kinds of car suspension are geared towards different applications and are often used for a particular purpose or type of driving.
Despite the differences, most forms of suspension will have a few universal parts that form their basic structure. These components are what form the backbone of your car’s suspension and can be found in the vast majority of cars, from your everyday commuter to performance and racing cars.
Ball joint. The ball joints in cars’ suspension systems function in much the same way as the ball joints of human hips and shoulders by allowing for multidirectional movement
Coils / springs. Strong coils or springs are compressible and are used as a means of absorbing shock as the vehicle load shifts. They work in conjunction with the dampers to prevent the car from rolling into corners
Dampers. Also called shock absorbers, the primary purpose of the dampers is to absorb the forces put onto the car from vibration, bumps, and other surface changes in the road. The kinetic energy enacted onto the dampers is transferred as heat which causes the dampers to get hot. To protect them from overheating they are filled with oil which acts as a coolant
Knuckle arm. Also known as the steering arm, this is the component that connects the suspension system to the wheel of the car
With those basic components explained, let’s have a look at some of the most common forms of suspension that you are likely to encounter in modern vehicles.
Rigid axle
Rigid axle, or beam axle suspension, consists of an axle that is perpendicular to the car’s axis and is known to be extremely durable. A spindle connects the rigid axle to the wheels and they also contain springs to help absorb the shock. This is a relatively simple setup and one that is quite easy to repair and maintain, and they are extremely popular for use in heavy load and off road vehicles. Unlike other forms of suspension, the rigid axle is not made for speed and agility, so you’re very unlikely to ever see this type in a racing or performance car.
The difference between and other kinds of suspension is that the coilover type allows for ground clearance adjustments. The suspension strut features a screw that can be adjusted to alter the ground clearance of the car, meaning that the clearance can easily be lowered or raised very quickly. When your car features a coilover type system, you can lower it for sportier handling, and can usually adjust the rebound and damping to completely personalise the handling of your car.
Air suspension
As the name suggests, air suspension makes use of air bellows instead of the usual coils and dampers. Technicians can use compressed air to increase or decrease the pressure within the suspension, giving a harder or softer drive. They can also be used to increase or decrease the height of the car to give it sportier handling. Along with coilover systems, this is one of the most popular suspension systems for high end performance cars and luxury cars.
MacPherson strut
This is one of the most commonly used suspension systems and it was developed by and named for American engineer Earle S. MacPherson. This kind of suspension system uses a wishbone or a compression link stabilised by a secondary link within the system. The lower part of the arm system allows for the lateral and longitudinal movement of the wheel, and the upper part allows for an arm to move up and down within the system to provide shock absorption.
Due to the simplicity of the MacPherson system, there are fewer moving parts that will be subject to wear and tear which means they are extremely durable and reliable, and handling is more likely to remain consistent over time. Despite its positives, this system is not designed for high performance handling and is not compatible with cars that have adjustable ride height because of the expected variations in camber that are part and parcel of this type of suspension system.
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