Thursday, January 6, 2011

Auto Suspension, Shocks & Struts: Why Repair & Maintenance are Key to Safety!

by Marjorie, Cars for Keeps Social Media Manager

Last time I brought my little Ford Focus in to Cars for Keeps for a check up, Bobby found a problem with the car that had been evident for months prior to my visit. With the car hoisted up on a lift, he lead me around to the rear of the car and lifted up on the rear right wheel.

It easily moved up and down.

"Ok, now see how this wheel moves really easily just by me lifting it?" Bobby said. "That's because the spring is shot. Imagine the whole weight of your car resting on the wheel. The rear springs are hardly providing any shock absorption at all."

Bobby went into further detail, but all I could hear was "repair costs repair costs repair costs".

" important is it, exactly, for me to get this problem fixed?" I asked. Not one to be a pushy sales guy, Bobby shrugged and told me that if left unfixed, it could lead to damage to the rest of the rear suspension. It would also be one uncomfortable ride, what with zero shock absorption and all. Then there was safety.

As it turns out, having well maintained suspension systems are a key factor when it comes driving safety. Let's look at why.

Auto suspension systems are composed of springs, shock absorbers and linkages which connect to the vehicle's wheels. In essence, the suspension system is what connects your vehicle's body to its wheels and manages the weight distribution. The suspension system is responsible for two main tasks:

1) to maintain even traction by keeping the vehicle's wheels in contact with the road, and

2) to dampen vibrations, bumps and road noise for passengers, providing a more comfortable ride.

Struts and shocks aren't only about having a more comfortable ride. They play a key role in keeping your vehicle's tires in consistent contact with the road. They provide the cushion your vehicle needs to maintain much-needed traction. Worn struts and shocks will cause extra bounce and vibration, lowering your vehicle's traction. A car with worn shocks and struts might not notice much of a handling difference under normal circumstances, but in an emergency stop, that wear can cost drivers an extra 30-40 feet in braking distance.

In other words, worn shocks, struts and suspension systems can eliminate a driver's ability to brake quickly when it matters.

Of course, suspension systems are also tied to steering, so faulty suspension systems can also cause potentially dangerous steering or handling problems. Aside from safety issues, worn or misaligned suspension systems can cause uneven tire wearing, and lower gas mileage.

To make sure your vehicle is operating with the best safety and efficiency, keep an eye out for any of the following symptoms of faulty suspension systems:

  • Vehicle bounces when going down the road
  • Steering is hard or loose
  • Vehicle pulls to one side or wanders down the road
  • Steering wheel vibrates, shimmies or jerks
  • Clunking or other noises when turning
If your vehicle has any of the following symptoms, it could be as simple as a misalignment or loose spring. The only way to know is to have it checked out!


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