Keeping your car in good shape is important for making sure you are safe on the road and your suspension is one of those areas you should take care of.
Your suspension works in conjunction with your steering to ensure you have a smooth ride and that your steering is precise. It absorbs bumps in the road so that your car doesn't end up being knocked off course, which results in having to make a lot of steering corrections. Suspension also ensures a more comfortable journey: being rocked about by bumps in the road can lead to fatigue and potentially travel sickness.
There are three major components that need to be kept in good condition or replaced from time to time so that your suspension can keep working effectively.
1. Spring coils
Your coil springs are a vital part for absorbing any bumps or potholes in the road without jarring the car's driver and passengers too much - although sometimes a bump is too great for this to be avoidable of course. There is a spring for each of the wheels of your car and, if yours are properly sized, then they are designed to last for the lifetime of your car. However, sometimes they will wear out and need to be replaced. Sometimes, they can be affected by weakened shocks or struts as well as problems like rust. If you hear clunking sounds when you go over a bump then this could be a sign that your springs are not able to provide stability properly.
2. Shock absorbers
The shocks are in place to reduce the oscillation of the springs when they go over a bump. They need to be kept in good condition so that your springs do not get damaged but they are also less durable than the springs. You can test the condition of the shocks by pushing on a corner of your car and seeing how many times it bounces. If it bounces more than twice then this could suggest your shocks are worn. Shocks are designed using fluid and internal passages to help to control the movement of your car's wheels and to dampen the springs. Some potential causes of worn shocks could be fluid leaking or valving becoming damaged.
3. Strut mounts
Your struts provide structural support for your car's vehicle suspension, essentially combining the spring and shock into one unit. Like the shocks, they help support and stabilise the frame and body of your vehicle. If a strut fails, it can considerably affect the function of your suspension. Not to mention the fact that it can help to wear out other parts of your suspension. Be aware of potential signs that your strut is damaged.
One sign a strut is wearing out is if part of your car starts to sag. As struts start to lose their tension, they may begin to sag and so too will the area that they support.
If you hear rattling as you drive, particularly when going over rough patches of ground or bumps, then this is a sign that your strut is damaged. Typically, this can be caused by the inner strut assembly in your car hitting against the outer strut assembly. This happens when the tension in your strut starts to weaken and the parts that make up the strut start to shift and move.
How to get these problems fixed early
Your best bet for avoiding problems with your suspension is to have it looked at by an expert. If your suspension is damaged then it will likely be flagged up when you go for your MOT, although it is best to get it checked out before then for safety reasons and so that you lower the risk of a test failure and having to sort a retest. This is why it is worthwhile making sure you take your car for a service annually; technicians will be able to identify any problems with your suspension and get them repaired.