STEERING AND SUSPENSION Long Beach, CA
HOW YOUR CAR’S SUSPENSION SYSTEM WORKS
Shocks, struts, tie rods, ball joints, rack and pinion, CV Joints and CV Axles
The streets and roads we drive on are not perfectly flat. Even freshly paved highways have bumps that interact with the wheels of your car.
Without a suspension system, every bump would be felt right through to the frame of the car.
The wheels would repetitively lose contact with the road and then be slammed back onto the surface. There wouldn’t be any comfort in the ride – your car would be hard – if not impossible to steer and you wouldn’t be satisfied with the ride at all.
But the suspension system of your car cushions the bumps. The body and passenger compartment of the car travels smoothly while the wheels and tires follow the bumps in the road.
What Does Your Suspension System Do?
What are the main functions of my car’s suspension system?
There are three main functions of your suspension system.
Keep the tires on the road:
The only way your car can steer, accelerate, stop and corner is if the tires are in contact with the road. That’s because of the friction created between the tires and the road. Your suspension system keeps the tires ‘hugging’ the road and assures the weight of the vehicle is properly positioned to maintain the grip
Provide stable steering and handling:
The suspension system keeps your car from tipping or rolling over during cornering.
When you think about it, the suspension system really isolates the body and passenger compartment of your car from all the ‘bumps and grinds’ in the road. The suspension components actually absorb and disperse the movement – the upward and downward energy – that’s created as your car moves down the road over the bumps.
The entire suspension system on your car is made up of many different components including springs shocks and/or struts and all the components that connect to the steering and the chassis.
The job of the suspension is to balance your vehicle during driving, cornering and steering while keeping the passenger compartment comfortable.
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Shocks and Struts – And Other Suspension Components
Here’s a look at the components of a typical suspension system that need to be checked regularly
SHOCKS and STRUTS
Shocks should be checked for proper operation, damage and leaks. If the actual shock absorber is damaged, it can’t move up and down properly and absorb the bumps in the road. Leaks of the hydraulic fluid show up as the shock being wet and/or oily. That fluid cannot be replaced and the entire shock has to be replaced.
Struts are used on some vehicles in place of shock absorbers. They look like a shock with a spring over top. The struts act to stabilize your vehicle and keep it from swaying, bouncing and bottoming out while absorbing the bumps from the road.
Tie rods are part of the steering mechanism of your car. Tie rods help push and pull the front tires as the steering wheel is turned. They play a key role in the performance of your vehicle’s steering – and your safety. Faulty tie rods can result in erratic steering, wandering and significant tire wear.
Many of the front-end sounds and clunks that you may hear can be symptoms of ball joint failure
The ball joint is the pivot between your vehicle’s wheels and its suspension system. This means they’re also critical to safe steering. Clicking. Snapping. Squeaking. Many front-end sounds are often symptoms of a bad ball joint.
Because these joints link your vehicle’s wheels to its suspension system, driving around with faulty ball joints is really a safety hazard. Come in to Big O Tires for an inspection today.
RACK AND PINION
Your vehicle’s steering system relies on the rack and pinion to make steering feel ‘tight.
Rack-and-pinion steering is quickly becoming the most common type of steering on cars, small trucks and SUVs.
The rack-and-pinion gearset does two things. First, it converts the motion of the steering wheel into the motion needed to turn the wheels. Second, it provides a gear reduction, making it easier to turn the wheels.
Simply put, your vehicle’s steering system relies on the rack and pinion to make steering feel ‘tight.’ Bring your vehicle to Big O Tires for a diagnosis of your steering system.
CV JOINTS AND CV AXLES
If you hear clicking noises when steering or making a turn, it’s probably because of a problem with your car’s CV joints or CV Axles. These components parts are found on all Front Wheel Drive (FWD) cars and some Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) cars.
CV stands for Constant Velocity. The CV Joints and CV Axles are found inside a rubber casing called a CV Boot.
Understand that torn CV boots and worn CV joints or axles can cause damage to transmissions and other components.
Steering and Suspension Parts
Shocks Worn Out?
HOW CAN I TELL IF SHOCKS AND STRUTS ARE WORN OUT?
Although this test in not intended to replace a proper inspection by qualified technician, it will give you an idea regarding the wear of either shocks or struts.
Here’s a few things you can do to check yourself. But use caution – this is not intended to be a replacement for a proper inspection of your suspension and steering by a qualified technician.
Push down quickly and firmly on the front and rear of your vehicle. If the car bounces more than once or twice, you may need to replace your shocks and struts.
Some initial signs of suspension problems are:
- Tire Wear: Your tires seem to have excessive or uneven tread wear.
- Leaking: Your shocks or struts are leaking fluid.
- Damage: Your shock or strut casings are dented or damaged.
- Mounts: The shock or strut mounts are broken or worn.
- Drifting: Your vehicle seems to float, sway or drift during turns.
- Rough Ride: Your vehicle bounces excessively when you hit a bump.
- Dip or nose dive: Your vehicle tends to “nose dive” when you apply the brakes.
Here’s a Look at the Key Components of Your Cars Steering and Suspension System
The image below shows you where the key components of your car’s suspension and steering systems are. Click the image to enlarge:
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHOCKS AND STRUTS?
Shock absorbers are more common on trucks and SUV’s while struts are usually found on cars. The shock absorber cushions the bouncing of the wheels using nothing but hydraulics.
On the other hand, struts are a little more complex. They absorb the shocks by combining steering elements and support for the vehicle. At first glance, struts appear like a shock absorber with a spring on top.
Typically, when it comes to cost, struts are more expensive to replace. That’s because they’re a more complex part.
Regardless of what your car has, shocks and struts cannot be interchanged. If your car was built with struts – then they have to be replaced with struts. You can’t switch from struts to shocks.