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7 Types of Car Suspension Systems and How They Differ

CarPart  ·  May 29, 2023

7 Types of Car Suspension Systems and How They Differ

Your car’s suspension system is responsible for giving you and your passengers a more comfortable ride. It uses various parts and mechanisms to minimise the shocks and vibrations from the road that would otherwise transfer directly to the vehicle’s body.

There are many types of suspension systems, but they are generally of two main categories—independent (each wheel has its own suspension) or dependent (two wheels share the same suspension components). 

The most common types are (1) Macpherson strut, (2) double wishbone, (3) multi-link, (4) air suspension, (5) leaf spring, (6) rigid axle, and (7) trailing arm suspension systems.

Each suspension system varies in popularity, as each has unique traits and qualities for different applications. This guide will help you understand how each one functions and why some are more popular than others. 

What Are the Different Kinds of Suspension Systems?

You’ll find various suspension systems on motor vehicles today, but some are more common than others, such as the following 7 types:

1. Macpherson Strut Suspension

Let’s start with the most popular and common suspension system: the Macpherson strut suspension. It is an independent suspension that attaches to the front axle of a car on both sides.

You’ll see the term ‘independent’ used extensively in this article as we explore the different suspension types. That term means that the wheels do not share the suspension with other wheels. Instead, each wheel has its own suspension, which helps to isolate the bumps and vibrations even further.

The Macpherson strut consists of a telescopic damper and spring connected to the wheel hub. The damper moves up and down to absorb the shocks coming from the wheel.

This suspension is incredibly common among auto manufacturers these days for two unsurprising reasons. 

First, this type is very versatile and works well for most applications.

Second, it’s very affordable, making it a suitable option even for vehicles sold at lower price points. This suspension system is compact and requires only a few parts to function.

2. Double Wishbone Suspension

Another popular independent system is the double wishbone suspension. It’s similar to the Macpherson strut but with one crucial difference.

While the Macpherson strut suspension features one control arm (also known as a ‘wishbone’), this type features two of them.

Two versus one, so it’s not surprising that this type improves driving comfort and manages even the most intense bumps, which become barely noticeable to the vehicle’s occupants.

3. Multi-Link Suspension

Next, we have the multi-link suspension, another independent type. However, you can probably guess from the name that it includes several more links than the other two suspensions mentioned above.

The multi-link suspension is based on the double-wishbone design but has at least three or more lateral arms (i.e., 'multi-link') and one or more longitudinal ones. Keep in mind that these different links aren't necessarily equal in length.

So, why would a suspension system need so many links?

Well, multi-link suspensions offer the best of all worlds. It provides a balance of exceptional handling and comfort yet without occupying so much space.

Better yet, it’s not just ideal for on-road vehicles. Off-road trucks can also benefit from multi-link suspensions, allowing the car to flex more as it navigates the terrain.

4. Air Suspension

So far, we’ve seen suspension systems involving shocks or springs and various links. Let’s look at a suspension system that relies on air instead. 

These are called air suspension systems, relying on bladders that fill with air. When each of those bladders is full of air, they act as springs to absorb shocks and vibrations from the ground the car drives on.

Air is pumped into those bladders by an onboard compressor. The suspension system can inflate and deflate its bladders as needed. That means the driver can determine how firm or soft they want the drive to be.

5. Leaf Spring Suspension

Leaf spring suspensions are some of the oldest and most straightforward kinds, and they’re still in use today in many parts of the world.

You’ll instantly recognise leaf spring suspensions when you see multiple layers of steel sandwiched on each other. Each layer has varying sizes and lengths, with the biggest one on top.

Together, those steel layers attach to the vehicle’s axle and chassis. When the wheels experience bumps or vibrations, the leaf spring suspension will flex vertically to absorb as much of them as possible.

This type of suspension system also goes by many other names like cart springs, elliptical and semi-elliptical springs.

6. Rigid Axle Suspension

Now, let’s look at an example of a dependent (i.e., not independent) suspension system: the rigid axle suspension. Also known as a solid or beam axle, this one involves two wheels connected laterally by a single shaft.

On the plus side, this suspension system is straightforward and very affordable for car makers. On the downside, whenever one wheel runs over a rock or bump, the opposing wheel also experiences the vibration.

As a result, this type is less popular than many others on this list.

Still, combining suspension types on the same vehicle can minimise some of its limitations. For example, the car could use a rigid axle suspension on its rear wheels, while the front wheels use a different type.

7. Trailing Arm Suspension

Lastly, we have the trailing arm suspension system. The name comes from how the system features a trailing arm at each wheel, connecting the car’s axle to its chassis.

These arms are pretty rigid, which means significantly more shocks and noise will transfer up the wheels and into the car’s body. 

Still, some people choose this kind because it’s incredibly compact, taking up very little space around the wheels. Also, it’s cheaper to use than the other versions listed above.

Where Can I Get Car Suspension Parts?

The best place to shop for new or used car suspension parts is CarPartAU. You’ll find a Marketplace full of used parts on sale that could save you a lot of money. Besides that, you can also submit a request through the Part Finder if you’re in the market for a specific brand-new part.

If you’re wondering how much car suspension repair costs, you can use our Directory and search for car suspension specialists near you and enquire about their services and estimated costs.  

I hope you found this guide useful—there are more where this came from! Check out our website here


By Ray Hasbollah

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