One of the complex systems of a car is the suspension system. Not too many people understand what it is exactly, mainly because the suspension system of a vehicle is not something that’s immediately visible. Unlike the steering wheel and headlights that you see straight away, the suspension system is concealed deep in the car's 'skeleton.’
The suspension system is a critical part of any car. It is the part that connects the car’s body to the wheels. Apart from that, it ensures that the car ride is comfortable and manages the car’s road handling and braking capability.
Not all suspension systems are the same. But ask any mechanic about the types of car suspension systems, and you will get different answers.
If you expect a clear cut answer to what the 'types of car suspensions' are, then you'd be disappointed. There are various ways in which suspension systems can be analyzed, and for that reason, there are also as many ways to classify them.
Conventionally, however, there are three broad groups of suspension systems. They are as follows:
- Independent Suspension System - This suspension type gets its name from how it works. For this suspension system, the movement of a wheel doesn’t in any way influence the action of another wheel. Below we’ll discuss more details of this system.
- Dependent - As you have probably guessed, for the dependent suspension system, the movement of one tyre affects the other tyres. To put in simple terms, when one of the tyres moves, the rest will have a movement corresponding to the first tyre. To find out more about why the dependent suspension is not prevalent despite being cheaper, read on.
- Semi-independent - For this suspension system, the wheels of an axle have motion relative to each other. The wheel position influences the position and often attitude of the other. Twist beam is the commonly applied semi-independent suspension.
Although the suspension system to be applied mainly hinges on the car model, sometimes car owners can dictate the suspension they want.
Dependent Suspension System
The mechanics of this system involves a solid axle that runs across the width of the frame. The axle links the left and right set of wheels, and as such, they operate as a unit.
When one side of the car makes a turn to say the left direction, the other side will also have a similar movement.
In other terms, the two sides have a dependency factor, hence the name of this type of suspension system.
The rough terrain brings out the necessity of this system. Dependent systems are ideal for rough roads as they can better handle the demanding conditions. Most SUVs and rear-wheel drives make use of this system as the primary suspension system.
Independent Suspension System
For the independent suspension system, there is no connecting axle that links the set of wheels.
The wheels of a car using an independent suspension system will have varied reactions to road conditions.
This is to say that if one wheel experiences a bump on one side, only that wheel will react. The rest of the wheels will remain unaffected by the reaction of the first wheel.
Most drivers prefer this system over the dependent type because of the quality of driving that it offers. With an independent suspension system, you drive around comfortably.
Varieties of the independent Suspension System
There exist different variations of the independent system, each modified for its functionality.
The rear independent suspension, for instance, uses McPherson strut. This system has an allowance for external drive shafts.
The rear wheel independent suspension features a drive shaft that is attached to the vehicle frame. The external drive shafts then transmit drive to the wheels of the car.
Today, ECS supports varieties of suspensions that improve the quality of driving. For the adaptive air suspension, there is an electronically-controlled system for each of the wheels. It also has a continuously-adaptive damping system. Sensors monitor the distance between the chassis and axle.
Twist Beam Suspension or Semi-Independent Suspension System
This suspension system, also known as semi-independent, allows one wheel’s movement to have some effect on another. It is typically applied to rear wheels. Its advantages include durability, low cost, and lightness due to its simple design.
Mechanisms Applied in the Suspension Systems
The mechanisms through which different suspension systems operate vary widely.
The double-wishbone mostly found on the front end of the car, allows it to have stability. It also features shock absorbers to take in the vertical vibrations. Overall, it allows for better control and steering of the car.
The McPherson strut suspension system is different. It has a connection that links both the rear and front end of the car. The strut has a swiveling motion, which allows for better movement of the tyre. Just like the double-wishbone, MacPherson has a shock absorber and coil as well. This ensures that the vehicle can withstand rough terrains.
Why is it necessary to know the different suspension system types?
As a car owner, it is crucial to know the type of suspension system in your car because this information comes in handy during maintenance and servicing.
It also helps that you know how to maintain other components of the suspension system, such as shock absorbers and coils. Here you can read about parts of suspension that are prone to failure or damage.
Know more about how a suspension system works and its different parts in this article.