Problems with your car's suspension usually exhibit symptoms like abnormal pops, clunks or squeaks; unusual tire wear patterns; steering wheel pull; and front end shimmy (a side-to-side vibration of the front wheels). Each of the following six sections explains where such problems occur and how the problems can be diagnosed.
If your car rides poorly on rough roads, chances are the problem is attributable to worn shock absorbers. When diagnosing for this problem, push down a corner of the car and count how many bounces result when it is released. Good shocks will only bounce two or three times. Worn shock absorbers should be replaced.
If your vehicle's height looks low and it appears to be settling toward the axles, have the suspension springs checked out. Old, tired springs can alter the curb height of your car as well as cause misalignment of the wheels, and can affect the ride as well. A mechanic can safely replace worn springs.
Worn Ball Joints
Does your car make unusual clunking or popping noises when turning or when going over a bump? This might indicate a worn ball joint, which can happen if it is not lubricated properly or has been in use for a prolonged period. Two ways to tell if a ball joint is worn include checking the wear indicator or measuring the amount of play in the joint. Worn ball joints should be replaced.
A car's suspension system employs rubber bushings at the inner ends of the control arms (which keep the steering knuckle, bearing support or axle housing in position while the wheel moves up and down). The bushings cushion the control arms as they operate, and when the bushings are worn, steering problems and abnormal tire wear can occur. One test for worn bushings is to try to push the control arm in such a way that goes against its normal motion. If the control arm moves with respect to its shaft, the bushings are worn and should be replaced.
The most common failure of a car suspension that utilizes MacPherson struts is related to their integral shock absorbers. In the same way as with ordinary shock absorbers, these shocks can leak, which reduces the dampening action for which they were designed. As a result, your car might have a poor ride.
If your car's suspension is controlled by a computer for ride height, stiffness or for adjustable handling characteristics, you can use a scan tool to troubleshoot any problems. Faulty sensors, solenoids, actuator motors, relays or failure of the compressor motor can be detected with a scan tool, and you can use the information to diagnose the problem.
- Modern Automotive Technology; James E. Duffy; 1998
Rear Suspension Problems
A car's suspension system consists of the various shock absorbers and springs that connect the chassis to the axles. Depending on the...
How to Troubleshoot Rear Suspension Noise
Suspensions are complicated things, and finding problems in them can be a real ordeal if you don't know what you're looking for....
How to Troubleshoot Front Suspension Noises
Your vehicle's front suspension is a complicated array of springs, gas-filled shocks and metal "arms" and "joints" that keep your vehicle on...
How to Check the Bushings on a Car
There are lots of parts in a car, many of them held together by rubber bushings. Examples include the body mounts, engine...
How to Diagnose Front Sway Bar Problems
A sway bar, also referred to as an anti-roll bar, is a length of tubular metal that is bolted to both ends...
How to Diagnose a Bad Suspension Bushing
Automobile suspension bushings come in a variety of shapes, sizes and thicknesses, according to their application. Bushings may be make from several...
The Symptoms of a Bad Sway Bar Link
A sway bar, also known as an anti-roll bar, is a simple, yet crucial, device that reduces the amount of body roll,...
Signs of a Problem With the Suspension on a Jeep Liberty
The car suspension seamlessly connects the steering system to the tires to provide the driver with a smooth and safe ride. A...
How to Choose Shock Absorbers
When choosing shock absorbers, it's important to consider whether the vehicle will be driven off road. Learn about struts as more costly...
Car Suspension Maintenance
A car's suspension is a series of shock absorbing parts and springs that keep your car driving straight, and from bouncing too...