Not only is the suspension the central focus for the way your car rides, it is also the target of most of the roadway abuse. With so many components that must be flexible and responsive, the suspension is vulnerable to wear and damage. Check its condition on a regular basis to help avoid an accident.
Feeling the Pressure
You should check your car's tire pressure on a regular basis. At least once each month, check the tire pressure to be sure that the tires are not over- or under-inflated. Inflation problems on your tires can transfer handling problems throughout the suspension.
If your tires are not all inflated to the same pressure, you may feel a pull toward the side with the lower pressure. Over-inflation can cause uneven wear on your tires, creating a bald spot in the center of the tire. This can lead to a wobble or a shake in the front end.
If you skip a rotation, it can lead to an uneven wear pattern on the tires. This can cause a wobble in the front suspension after the next rotation. Depending on the severity of the issue, you may be better off to replace all four and return to a standard rotation schedule. A tire technician can assess the tread wear for you to find out.
Computerized Suspension Scan
If your car has a computerized suspension, scan the computer right away if you notice handling problems. Connect a scan tool to the diagnostic port to determine the source of the problem.
These computerized systems will produce a warning code for many different suspension problems. The computerized system stores warning codes for any malfunctioning component. It will also record the information for any sensor that is not responding as expected. Some codes are signs of problems with the relays, sensors, compressor motors or solenoids. If you do not have a scanner, most repair and service shops can do this for you.
Shock Absorber Test
The shock absorbers help to control the car's response to uneven or rough terrain. Damaged or worn shocks can lead to a rough ride. The car may even bounce and be difficult to handle on the road.
Test your shocks before you spend money having them replaced. Park your car on level ground. Push down on one front corner with heavy pressure, then quickly release it. Count the number of bounces that the car responds with.
The shock should settle the car within two to three bounces. Anything more than three bounces indicates a worn shock. Repeat this test on the other side.
Spring Fatigue Signs
Your car's springs help to keep the car level on uneven terrain by shifting to compensate for the ride height differences. The springs also adjust for weight changes in the cabin and cargo area. If your car has worn or fatigued springs, you may feel some drag when you are on the road. You may also notice that your suspension seems lower when the car is under load.
To test your car's springs, you need to have the car at curb weight. Curb weight is the total weight of the car with a full tank of gas, no passengers and no cargo. Curb height is a measurement from the center or bottom of the bumper to the ground. The proper curb height for your car will vary based on the make and model. You can find it in the owner's manual. If your car is lower than the recommended curb height, the springs may need replacement.
These are some of the most common suspension components to suffer wear. Any time you feel a change in the way the steering wheel responds or how the car rides, test the suspension components. These tests can help you isolate the problem. If you are uncomfortable making a determination on your own, or click here to find a mechanic who will test and diagnose it for you.