Important Points to Watch For With Steering and Suspension Systems
That most people don’t understand about their cars is that although the engine is an important factor in your vehicle, steering and suspension are huge in maintaining and even safely operating your car. Whether it be a lowered sports car to a huge lifted off-road vehicle, your suspension can play a huge factor in the overall functionality and value of your ride.
Now you may ask yourself, what exactly are the steering and suspension systems in my car? Well depending on your specific vehicle, it can be different from your neighbor’s car. Most the components are generally standard though and with a little bit of knowledge, can help you associate what exactly pertains to your certain situation. Steering and Suspension as whole is what you find mostly under the vehicle and sometimes around the engine as well. Essentially both are two separate systems that work together to keep your car under control while driving.
What Does the Suspension System Do?
The suspension system itself is the support for the weight of your vehicle. Overall, this system provides a smooth ride and creates stability, drivability and better road handling. One of the main component’s and probably most known would be the tires. An important piece to consider, it’s always recommended to maintain good tread and life on tires to ensure safe driving. Other less known parts to most drivers but still just as important are the leaf springs, shock absorbers, struts, control arms, sway/stabilizer bars, linkages, bushings, and joints. These components play a huge role in how well your car can handle the road, factoring in the road conditions of course. These items do wear and tear over time and it’s important to know how these specific items play into the stability of your vehicle. All of these components can be located between the frame of the vehicle and the road itself.
Now your steering system takes on more of a technical role in your car rather than the support the suspension does. It has more functionality in the sense that it is the overall direction in which you steer your car, as why the name Steering. It’s simple to overlook just how important this system can be, but if you really think about how this plays to the direction in which you head every time you start up your car, you can’t really reach your destination effectively without proper steering. Some parts of the system include Centre Link/Drag Link, Drive Belt, Idler Arm, Pitman Arm, Power Pump, Rack and Pinion, Steering Box, Steering Column, Steering Knuckle, Steering Rack, Tie Rod and the most obvious is the Steering Wheel. I emphasize on the word some to indicate that not all these parts are on every vehicle as with suspension parts as well. Keep in mind, there are so many different manufacturers that come up with different designs for each of their models. Although it can be safe to assume that most vehicles will come standard with these components. It’s best to understand all these components to keep you well aware of what to look out for if and when your vehicle will need servicing.
Steering and Suspension Systems Inspections
This is one of the most important questions one should constantly ask themselves whenever in a vehicle whether it be old or new. Most new vehicles will come standard with their “Schedule Maintenance” lights to indicate mileage points to inspect certain portions of your vehicle that will typically start to wear and tear at that particular time frame. Although it’s best to approach it in a way that, say you don’t have a Schedule Maintenance indicator or it’s not currently working, to check your owners manual for the manufacturer recommended maintenance schedule. It is extremely important to take care of your Steering and Suspension as they start to wear down rather than when they’re already at their breaking point. Waiting too long to replace and repair these parts can be extremely dangerous to be driving on and can cause more damage to your vehicle than what it would of been if it had been replaced at the right time.
Symptoms of a Faulty Suspension and/or Steering Systems
There are a few signs your car gives you when it comes right around time to start repairing your Steering and/or Suspension system. One of the biggest, if not most noticeable, indication is steering oscillation otherwise known in shop terms as “Death Wobble.” What this feels like is violent shaking in your steering- wheel as you are driving. Sometimes it will only happen when reaching certain speeds but can ultimately happen right as you drive depending on the severity of the worn component. When experiencing steering oscillation, it is a good note to make your way to your mechanic right away to have it inspected and repaired. Another good way to look for a symptom is by listening to your car with the windows down and music off for any strange new sounds your car makes that wasn’t there before. If the nose comes when moving your steering wheel, its a safe bet it’s time to go get inspected. It is never a good idea to drive long periods with any symptom of system failure, doing so can be dangerous and cause an accident.
What Parts Should You Have Inspected?
When taking a trip to your mechanic to get an inspection done, make sure to inform them of any symptoms you may have come across prior to coming in. It’s a good start to let them know what components have already been worked on already. Most mechanic’s are able to isolate issue’s just by the sound of your vehicle and the mileage point you’re at. The higher your mileage is, the more components that should be inspected if they’ve never been replaced before.
The best thing to take away from all of this is that it’s recommended to stay on top of your Maintenance Schedule.