To confidently and authoritatively tell you that your car is on SUSPENSION! Honestly, I had to look up a dictionary, so that this exercise does not end up being a boring lecture of professional and technical jargon.
In Microsoft Encarta dictionary’s seven meanings for the word “suspension”, one of them acknowledges transportation. It defines Suspension as “a system of springs and shock absorbers on a wheeled vehicle that reduces the impact of bumps and uneven running surfaces on the occupants and gives the wheels better contact”.
When your regular roadside mechanic talks about ‘suck-a-suffer’ (I hope he’s not sucking and suffering you sha?) he is talking about a part of the Suspension System.
It describes a system of springs, shock absorbers and linkages that connects a vehicle to its wheels. A suspension system contributes to how the vehicle holds or handles the road, and how it controls braking for safety and driving pleasure, while keeping the vehicle’s occupant/s comfortable and reasonably well isolated from the tyres-on-tar or road noise, bumps, vibrations, etc.
To most people, an automobile is performing optimally when the engine is in tip-top shape. So, when your mechanic tells you that your ‘suck-a-suffer’ is faulty you look at the guy queerly. The truth is that your engine is nothing but a generator if the car is immobile, and a potential mobile danger if it cannot be properly controlled.
The springs used on today’s cars and trucks are constructed in a variety of types, shapes, sizes, rates, and capacities; complete with sensors which act much like your nerves.
As already stated above, the Suspension Systems come in several different types, but the technology is pretty much the same. A basic Suspension System consists of springs, axles, shock absorbers, arms, rods, and ball joints, etc.
The spring is the flexible component of the suspension. There are three basic types; leaf springs, coil springs, and torsion bars. Modern passenger vehicles usually use light coil springs. How heavy or light the springs are depends on the purpose the vehicle is serving.
For instance, commercial vehicles have heavier springs than passenger vehicles, and can have coil springs at the front and leaf springs at the rear. Heavy commercial vehicles usually use leaf springs, or air suspension.
When you are in a vehicle sometimes, and you get that rocking effect as it sways left and right. Well, what happens is that solid, or beam, axles connect the wheels on each side of the vehicle, so the movement of a wheel on one side of the vehicle is transferred to the wheel on the other side.
With independent suspension, the wheels can move independent of each other, thus reducing the degree of swerving. When a wheel strikes a bump, there is a reaction force, and energy is transferred to the spring that makes it bounce.
When you leave bouncing uncontrolled, the wheel and the road surface may lose contact. Shock absorbers are designed to dampen the springs’ bounce by forcing oil through small holes. The oil heats up, as it absorbs the energy of the motion. This heat is then transferred through the body of the shock absorber to the air.
With the example of Lagos roads, it is sometimes unavoidable not to hit road bumps, pot holes or you name it. These naturally have a lot to do with how much we spend on our vehicles to keep them in good condition. When there is sudden impact on the wheels, you feel it more when there are more parts of the vehicle that are not supported on the springs.
Sprung mass refers to those parts of the vehicle supported on the springs. This includes the body, the frame, the engine, and associated parts. Unsprung mass includes the wheels, tyres, brake assemblies, and suspension parts that are not supported by the springs. It is important to ensure that unsprung mass is reduced to the barest minimum, so as to improve smooth rides and longer lasting vehicles.
Wheel and brake units that are small and light follow the road contours without a large effect on the rest of the vehicle. Now, imagine an able-bodied human being without a skeleton! Is that not a dis-able-bodied person? That is what your vehicle is without a good Suspension System which isolates the vehicle body from road shocks and vibrations that would otherwise be transferred to the passengers and load.
So, by and large, your vehicle runs on suspension. In the next post, we will touch on some DIY sub-topics as regards your Suspension System: things you can do, places you need to troubleshoot in the event that you think you’re having problems with your Suspension System. So that in case it decides to ‘suspend’ your movement while on the road, you will also know how to ‘suspend’ the problematic system with a quickie (think what you like!) examination.
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