Your 4WD places great pressure on its suspension system, especially when you’re taking on tough off-road environments. The suspension system is one of the most important components of any vehicle as it provides something essential to the driver – the ability to control the vehicle. For this very important reason, soon after the four-stroke combustion engine was invented, automotive engineers started work on the suspension system.
The Role of the Suspension System
The suspension system enables the driver to control the car, but how does it enable them to do this? By maximising friction between the surface of the road and the tyres on the vehicle, the suspension system provides steering stability, enabling the driver to handle the car and control its direction. It also has the effect of smoothing out the ride as the car travels over imperfections in the road surface, making the journey comfortable for the driver and their passengers.
It’s these imperfections in the road surface that makes suspension systems essential. When a vehicle travels over a bump or indent, this imperfection in the road surface interacts with the vehicle’s wheels. This applies force to the steering wheel with the effect that it’s affected by direction and magnitude, with the magnitude of the force determining the vertical acceleration that the vehicle experiences.
The vertical acceleration experienced could lift the car from the road were it not for the suspension system which transfers the vehicle’s vertical energy from its frame, with the springs in the suspension system absorbing the force that interacts with the vehicle’s wheels. However, the springs can’t manage the load on their own as they need something to decrease the vibration as the vehicle travels over bumps in the road, which is the role that shock absorbers play.
These components work together to keep the car on the road and the driver in control of the car as it travels over imperfections in the road surface. As someone frequently behind the wheel of a 4WD on off-road terrains, it suffices to say that you can appreciate the important role that the suspension system plays.
The suspension systems in four-wheel drive vehicles tend to be more complex than in two-wheel drive vehicles because the wheels are significantly larger than on-road vehicles and the bumps in the road tend to be significantly bigger as well. There are several types of front suspensions commonly used in 4WDs, including:
- Solid axle with leaf springs
- Solid axle with coil springs
- Independent front suspension (IFS)
- Twin-traction beam (TTB)
While there are several types of front suspension systems used in 4WD vehicles, the rear suspension system is usually a solid axle with leaf or coil springs, the two most common spring types. However, the system can be modified to improve performance, with many 4WD enthusiasts mounting shock absorbers on opposite sides of the axle to reduce axle tramp.
If you’d like to learn more about 4WD suspensions and how suspension upgrades can improve your vehicle’s off-road performance, get in contact with West Coast Suspensions.