In the competitive world of cars companies have to make decisions on designs that balance cost and quality. Even the minutest detail can make or break a car’s reputation. In the words of car critic Jeremy Clarkson, “there are so many choices to get from point A to point B, but so few choices that make getting there fun”. One of the most fundamentally important parts in making a driving experience fun is a suspension.
It doesn’t matter which suspension you have, they all are meant to help keep a car on the road and the commuters comfortable. They all are very similar from an engineering perspective and incorporate common principles to function. They all use some form of damping which is one means of absorbing shock, that’s what keeps the car’s occupants from feeling all of the road’s imperfections. All have arms, not biological appendages but metal pieces of various shapes that fasten the body to the wheel hub. All suspension components are included in unsprung weight, weight that is not supported by the suspension. All types of suspensions have to minimize this unsprung weight because it can affect the damping and traction that the car has. The way that different suspensions handle that task, as well as other their benefits and detriments, is unique to each type.
The most common and most cost effective suspension is the MacPherson Strut. It is easily manufactured and reliable because of its simplicity. It is a shock absorber that is connected directly to the chassis along with a single arm. It’s not the best at helping a car go around a corner and also necessitates a more complicated chassis because of its proportions. The MacPherson Strut’s more complicated counterpart is the Double-Wishbone suspension. This type of suspension uses two arms and is better at keeping a car from rolling excessively when going around a bend. This benefit is countered by higher servicing times and prices if it breaks and also the high production costs.
Those aren’t the only types of suspensions though. The multilink and air suspensions are more complex alternatives to the aforementioned suspensions. Multilink is more of a generic term, as long as a suspension has more than two arms it can be considered multilink. Air suspension uses a pneumatic system to act as a damper, which can be adjusted by changes in pressure. Again, they are both sophisticated and do their jobs well, but they are expensive to service and make.
There are advantages and disadvantages to every type of suspension and it is up to the car company to decide which one will work best with their vehicle. Suspensions are not simply a bunch of springs, they are a complex arrangement of components that keep the car stable and the passengers happy. Whenever you travel over a speed bump or a pothole, remember how much innovation and thought went into keeping that slight jolt to a minimum.