Why is suspension so important in your 4WD?
Vehicle suspension is a complicated piece of gear but understanding what it does and why it’s important doesn’t need to be.
At its core, suspension is what controls the weight of your car and its contact with the road. This means that suspension is crucial to your vehicle’s ability to carry loads and pull something in tow, while it will also dictate how comfortable your ride is over changing terrain and how your 4WD responds while braking, accelerating and cornering.
What makes a good suspension system?
A good suspension system maximises your tyres’ contact with whatever surface you’re driving on, while also giving you adequate load-carrying capability, a smooth ride and intuitive handling as you drive. For travelling off-road over uneven tracks, additional ground clearance is another key benefit that unlocks a whole lot of Australia to you.
From the factory, even 4WD vehicles only come with suspension designed to handle minimal added weight and minimal changes in terrain. This means that if you want to load up your rig with cargo, 4x4 vehicle accessories or, alternatively, drive over rough terrain like you’ll find all across Australia, then your factory suspension system will come up short when it counts.
An inadequate suspension system will compromise how much additional weight your vehicle can carry, how safe and comfortable your vehicle is while it’s in motion, as well as the lifespan of your vehicle’s mechanical components. So, if you’re looking to load up your rig or do some exploring off-road, then you will more than likely need aftermarket suspension to ensure your vehicle is ready for whatever track you throw at it or whatever gear you throw onto it and into it.
What components are there in a suspension system?
Now, let’s talk about the three main components of your rig’s suspension system. The first are the springs, which support the weight of your vehicle above it and control the motion of the wheels below as they travel over uneven surfaces.
In today’s vehicle suspension systems, there are four types of spring options:
- Leaf springs are made of multiple pieces of spring steel, called leaves, that are bolted to the axle – their biggest advantage is their ability to carry heavy loads.
- Coil springs are the most common type of spring – they may not carry heavy loads as well as leaf springs without additional support, but they make up for it with ride quality and intuitive handling.
- Torsion bars are designed to twist along their axis to control motion from the wheels, which means their spring rate is determined by a bar’s thickness, length and construction. Torsion bars take up less space than other types of springs, which gives them a practical advantage for some setups.
- Air springs, however, use the compressive qualities of air to absorb wheel motion and to carry the weight of your rig; they’re popular for their versatility, but they aren’t as widely used as pure leaf or coil spring setups.
What are shock absorbers?
The second major component of vehicle suspension is the shock absorber, which does exactly what the name suggests.
Your shocks are responsible for dispersing the movement of your springs as they in turn do their job of carrying your vehicle and compensating for wheel movement. They don’t take the weight of your vehicle, but they do control the speed of weight transfer in your car, which is essential to performance and safety.
A high-quality shock minimises spring vibration over both small and big bumps, giving you a comfortable ride and excellent handling behind the wheel. However, a shock that’s only designed for on-road travel and low vehicle weight will be less comfortable, less safe and have a much shorter lifespan if you travel off the beaten track.
How suspension components work together
The final major part of your vehicle’s suspension are the bushes, which allow different parts of your suspension to move freely while reducing noise and vibration.
Together with other minor components, your suspension springs, shock absorbers and bushes work in harmony to both control the weight of your vehicle and to reduce the effect of travelling over changing terrain, which happens both on-road and off-road to varying degrees.
The difference between good vehicle suspension and poor vehicle suspension becomes starkly apparent off-road, where harsh conditions and consistently testing changes in terrain will expose any deficiencies in your suspension’s load-carrying capability, wheel travel, ground clearance and overall ride and handling.
This means that if you plan on heading off-road, a built-for-purpose suspension system is essential. TJM suspension products, which are designed and tested to thrive in the Australian Outback, span a full range of configurations to give your vehicle a suspension setup that suits your everyday and off-road travel requirements. By fitting the correct system to your 4WD, you can ensure a better driving experience and greater off-road potential.
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