Did you know that your car rests on a set of four large coil springs?
Your car rides on springs much like those on a pogo stick. That’s right. Your car rides on coil springs, so with regard to suspension its more like riding a pogo stick than a riding a bicycle. Your car is not like a bicycle whose frame is directly connected to the axle assembly. On a bicycle the only things that shield you from the impact of bumps are the compression of the tires and the little springs in your seat. Otherwise all the impact gets directed to your spine!
But in a car, in addition to the slight shock absorption of tires and seat springs, you are protected by large metal compression coil springs that suspend your car’s body above its wheel & axle assemblies. (Note: some cars and many trucks have leaf springs instead of coil springs, but still the vehicle rides on springs.) If your car rested directly on the axle assemblies, you would feel a tremendous jolt every time you went over a bump. Thankfully in modern cars, whenever you go over a bump the suspension system’s coil springs compress, absorbing the shock, saving you lots of money in dentist and chiropractor bills.
In fact, car manufacturers spend a lot of time and money designing suspension systems which not only protect you, but give you a smoother ride. Coil springs are the principle component of nearly all suspension systems.
Normally your coil springs are very sturdy and last a long time. But as you can imagine, your car is very heavy, and travels at high speeds, so like any metal part that flexes a lot, your coil springs will eventually wear out reducing their effectiveness, and sometimes will even break. If a coil spring breaks in the middle the car will probably drop down, so that when you look at it from the front or rear, one side appears to be lower than the other. The car could even drop low enough for the wheel well to rub on the tire. However, if a spring breaks near the bottom or top, the broken coil spring may go unnoticed until you have the car inspected by a mechanic.
About now, you are probably wondering, “Hmm.. if springs absorb the shock, then what do shock absorbers do?”
Check back again soon (or read the hint below) for an answer to that question!
Most modern cars combine coil springs with shock absorbers in a unit called a strut assembly. When your strut assembly wears out you will begin to experience a number of problems including a loss of smooth ride due to the vehicle becoming bouncy, swaying around corners, sudden veering in high crosswinds, nose-diving when you stop, and difficulty controlling the car around corners. It may even make snapping or popping noises when you turn, or worse yet massive clunking when you go over a pothole.