Diagnosing the Most Common Symptoms of Car Suspension Failure
Suspension issues can be difficult to diagnose. It’s usually pretty easy to tell the symptoms, but identifying the source of the issue is another animal. Faulty or worn shocks, struts, springs, tie rods or ball joints can wreak havoc on your vehicle and make your car or truck unsafe to drive.
Wear and tear is only an issue if you actively ignore the problem and allow your vehicle to run itself into the ground! Pay attention to how your vehicle handles and what you’re hearing—and address problems immediately as they arise.
1. Pulling to One Side While Driving
Underinflated Tire With Wear An underinflated tire is a common reason for your car pulling, and a problem easily fixed.
Pulling to the left or right is the most common sign of suspension problems. It can also be one of the hardest problems to diagnose without the help of a professional. Tires need to be aligned precisely for toe-in, caster and camber. Poor alignment means uneven tire wear, annoying pulling, a constant fight with the steering wheel, and even decreased gas mileage. Your vehicle could be pulling for any number of reasons:
- Uneven tire pressure
- Uneven tire wear
- Poor alignment
- Bad tie rods or steering rack
- Sticking brake caliper
If you blow through a pothole or climb over a curb or two, your alignment can get out of whack. Sudden changes in alignment don’t happen magically. Something broke. It could be a broken spring or control arm.
Maybe It’s Just a Tyre Issue
Sometimes fixing the problem can be as simple as inflating an underinflated tyre or by rotating the tires. Other times, it could involve a few hours in the shop and complete replacement of key suspension components. Either way, ignoring this problems only makes things worse. It won’t fix itself.
2. Feeling Every Bump in the Road
A rough ride is a clear indicator your shocks or struts could be worn and in need of replacement. When every bump on the road makes your car bounce, you’ve got suspension problems and need to get it checked out.
Try the bounce test—when your car is parked, put all of your weight on the front end, release, and observe how the vehicle responds. If it bounces back and forth 3 or more times, the shocks and/or struts are worn and need replacing.
Worn Shock Absorbers Mean Big Problems
Shock absorbers, true to the name, are the main culprit when your car feels “bumpier” than ever. They’re designed to keep your tires on the road. When they don’t, the car will bounce all over the place. Shocks have fluid which dampen the bouncing. When they leak, their performance suffers and the absorbers will eventually fail.
Don’t Count Out a Worn Leaf Spring
Leaf springs may sometimes cause problems with excessive bouncing. You can double check the possibility of a busted leaf spring by checking if the car or truck seems to “lean” back in a standing position. Many trucks are designed to be “nose down” to accomodate extra weight in the rear. If your pickup truck appears to sit level, it could be extra proof of an issue with a leaf spring.
Even the slightest damage from an accident can cause shocks to leak and permanently damage them beyond repair. Get it checked out.
3. One Corner of the Car is Sitting Low
Car With Damage to Headlight from Accident Some slight cosmetic damage from a minor accident doesn’t rule out damage to your suspension.
When your car is on level ground, but one corner sits lower than the others, you’ve likely got a damaged spring. You may notice a clunking noise when going over bumps, and cornering could be compromised, because a damaged spring can’t support the weight.
The relationship between the shock and the spring is the main contributor to this problem. A blown shock may cause an overcompression of the spring and lower sitting height. A blown shock doesn’t have a direct impact on height, but it will make a car react poorly in bad road conditions.
Test Springs by Pushing Down on the boot or bonnet
The easiest way to diagnose spring problems is by pushing down on the trunk of the car or truck, releasing, and listen to how the suspension reacts. If you hear a creaking or squealing sound, you’ve definitely got a suspension problem with the shocks, springs, bushings or related parts.
Even the slightest loss of height in one or multiple corners of the vehicle could indicate a leak or failure in your shocks or springs. Don’t wait until your car is dragging along the highway before getting it inspected.
4. Momentum Makes Your Car Nose Dive, Lean Back, or Roll
Shocks or struts can be in need of replacement when you notice the following related issues:
- Your car “nose dives” when braking (it leans forward, dips).
- Your vehicle “rolls” to the side when cornering (it leans side-to-side feels wobbly).
- Your car “squats” during acceleration (it leans backward. The bonnet of the car lifts and the back of the car dips).
Of course, with extreme handling, you could force these things to happen in a vehicle with a brand new suspension system (But you then will lose control of the vehicle as the suspension is not functioning properly). We’re talking about everyday driving situations. You shouldn’t be leaning forward for a routine stop in a suburban intersection. Test your shocks
5. Difficult Steering
If you find steering is especially difficult, especially when you’re moving slowly, something might be wrong with your suspension. Sometimes the steering may feel like it’s “slipping” when you turn the wheel or hold it in a turned position. Sometimes the steering wheel will even shudder, if this is the case any number of components in your power steering system could be a source of these issues, including:
- Low power steering fluid
- Worn or loose power steering belt
- Faulty power steering pump
- Leaking power steering rack
- Worn control arm bushings
If you experience any of the above issues with your car suspension please have your car checked by a professional. Book your car in at your nearest e-CAR workshop. At e-CAR we only fit the best shocks