Made up of a complex mix of springs and shock absorbers and put through its paces every time you get behind the wheel – your car’s suspension is a real essential. But how much do you think about it on the move? When it does its job properly, we’re guessing not all that much.
But when there’s something wrong with your suspension, it’s a different story altogether. Driving with wonky suspension, you’ll more than likely be able to hear, feel and notice a change in the way your car performs.
Over the course of this guide, we’ll detail the warning signs and symptoms of suspension that’s seen better days, along with the cost of repair and the risks of driving with damaged suspension.
A car that’s pulling to one side when driving is a sign that your shock absorbers, tyres or brakes have seen better days.
To work out which the culprit is, you’ll have to do a bit of investigating. It might be something as simple as an under-inflated tyre, so try checking the tyre pressure before anything else. Improper tyre alignment might be an issue, so you might want them looking at too. If you haven’t rotated your tyres in a while, then this may also resolve the problem.
If that still hasn’t cleared things up, then try taking a look at your shock absorbers. Notice any signs of wear or damage to them? It’s best to take your car to a qualified mechanic before anything gets worse.
If driving on flat, paved roads is starting to feel like a World Rally qualifier, then take note. Feeling every rock, bump and hole means your shock absorbers or struts are probably on the way out.
To check, try giving your car the bounce test. To do this, push your entire weight down on your car’s bonnet. Release it and then count the number of times the car bounces. Any more than three bounces means there’s a problem with either your shock absorbers or struts.
A corner that sits lower than the others, accompanied by a clunking noise when going over a bump, could mean you have a worn or damaged spring.
To double-check, make sure your tyres are all properly inflated. If one corner still seems to be sitting lower than the rest, try pushing your entire weight down on the boot of the car.
What sound does the suspension make? A creaking or squealing sound is a tell-tale sign your suspension needs seeing to by a professional.
If your car dives forward when braking, leans or rolls to the side when cornering or squats backwards when accelerating then be sure to get it checked at a garage. As well as making for an unpleasant ride, it could also increase your stopping distance, which is very unsafe.
Are you having trouble steering your car, even at low speeds? If so, it’s a sign your suspension system is lagging or your steering system is at fault. Try topping up your power steering fluid to see if that helps. You should check for worn or loose belts and damaged control arm bushings too.
Keep an ear out for squealing sounds too, as this may be an issue with your power steering pump. Driving a car when your steering isn’t working is dangerous, so have it checked by a mechanic as soon as possible.
If they’re in their proper condition, then your shock absorbers should be dry in appearance. But if they’re greasy or oily, then there may be a leak which could end up damaging your vehicle if it’s left untreated.
When it comes to the cost of repairing your car’s suspension, there are a few different things that determine how much you’ll end up paying, making it difficult to estimate an average cost.
If it’s time to get your suspension repaired, then keep the following in mind:
The cost of repairing a luxury or performance car’s suspension system will set you back a fair bit. At the same time, something that’s seen better days and looks a little rusty might pose a problem for a mechanic, who’ll need to spend a great deal of time accessing and removing old parts which will also cost you.
The thing about suspension repair is that parts tend to be replaced in pairs. This is so balance and stability are maintained, as well as to prevent old or part-worn parts from placing too much stress on the new replacements.
Factor in the repair price (which could range from cheap to expensive), labour costs and how difficult the repair is to carry out, and you could be looking at a hefty bill.
Prices are bound to vary from mechanic to mechanic, so it’s worth collecting a few different quotes before you take your car in for repairs.
While you’re doing that, ask mechanics in your area which brands they’d recommend. Manufacturers will price their parts differently depending on the quality of materials, their design and certain product features that can aid performance.
It’s always tempting to go for the cheapest replacement parts, but a trusted suspension brand is sure to be stronger, harder wearing and more robust than cut-price equivalents.Text here ...
It’s always worth checking with your insurer to see if you’re covered for suspension repair. Of course, this will probably depend on the reasons for repair. If you were involved in a collision, then you should be covered, but general wear and tear won’t be an acceptable reason.
A suspension system is made up of many different parts. While it’s recommended to get any damaged parts fixed as soon as possible, you might be able to get away with driving around on certain parts more than others depending on their condition. Let’s take a look at these in more detail below.
You should get any damaged struts repaired as soon as possible.
Struts are needed to absorb the bounce of bumpy roads, while those on the front of your vehicle help with steering and alignment. Driving with a broken strut will not only make for an uncomfortable ride, but it could be dangerous in an emergency too.
Driving with damaged springs is not recommended. A damaged spring will cause alignment and control issues, and if one of your tyres sits lower than the others, then it could fall apart at any moment while in motion.
As long as you’re careful, you can drive with damaged control arms. With that said, driving over potholes can damage them further, and bent control arms can make your car tricky to control and will eventually wear your tyres down.
If you notice problems with your drive shaft, get it checked as soon as you can.
As well as creating a fair share of unpleasant vibrations and noises from underneath, a damaged drive shaft can wear down suspension and other drivetrain components at a far quicker rate. This will cause further damage to your car.
You can still drive with a damaged anti-roll bar, but that period will be brief. A broken anti-roll bar means the car will roll more when cornering, but as long as all four wheels remain on the ground, you should be safe.
With that said, a damaged anti-roll bar makes sudden turns a lot more difficult, so you’ll have to drive slower than you normally would wherever emergency manoeuvring is involved.
Driving around on broken shock absorbers is OK, but you’ll be in for a bumpy ride if so. Along with excessive rolling, squatting and diving, they’ll make driving at high speeds, as well as sudden turns and abrupt stops, a lot tougher.
You should get damaged steering linkage fixed as soon as possible. Driving with one is incredibly dangerous, since it makes turning a lot more unpredictable.
You can still drive around with broken power steering, but you’ll find yourself putting a lot more effort in just to make simple turns.