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Suspension Component Replacement

How do the suspension components in your vehicle work?

Suspension components are designed to hold the wheels firmly to the chassis while allowing for the up and down travel over uneven surfaces. They do not have the directed motion of steering components, but they offer a similar flexibility through the use of the ball and socket design. The tightness of the ball socket design keeps the wheels fixed in a designed position. Yet, there is enough flexibility to allow wheels to maintain this designed position while moving up and down when hitting unlevel road. Older vehicles had very few suspension components, some ball joints attached to an axle. As one wheel went down, the other wheel went up. These vehicles did not hold the road very well – think old jeeps – and offered a bumpy, dipping ride on even slightly rough roads. Modern, multi-link suspensions offer a more comfortable ride: these suspensions allow for each wheel to independently move over smaller rough patches of road without disturbing the chassis or the other wheels.

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What are the symptoms of worn suspension components?

Worn suspension components will make noise similar to a snapping or popping sound while driving at slow speeds over bumps or turning.

How often should suspension components be replaced?

End of useful life can be diagnosed quickly through checking the amount of free movement or play. A technician lightly shakes the tire back and forth and feels for this free movement. This should be performed every time you bring your vehicle in for service. The most common wear components are the ball and socket type, variously called ball joints, control arms, lateral arms, or trailing arms. Their location and constant use lead to sometimes frequent replacement. The original quality and design of the part, the type of vehicle, and how the vehicle is driven will have an impact on the life of these suspension components. The harder the vehicle is driven the more stress placed on the part, the shorter the lifespan. Adding grease (a lube job) during regular service will help to extend the life of these parts.

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How soon should I replace worn suspension components?

Worn steering components can affect tire wear, steering performance — and ultimately the safety of the vehicle. At first, a worn part will cause disproportionate wear on the inner half of the tire. The ball floats around slightly (tenths of a degree) within the socket. The wheel will move from its designed up and down position to a more leaned in position (the top of the tire leaning into the car). As the component further deteriorates, wear accelerates along the inner edges of the tire. Even brand new tires will end up with steel belts showing in a short amount of driving. Usually this condition causes a pull or drift of because the wheels are not aligned or parallel. More force must be used on the steering wheel to keep the car straight. If these suspension components continue to be neglected, movement between the ball and socket increases greatly. At this point the vehicle is at risk. The ball and socket will separate, forcing the wheel to fold in or under the car, or in some cases, be taken off the car altogether.

This type of repair will require a diagnostic check so the mechanic can pin point the actual issue, but as you can see this is typically a very costly repair. Most automotive service professionals can perform this service, however the pricing will vary significantly based on vehicle type and location. Save time and money by comparing quotes from shops in your area with Openbay.

Service article written by an ASE Master Technician

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