Steering & Suspension Repair in Savannah GA
One of the most unnoticed and undervalued components of a car or truck is that stuff hidden down there underneath the car- the suspension. Every make and model uses a different design for the suspension, different sized tires with different pressure settings and different alignment specifications to give you the comfort you desire. All of these various components act in concert with one another.
Some vehicles have shock-and-control-arm setups. Some have a strut-based design, which looks like a tubular shock absorber with a big spring around it. The steering components can be manual or power and consist of linkages or a rack and pinion devices. Some suspensions have pneumatic or electronic actuators to continually adjust the height of the car to add comfort while driving.
All of those different arrangements and configurations can be confusing to the average driver, but it’s definitely reasonable to expect your mechanic to take the time to help you understand the workings of your suspension and even show you the components that may be having issues.
Perhaps the most overlooked parts of this overlooked system are your wheels and tires. Wait, tires are considered part of the suspension? Indeed they are. Back in the early days of car design the only thing that separated you from every bruising bump and bone rattling rut in the road were circular ribbons of hard rubber affixed to the rim of the wheel.
Wear patterns on your tires can be a harbinger of trouble for your mechanic. Misalignment or bad shocks or struts can show up first in the ways the tire treads are wearing. Uneven or excessive tread wear can indicate a number of problems stemming from the undercarriage.
Being “in alignment” is means that your car is tracking straight down the road. The alignment can go out of its specified range by normal wear and tear or by hitting potholes, curbs or speed bumps at a speed which knocks the positional relationship between the wheels and the axles out of kilter. The three main angles that can be adjusted on a typical alignment are “caster”, “camber”, and “toe”.
The picture below shows these three adjustment points and how they relate to one another and the tires.
Caster is the distance from the front wheels to the rear wheels and does not wear tires but can cause a pull to the left or right if out of specification. Picture the front wheel of a bicycle. On most bikes, the forks don’t push vertically straight down on the hub, but they come in from an angle slightly to the rear. This can also be a parameter you can adjust on a car: how far from vertical the angle of force is as it meets the wheel hub.
Camber measures the angle of the wheel from top to bottom where it meets the road. Is the top of the tire further away from the car body than the bottom? Or is it closer? It’s not always preferable to have your wheels a perfectly vertical angle- it depends on a number of variables, and it impacts how the car handles in turns.
Toe is the angle each wheel has compared to the forward motion of the vehicle. A perfectly aligned toe means that every wheel / tire unit is oriented in a parallel line with the straight ahead track of the car. If the wheels are toed-in, it means that the leading edge of the tire is inward in relation to the back edge. Think “pigeon toed,” with toes in and heels out.
As to shock absorbers, let’s clear up a misconception. They don’t actually cushion the car from bumps in the road- the leaf springs or coil springs handle that. Shock absorbers actually work to control the motion of the springs, dampening their effect so it’s not too bouncy. They work in partnership with a variety of control arms, shafts, rods, bushings, tie rods, and knuckles to keep the driver in control. Many of our trucks and SUV’s use this design.
Most passenger cars, however, use a strut system that brings together the springs, control arms, etc., into one unit. This means there are fewer moving parts, but it also means that replacing the strut unit is a bit more expensive.
Integrity Auto’s goal is to suspend you above the road in as much comfort and control as possible! See us today if you notice strange wear on your tires, or weird squeaky noises when you go over bumps, and we’ll check it out.