One of the most important things to monitor on your car is how it rides. The system of parts that manages this is called the suspension. This is what keeps your tires on the road, and naturally, your suspension's parts can wear out over time. How quickly they do is also affected by how you drive and maintain your car.
Here are three habits you should avoid to increase the longevity of your suspension:
1) Not avoiding potholes.
Our roads here in the Philippines aren’t the greatest in the world, and we have more than our fair share of ruts and potholes. Rough roads and potholes promote accelerated wear on your suspension system as they wear down the shock absorbers, bushings, and joints. This is because potholes and the like direct lots of energy to the suspension components. Hence, it is best to avoid them, or slow down to minimize the energy of the blow if they're unavoidable.
2) Not being a smooth driver.
Smooth driving is the ability to speed up and slow down gradually. Some drivers believe that sporty driving equates to being rough, or being able to scare your passengers with sudden jerky moves. This is absolutely wrong. The best and the fastest drivers are the smoothest ones. A mantra to live by from the best racing drivers is the saying, “fast is smooth, smooth is fast.” Racers know this because smooth driving saves your car, suspension, fuel, tires, and brakes so that you can last throughout an entire race.
If you are accelerating harshly, you’re putting extra pressure on your rear shock absorbers, and same goes for the front shock absorbers when you brake suddenly. When you go into corners without taking the smoothest line through the apex, you’re putting added pressure on your suspension, and this in turn leads to wear on the system.
Just about everything in a car’s suspension system has to do with energy and how it is managed or used throughout the car. So take it easy when you accelerate, brake, and corner and you can increase the longevity of your suspension.
3) Not taking care of the little details.
Tire pressure: Your tires are probably the most important part of your car’s suspension system. Too soft or too hard and your tire will not be able to maximize its contact patch. Your tires’ contact patch is your car’s connection with the road. You want the contact patch to be optimized so that your suspension can work properly.
If your tires are operating outside of the prescribed pressure, then you’re putting undue stress on your car’s suspension and promoting unnecessary wear on its components. You can maximize your tire’s contact patch by maintaining the proper tire pressure that they're designed for.
Wheel alignment: Proper alignment ensures that your tires are rolling properly without added stress on them or the suspension system. Wheel alignment suffers from rough roads and sharp jolts from potholes. If you endure such terrain regularly, it would be best to check your alignment on an annual basis. If your car pulls to the left or the right when you’re going straight ahead, you'll need to have your wheels realigned.
Shock absorbers, ball joints, and tie-rod ends: These parts of your suspension, when worn, will put added pressure to the other parts of the system. Hence, it is crucial to inspect your shock absorbers for wear by checking if the rubber bushings are still in good shape and that they have no play or any extraneous movement.
Same goes for the ball joints and tie-rod ends. Also, inspect the shock bodies for any oil leaks. A leak around the shock absorber bodies suggests that the seals have gone bad and they need replacement.
Try to avoid the bad habits mentioned above and you can maximize the life of your car’s suspension for years of enjoyable, safe, and comfortable use.