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Car Steering and Suspension Check & Repair
Steering and suspension refers to a complex system of components that connects the body of a car to the wheels. This system allows you to control the direction of your vehicle whilst limiting the impact of uneven road surfaces and vibrations on the car. This ensures passengers maintain as safe, controlled and comfortable a ride as possible.
It can be difficult to recognise a problem with your suspension system given that loss of performance occurs gradually over a period of time, however due to the harsh environment in which this system operates, and the large number of varying components involved, it is essential your vehicle is checked on a regular basis.
Identifying Suspension Problems
A faulty or damaged suspension is not something that should not be taken lightly as it is an instrumental part to the vehicle and is needed to absorb impact, improve handling and even ensures even tyre wear. There are certain clues in the performance of your car that can suggest that the suspension of your vehicle needs looking at.
Your car drifting when cornering can indicate a problem with the suspension system. This is because the weight of the car is not properly being distributed. The car can also seem to pull when cornering depending on where the fault is in the suspension. A defective or fractured coil spring could also be to blame as they may not react correctly to the forces placed upon them when steering.
If you notice a pool of fluid under your car, or if you see that there is a liquid all over your suspension system, this is an indication that you have had a suspension fluid leak. The suspension fluid is a hydraulic fluid that is used to relieve the pressure that is exerted on the suspension system. If you feel that your suspension fluid has leaked, it is important that this is repaired immediately to avoid any further damage to the suspension system.
With the suspension in full working order enabling even tyre wear, uneven tyre wear can be a sign that there is an issue with your suspension. Normally, the suspension keeps tyre wear even by balancing the weight of the car over all of the tyres. The uneven wear is a sign that this is not taking place and instead the suspension isn’t holding the car evenly adding extra pressure on one of the tyres, that can lead to extensive tyre damage and premature tyre wear.
If your car looks visibly lower on one side, this is a sign that there is a problem with your suspension. This is most likely a damaged or worn out spring. Accompanied with this you may also hear a distinct clunking noise when going over bumps and potholes. One way of checking if the spring is to blame is too put weight on the opposite side of the vehicle and see how the suspension reacts. If you hear a creaking or unnatural noise, then your suspension should be checked by a professional.
If you start to feel bumps in the road a lot more frequently and they hit a lot harder resulting in the vehicle to bounce, this can be a key indication that your suspension is too blame. If this problem occurs it is usually the shock absorbers that are to blame, as they have the responsibility of controlling the release of the springs after coming across an impact. If the shock absorbers are damaged then there will be no controlled release, resulting in a rough ride.
Identifying Steering Issues
Faulty steering can be down to a number of issues and the consequences can be extremely dangerous. Problems with steering can cause or be caused by a number of different issues:
Heavy steering is a stiff sensation in the steering wheel, making turning the steering wheel more effort and the car seem heavier when turning. There are a number of reasons why this may have occurred.
Power steering fluid is a hydraulic fluid that transmits the power throughout the steering system. This fluid is a fundamental part of this system, without it, your car would not be able to steer as effortlessly as normal. It is very important that this fluid is regularly topped up and replaced to ensure that power steering is working effectively and to avoid heavy steering.
Another cause of heavy steering is the steering belt has become damaged or loose. The steering belt is essential to the whole steering system, without it there would be no power in the steering and can even cause a fault with the air conditioning compressor and alternator. The belt may become damaged through general use over time as the belt material begins to wear down.
The power steering pump can be another reason why your steering may be heavy. The steering pump is responsible for pumping the power steering fluid from the reservoir to the steering gear. If this pump is faulty or broken, power steering will be disabled. Despite the power steering pump usually being reliable, a premature failure can be spotted as it usually makes a lot of noise when this occurs.
The steering rack is a key component of the steering system, working with the power steering system. A key indication of a damaged steering rack is a stiff steering wheel when initially turning on the engine for it to only improve over time. As the car warms up lubrication increases, making the issue less noticeable. However, it is important that the steering rack be inspected by a professional and repaired or replaced as soon as possible.
If you find that it is hard to steer at low speeds this can be an indication of low tyre pressure. The tyres of your vehicle need to be at the recommended tyre pressure as advised by the vehicle manufacturer. Tyre pressures are often listed in your vehicle handbook or on a label inside the fuel filler cap or passenger doors. We keep up to date technical information in all branches and would be happy to help if you cannot locate this information yourself. If the tyre pressure in the tyres is too low, this will lead to stiff and sluggish steering.
FREE Steering and Suspension safety check
If you feel like you have an issue with either your steering or suspension, by clicking the green ‘Book an Appointment’ button above, you will be able to book in for a FREE safety check at a National Tyres and Autocare branch local to you.
Interim or Full Service
During any of our servicing options here at National Tyres and Autocare, whether that be an Interim service or a Full service, your steering and suspension will be checked. The steering, suspension linkages and ball joints will be checked for wear or damage.
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The 4 basic components of a suspension system
In modern-day cars, you will notice springs in the suspension system. There are a few types of springs in the suspension, including steel coil springs and the torsion bar. The purpose of these springs is to absorb any impact the tyres come into contact in with the road. This can be observed clearly when the car hits a bump in the road or you go over a speed bump. Springs also enable your car to lean on corners, by containing all of the centrifugal forces.
Shock absorbers are found next too or inside the springs, working in tandem with the springs. With the springs being effective at absorbing any impact, the shock absorbers ensure that when this energy is released from the springs that it is released in a controlled manner. If there were no shock absorbers this would result in a lot of vibration or bouncing. The shock absorber converts the kinetic energy and turns it into thermal energy, that is absorbed by the suspension fluid. There are two types of shock absorbers- hydraulic and gas. Ask you National Tyres fitter for advice for your requirements.
Shock absorbers are relatively uncomplicated, but their role in your car’s safety should never be underestimated.
The most common fault is fluid leakage. Without adequate hydraulic fluid, the shock absorber is not able to dampen the bouncing spring. When your car is checked at National, our fitters will look for signs of suspension malfunction like abnormal tyre wear, or a knocking noise. If you are already experiencing any of these symptoms, get down to National straight away. We’ll test your car free of charge and without any obligation whatsoever.
Steering and suspension linkages are used to attach components to the rigid chassis of a vehicle. They have a type of joint that allows movement to some degree. The most common joint found on linkages as a ball type joint which allows movement in a range of directions. These joints wear out over time and can give excessive movement that can have an effect on the safety or stability of your vehicle. These components can be checked quickly and easily at any of our branches free of charge.
An anti-roll bar is a mechanism in the suspension system that provides additional support for the vehicle. As the name suggests, its main purpose is to stop the vehicle from rolling or swaying. This is done by the anti-roll bar connecting the opposite sides of the suspension system, making it more rigid. If there is movement in one side of the suspension, the anti-roll bar transfers this to the opposite wheel to add balance. The anti-roll bar is usually attached to the shock absorber or vehicle hub by means of an anti-roll bar link. There are some bushes and linkages that can wear out over time. These can be checked free of charge at any of our branches.
What does the car suspension do?
The suspension system is essential to the ride, comfort and handling of a vehicle. If you put weight on the bonnet of your car you will notice it going down; this is the suspension at work. But what exactly does the suspension do?
The main purpose of a suspension system is absorbing impact. When driving. the tyres will often come into contact with different obstacles on the road. This may be as minor as a bump in the road or it could be a steep slope. Either way, the suspension system has been engineered to absorb this impact through springs and shock absorbers.
The suspension aids in helping your car’s handling to the best of its ability. This is done by the suspension shifting the weight of the vehicle in the right places, allowing swift and reliable turning. It also ensures that the tyres are firmly gripped on the road, further enabling effective handling.
As well as the suspension keeping the tyres firmly gripped on the road, they also promote even wear on the tyres. This is because the suspension does a brilliant job at keeping the weight evenly distributed between all of the tyres. This allows the tyres to wear evenly over time and avoids a specific tyre taking all of the impact.
What is power steering?
Power steering is a feature that is seen in most cars seen on the roads today. Essentially, power steering is a system that helps the driver turn the steering wheel with ease. This may seem like a basic requirement for the vehicle, however, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to help drivers steer so effortlessly.
Parts of the power steering include:
Hydraulic fluid that transmits power to the steering system.
Where the power steering fluid is stored in your vehicle.
Pumps and applies pressure to the power steering fluid to enable power steering.
A device that senses the force on the steering wheel to avoid unnecessary assist from power steering.
Steering fluid from the rotary valve gets redirected into the hydraulic chamber enabling power steering.
Why does my steering wheel vibrate?
A vibrating steering wheel is often overlooked by a number of different drivers. However, it can also indicate that something severe going on with your vehicle. There are a number of reasons why your steering wheel may be rattling:
If your wheels are not balanced correctly, this can cause rattling of the steering wheel. When a new tyre is installed onto the vehicle the technician will ‘balance the wheel’ which is when they fix small weights onto the wheel to ensure a proper balance. If wheels are not balanced correctly it can lead to problems with steering and suspension. If you feel that your wheels are not balanced seek the assistance of a professional immediately as special equipment is needed for this.
A wheel hub bearing is an instrumental part of the vehicle’s wheel assembly. The wheel hub bearing enables the wheel to turn freely, without restriction. This has a major effect on handling and makes the ride smooth. If there is a problem with these bearings, there will be noticeable vibrations on the wheel specifically when turning. It is essential that these bearings are working correctly to drive safely.
Suspension as a whole is a complicated system with a lot of intricate parts. If you notice a shaking steering wheel when going at high speeds this can be a sign that there is a fault somewhere in this system. This is due to the connection between the suspension system and the wheels. If there is a problem with the suspension then this can affect the driveshaft, causing an imbalance and shaking.
A worn or defective driveshaft can cause vibrations also. The driveshaft itself is generally a solid rod but each end will have a CV joint (Constant Velocity Joint) that should be covered with a rubber boot to protect the joint and keep the special lubricating grease contained within. These joints can become worn over time (Particularly common where a rubber boot has become damaged and allowed dirt or grit into the joint). These can be checked free of charge at any of our locations.