Suspension Repairs - When Are They Necessary?
Since the suspension system was invented in 1904, it has been taking the brunt of our potholed roads, leaving us sitting in relative comfort. However, after a while your suspension begins to show signs of wear (watch the video below!) and you'll begin to see the wheel covered by it's arch. This can be dangerous - not to mention an uncomfortable ride - so what should you be looking out for?
Suspension Bounce Test
After a decade’s use and/or 80-100,000 miles (that's 3-4 journeys around the world!) it is probably time that the shock absorbers were replaced. The bounce test (which is not conclusive) does give a good indication of the suspension’s effectiveness. Simply push down on the wing above each wheel, the car should bounce straight back then settle on the downward motion. If it keeps bouncing, the shock absorbers definitely need replacing.
Put some gloves on, grasp the front road wheel and push it forwards and backwards, you're looking to see if there is any play in the suspension, especially if you hear any clonks or knocks. (note: certain makes of cars have unique suspension systems such as Citroens, when expert help would be needed). Now rock it against the steering (pull and push in/outwards) listening for clonks and watching for play in the steering. Mainly these relate to corrosion and leaks. By peering into the wheel arches you should be able to see if there is any fluid leaking from the shock absorbers and possibly corroded suspension springs.
Steering Wheel Test
Put your hands on the steering wheel and move it slightly, is there any play (no more than an inch/2.5 cm), or movement before the road wheels turn? Your friend can help here by watching the wheels from outside the car. If there is play, then the steering may be worn, a test drive should confirm with it feeling unresponsive (more on this below). This is a possible MOT failure point (here's a handy list of MOT checks) and may need a specialist to investigate further.
Road Test - Steering & Suspension
Ensuring that you are on a quiet road, bring the speed up to 30 mph and loosen your grip on the steering wheel. If the car pulls noticeably to one side there may be something wrong with the suspension, or an indication that the chassis is twisted after an accident. However, there could be a very simple explanation such as incorrect tyre pressures, so check this also.
Find some rough ground, or aim the car at some all too common potholes, does the vehicle pitch and wallow, taking some time to settle down? The suspension could be worn, confirming the results of the bounce test, which you should have carried out earlier. Perhaps there is a bang or scrape from beneath the car and the exhaust is loose or touching the road. Don't confuse these sounds with loose tools banging around inside the boot.
Purchasing a used car? These tests can all be done easily to ensure you're not buying a clunker.
Still concerned about used car problems?