Checking your steering is easy. Just stand outside your vehicle, near the door on the driver’s side. Stick your hand through the open window and move the steering wheel, with your eye on the left front tire. If you can move the steering wheel at all before the tire starts to move, then you need to have both your steering and alignment checked.
There should be no “play” in the steering wheel before the signal is transmitted to the tires. As you drive your car, be alert to signs that it isn’t handling as easily as before. If the vehicle seems to have a mind of its own and begins to resist you on turns (and when you’re pulling out of turns), take a good look at your tires for signs of wear caused by misalignment.
Underneath your vehicle are the main elements of the suspension system, which supports the vehicle and keeps the passenger compartment relatively stable on bumpy roads. This section deals with the most important parts involved in these systems and then with the major types of suspension systems. Figure 16-6 shows you a typical suspension system.
Major parts of the suspension system
You’ll understand the different types of suspension systems best if you’re familiar with the major parts involved.
Control arms are sometimes referred to as A-arms, A-frames, I arms, or links (look ahead. Ever hear the term multi-link suspension It means that more than one link is holding the wheel to the frame or body.
Stabilizer bars are designed to prevent a vehicle from swaying and lurching on sharp curves and turns and when the wheels are traveling over uneven ground (a better solution than the legendary mountain goat that had shorter legs on one side than on the other for traveling along slopes!).
stabilizers (or anti-sway bars) also improve high-speed stability. Most vehicles have a front stabilizer bar and some also have a rear stabilizer bar. The stabilizer connects one side of the suspension to the other through the frame.
As your car begins to dip on one side, the stabilizer bar restricts that side’s movement, depending on the diameter of the bar. Largerdiameter stabilizers restrict more than smaller ones do. More and more modern vehicles are offering stability control systems that perform more efficiently. Chapter 19 tells you how these work.
Springs are the core of the suspension system. Various types of springs are used to carry the weight of the vehicle and keep it off the tires, absorb the bumps, and keep your car at its proper trim height. These can be leaf springs, coil springs, torsion bars, or air springs . Most cars use either coil or leaf springs; SUVs use coil springs, torsion bars, or leaf springs.
Leaf springs, still found on pickup trucks and pickup-based SUVs, are usually made up of several relatively thin metal plates, called leaves, piled one on top of the other. The reason for using these layers instead of one thick metal bar is that, as a bar bends, the top of the bar has to stretch a little. Unlike a single, thick bar, which, if bent too far, would split from the top-down, leaf springs are more flexible; each leaf bends independently, and the leaves can slide on one another instead of breaking.
Each end of a set of leaf springs is attached to the frame at the rear of the car with fittings that allow the springs to bend and move freely. These fittings usually have rubber bushings that allow the fittings to bend and twist freely; they also absorb some of the vibration and prevent it from reaching the passenger compartment