A Guide To Suspension Systems: Types Of Aftermarket Suspension Upgrades

Your suspension system plays a crucial role in how your vehicle drives and how well you can handle it. There are many different types of suspension systems, and even more ways you can adjust them.

If you’re preparing your rig for an off-road adventure, then chances are you want to lift its suspension to protect it from impact when going over obstacles, to give it higher ground clearance and better approaching and departure angles. On the other hand, you can lower its suspension with a suspension lowering kit, and make it more stable on the road, allowing you to handle better around corners, and so on.

But before you get to choose an aftermarket suspension system, let’s talk about how suspension systems work, what parts it consists of, and what you need to consider.

The Workings Of A Suspension System

Suspension systems play two important roles in your car. The first one is to ensure it goes where you want it to go. Without a properly working suspension system, your car will be off-balance, and it won’t be able to absorb most of the bumps on the road. The second role is ensuring you enjoy a smoother, more comfortable ride. There are two basic components that make the magic happen – the shock absorbers and springs.

Suspension Shock Absorbers And Springs

No matter whether you get a suspension lowering kit or a lift kit, you’ll get shock absorbers and springs that modify how your car “bounces” as a result of driving over bumpy terrain. The springs expand and compress, allowing the suspension system to absorb the bumps on the roads.

On the other hand, the shock absorbers dampen the spring’s tendency to bounce up and down when it expands and compresses. That being said, the shock absorbers make sure the suspension system absorbs the bumps, while also ensuring your car doesn’t go up and down unnecessarily after passing over the bumps. Moreover, the shock absorbers take up some of your car’s weight, allowing the springs to still compress and smoothen out the bumps when driving.

Factory Suspension Systems

Your car, in its out-the-factory state, has a suspension system tuned for comfort, meaning there’s generally more suspension travel than necessary. This makes your drives feel soft, providing a boat-like effect, making it bob up and down. This means that when taking on corners, you may feel it lean more than you’d like. This may lead to you lacking the confidence to go through the corner with the speed you want, even if the speed is below the speed limit. In order to get that missing confidence, you should consider lowering your suspension.

Lowering Your Suspension

Lowering your suspension by getting lower springs is the most affordable way. When you lower the springs, your car’s height is lowered, reducing the space between the wheel wells and the tyres. This is done by installing smaller springs than your stock springs, making your car sit lower.

Lowering the springs is generally done for aesthetic reasons, but some people genuinely want to improve handling and reduce leaning in corners. However, if you install springs that aren’t suitable for your car, handling can become worse. For instance, installing springs that are too hard or too soft, your car can bottom-out when going over bumps due to lesser suspension stroke.

Furthermore, controlling your car will become more difficult at higher speeds, and you’ll lose out on comfort. For that reason, you should get a suspension lowering kit that’s made for your specific model and make.

If you want to take it further, you can upgrade your coilovers. While installing springs is as simple as putting aftermarket springs on the shock absorbers, installing coilovers requires you to install springs, as well as shocks. This will result in a completely customisable suspension system, which you can tune based on personal preference and driving style. You can get a suspension system that makes for a confident and hard drive, or get a softer system that makes driving more comfortable when going over bumpy roads.

Air Suspension

Besides installing aftermarket springs and coilovers, you can get an air suspension system. These systems are the most advanced, expensive, and they can provide a “magic carpet ride” feel. This is possible thanks to the air bags that take on the dampening and absorbing tasks rather than having springs. As a result, this system doesn’t have to deal with springs bouncing and shock absorbers dampening the bounce.

Air suspension systems provide for the smoothest and most comfortable ride, while giving you the confidence to tackle corners with speed. Furthermore, you can adjust the suspension with the push of a button. You can pump more air in the airbags to heighten it, or release some air to go lower.

Progressive Or Linear Springs

Progressive springs don’t compress at a constant rate. Instead, they compress based on the amount of suspension travel. Progressive springs are easy to compress at the start, but they have more resistance as suspension travel reduces. As a result, your car will be pliant initially, but it will get firmer as the wheel gap is reduced. Progressive springs are recommended for lowering your suspension, as they will do a better job of preventing your suspension from bottoming out.

Linear springs, on the other hand, as their name suggests, compress at a linear rate. This provides a more predictable ride, as you can get a good idea of how your car will react when going over bumps, even at higher speeds. For this reason, linear springs are the go-to choice for cars with coilovers.

To Sum Up

If you aren’t satisfied with your car’s stock suspension, you can go with one of the aforementioned three upgrades. Lowering springs are the most affordable, and all you have to do is install the springs. Coilovers are costlier, but you get more control. Lastly, air suspension systems are the most expensive, but you get the utmost comfort, performance and control. That being said, you can find a suitable upgrade for your particular model and make, regardless of your budget.

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