There comes a point in time where you start to notice something is up with your car, it doesn’t drive or feel the way it used to. You can feel the car starting to swerve to the right as you begin to countersteer more and more.
This is just one of the telltale signs that your suspension might need replacing.
But how can you know for sure that it really is the suspension causing the issue?
In this article, we explain how to check your car’s suspension and the 5 signs that indicate you need a suspension repair.
Check your car’s suspension in 5 steps
1. Visually inspect the strut mounts
This step is relatively easy and does not require you to jack up the car. Open up the hood of your vehicle and look at either side’s strut or shock towers, which usually extend through the fender just above each wheel and are held in place by a number of bolts and nuts.
Keep an eye out for any signs of corrosion or rust located on the fasteners that go over, and are not loose or otherwise damaged.
2. Measure the height of your front wheels
Using a tape measure, determine the length of empty space from the top of the tyre to the bottom of the fender on the driver’s side of the vehicle.
Repeat this step on both passenger sides and assess if there is any difference in height. If you notice a slight variation (2.5cm or less) that’s okay, the two should be fairly similar.
If one side is lower than the other, it’s most likely that is where the issue is stemming from. If they are both relatively even, there could still be an issue with the suspension that affects both sides, which leads you on step 3 below.
3. It’s time to jack up the car
Before you can get underneath your car for a closer inspection, you’ll need to get the trusty jack out. Make sure to check the owner’s manual for designated jack points before attempting to lift the car. Trying to jack the car up from any old spot may cause some serious damage to the vehicle, but also puts you at risk.
4. Look for signs of damage or grease
If you’re having trouble seeing underneath the car, it might be a good idea to use a torch. One by one, inspect the rubber bushings on each wheel. This component helps separate the metal sections of the suspension from one another. They are typically black in colour, however, they can turn gray overtime from wear and tear.
Look out for any cracks or tears in any bushings, as this will indicate they need replacing. When a rubber bushing is worn out, it no longer fulfils its role of separating the metals, resulting in a rougher, noisier ride.
If a bushing is missing or torn, we recommend not driving your car anymore as it compromises the cars ability to withstand shocks when going over bumps and can put you and other motorists on the road at great risk.
5. Check the tie rod ends
This step is a little more complex but we’ll guide you through it step by step. First, locate the power steering box and follow the arms towards the wheels. You might need to refer to the owner’s manual if you’re having trouble finding it as its location varies with each make and model.
The tie rod is an essential component of suspension that serves a connection point between the steering box and the wheels. If the bushings are worn out or damaged, it can result in reduced handling and dead spots when steering. This makes it extremely dangerous to drive as it can prevent you from being able to control your vehicle.
While you are checking your suspension, what about going through other safety checks so your 4×4 is up and ready for your next outing.
6 signs your suspension needs replacing
1. The drive feels bumpy
When the shocks or struts start to wear out the first noticeable sign is how your car drives. You’ll start to feel every small bump on the road as if you were driving off-road, almost like a ‘bounce’.
2. Swerves to one direction
One of the first signs that something is wrong with the suspension is if your vehicle starts to drift or pull to one direction while driving straight. It is usually caused by uneven tyre wear and tyre pressure. You may feel yourself having to countersteer even when you’re not turning.
3. Trouble steering
Does your steering wheel feel unresponsive? If your steering feels heavy, pulls off to one side, or doesn’t feel like it’s responding when you turn, especially at lower speeds, there’s something wrong with the suspension. It could be related to low steering fluid levels, or it could be far more serious. If you’re currently experiencing this, we recommend contacting a professional.
4. Nose dives when pressing the brakes
If the shocks are worn out, you may feel the front end of the vehicle ‘nose dive’ every time you apply the brakes firmly. When this starts to happen it’s important to book a checkup with your mechanic as it can affect your ability to stop the car quickly in an emergency. Poor suspension can increase stop time by up to 20%.
5. Uneven tyre tread
If you notice uneven wear or the tread is surprisingly worn out in certain areas (bald spots), this means the suspension isn’t holding up the car evenly, which causes uneven amounts of pressure on the tyres.
6. Damaged or greasy shocks
If you notice any fluid build-up or if the shocks and struts seem greasy, chances are you have a fluid leak.
If there is a steering fluid leak, your suspension is no longer working properly and must be replaced. Driving around with low steering fluid can be highly dangerous.
Before going ahead and get brand a new suspension, check the WA regulations on common 4WD accessories so you know the kit complies with the law.
We also have written a guide on how to choose the right suspension for your 4WD.