Tips & Advice

Steering & Suspension

Did you know?

It’s easy to take your suspension system for granted, but normal wear and tear can affect your handling and safety. A worn suspension starts a chain reaction that stresses other parts of your car and causes them and your tyres to wear prematurely.

Your suspension connects your wheels to your vehicle, controls your handling and delivers a good ride as you cruise around Waverley, Clayton and Monash. Your suspension is critical for proper steering, stopping and stability.

It can be the rough roads in Notting Hill or Wheelers Hill – every time you hit a pothole, a bump or an object in the road, your suspension has to absorb the impact and maintain control.

As you can imagine, your suspension has a lot of joints and pivot points that allow your wheels to move up and down over bumps and to turn as you steer. These parts include ball joints, tie rod ends, pitman arm, idler arms and control arm bushing. They simply wear out over time.

When a joint or other part is worn the suspension parts don’t fit together as tightly as they should. Handling and steering becomes loose and you may even hear strange noises. Your tyres will wear unevenly because they’re bouncing down the Wheelers Hill roads a little off centre.

A loose joint has the effect of stressing other suspension parts so they wear faster than they should. Sometimes a suspension component can be bent from hitting a rock or curb or by slamming into a big pothole.

When our “A Grade” technicians inspect your vehicle, we look for signs of suspension problems: things like uneven tyre wear, excessive play in the steering and suspension and other visible damage.

It’s a great idea to take care of these problems right away before they become more expensive to repair. And nobody likes to see a tyre that should last for several years get worn out in a matter of months because of a worn suspension part.

Ball Joint Replacement

Ball joints are ball-and-socket joints located between the control arm and the steering knuckle. These ball joints act as the pivot point between the wheels and the rest of the suspension system. They allow a vehicle’s suspension system to move up or down while the wheels turn left or right.

The suspension system allows your tyres to maintain constant contact with the road, especially on uneven surfaces like bumps and potholes in and around the Notting Hill and Waverley area. Vehicles fitted with shocks have upper and lower ball joints, while many vehicles with struts have only lower ball joints. Some ball joints are load-bearing and will wear faster than normal.

Ball joints are designed to fit snugly inside a lubricated casing. If the casing loses lubrication, dries out, or the linkage becomes loose, wheel alignment may be affected. A loose ball joint can also result in suspension noise and uneven tyre wear.

In extreme cases, a worn ball joint may fall out of its casing and cause a collapse of the suspension system. Clunking sounds, poor handling, and unnatural pulling are all signs of worn ball joints.

Shock Absorbers

Shock absorbers are hydraulic (oil) pump like devices that help control the impact and rebound movement of your vehicle’s springs and suspension.

Along with smoothening out bumps and vibrations, the key role of the shock absorber is to ensure that the vehicle’s tyres remain in contact with the road surface at all times and maintain control and braking response. Any time a tyre loses contact with the road your ability to drive, steer and brake is severely compromised.

Despite popular belief, shock absorbers do not support the weight of a vehicle.

Types of shock absorbers

Although all shock absorbers do the same job, different types of vehicles and suspension designs require different types of shock absorbers which can appear radically different.

Conventional telescopic shock absorbers This is the simplest type of shock absorber and is generally replaced rather than repaired. This type of shock absorber can be found on both front and rear suspension systems and is relatively inexpensive.

Strut type shock absorbers Although they do the same basic job, struts replace part of the suspension system and must be more ruggedly built to cope with greater loads and forces. Although most commonly seen on the front and rear of small to medium cars, larger cars are now tending towards strut based suspension design. Struts may be sealed or repairable units. Sealed units are designed to be fully replaced, whilst repairable (McPherson) struts can be fitted with replacement strut cartridges.

Spring seat shocks The spring seat type has characteristics of both telescopic and strut shock absorbers. Like struts, a spring seat shock is a suspension unit and damping device in a single unit. Unlike struts however, they are not designed to be subject to high side loads. Built using similar components to conventional shock absorbers, spring seat shocks are also sealed requiring full replacement.

Signs Of Worn Shock Absorbers

Although the best way to test your shock absorbers is through a workshop and road test by our qualified technicians, there are some very distinctive signs of excessive shock absorber wear and tear you can keep an eye out for.

Trouble stopping Worn shock absorbers can add as much as 20% to your stopping distance! That’s the sort of fault that can be fatal and requires immediate attention.

Nose-diving and swerving If the bonnet of your car dips when you brake or slow down, or your vehicle swerves under brakes, you may have a shock absorber problem.

Bad vibrations Uncomfortable steering wheel vibration could also be a sign of worn shock absorbers.

Side slide Worn shock absorbers can also cause excessive sway around corners, making the car a lot less stable.

Uneven tyre wear If your tyres are wearing unevenly, particularly if there are bald patches, odds are it’s your shock absorbers.

How Long Do Shock Absorbers Last?

Shocks and struts are key components of the suspension system. Replacing worn or inadequate shocks and struts and thoroughly inspecting the entire suspension system will help to maintain good vehicle safety and control.

Shock absorbers should be checked every 20,000 km by a qualified technician; Shock absorber manufacturers recommend the replacement of worn shocks every 80,000 km.

Our trained technicians at Waverley Exhaust and Brake Centre inspect your vehicle every service and look for signs of suspension problems.

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