Why Upgrade Your 4WD Suspension
What is suspension and why is it important?
Suspension is a key component in any vehicle. Suspension allows the wheels to move independently of the vehicle body and keep traction on the road. In a sports car, stiff suspension is favoured to stop the vehicle from flexing and rolling when accelerating or cornering at high speeds. On a four wheel drive, soft suspension allows the wheels to flex far from the body, providing traction over uneven surfaces. To work correctly, the suspension uses a number of specialised components, but the main items used to perform these actions are springs and shock absorbers (also known as dampeners). Shock absorbers dampen road vibrations and absorb bumps in the road. They also keep your car from bouncing around on just the springs. Your springs work to return your suspension to it’s full height after a bump and reduce sagging under heavy loads. In a 4WD, you’ll commonly find a few different types of springs:
- Coil Springs
Coil springs are found in most vehicles on the road, including 4WD’s. They look just like a large spring and are a great all-rounder option at a reasonable price. Compared to leaf springs, they are more comfortable, provide improved offroad performance and are easy to replace.
- Leaf Springs
Commonly found in the back of utes, leaf springs are some of the strongest springs available. Leaf springs are usually parabolic shaped metal with the axle mounted in the middle. They are great at carrying heavy loads, cheap to produce and are highly resistant to damage when compared to coil springs. However, they are harder to work on, contribute harsh vibrations to the vehicle frame and do sag over time. They’re great for heavy loads, but provide less performance when offroading.
- Air Suspension
Air suspension is the latest and greatest technology for offroading. A pressurised airbag acts as a spring, providing a number of different features that coil or leaf suspension can’t, including auto-leveling, progressive springing, height adjustment and much more. Most trucks, busses and heavy trailers utilise air suspension. It is much more expensive when compared to more conventional suspension systems, but provides a number of useful features.
Why do you need to upgrade your suspension?
From the factory, 4wd suspension aims to provide a balance of offroad functionality and on-road driving comfort, all while keeping the vehicle at an affordable price. Once you start to reach the limitations of your suspensions load capacity, clearance and off road performance, it’s time for a suspension upgrade. The most common and cheapest suspension upgrade is a spring replacement. Some reasons you may want to upgrade your suspension includes:
- Increased Load Capacity
A 4WD by itself is a heavy piece of machinery. Once you load up your food and water, camping gear, an extra battery, tools and equipment as well as 4 mates, your suspension begins to sag. This drops your 4WD clearance and hinders its ability to flex and absorb bumps effectively. Adding stronger springs to your suspension keeps your car performing at maximum capacity, even when filled with all of your gear.
- Increased Vehicle Clearance
When offroading, ground clearance is key to driving over rough terrain and protecting the underbody of your 4WD. A larger set of springs can increase your ride height, providing more ground clearance.
- Increased Off Road Performance
Driving offroad forces your vehicle to navigate tough and harsh terrain. Replacing your springs and shock absorbers with high quality, adjustable components allow you to push the most performance out of your rig.
- Suspension Sag
As your suspension ages, its performance begins to degrade. A new set of springs (even factory replacements) are a great way to fix your sagging vehicle and ensure its performing at maximum capacity.
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