The suspension system of a vehicle is connected to the steering system. Together they work to provide a safe and comfortable ride, and to keep the vehicle in the driver’s control.
In a perfect world, all roads would be perfectly smooth and all cars would have smooth rides. However, in the real world, potholes, pebbles, and unpaved roads can make for a bumpy ride. That’s where a suspension system comes in!
How the Suspension System Works
The suspension system of most vehicles is made of springs, shocks, and struts.
When the vehicle drives over a bump, the springs compress. After the bump, the springs expand. This allows the wheel to go over the bump while keeping the vehicle level. The same works for potholes.
However, in order to keep the springs from continually bouncing until the energy from the bump or pothole is gone, another part takes over. The struts and shock absorbers take the energy from the springs, and allow the vehicle to remain stable. This helps the vehicle keep the tires on the road, which is necessary for accurate steering, braking, and general control of the vehicle.
Signs a Suspension System Needs Repair
The most obvious sign that a suspension system needs to be checked out is a noticeably bouncy or rough ride. If you’re suspicious, try pushing down on the hood of your car. If it bounces more than once or twice, it’s time to get your shocks and struts checked.
Everyday driving can also wear on the suspension system, and hitting bumps or potholes, or driving on unpaved roads at high speeds can damage a suspension system faster. Whether you’ve been in an accident or not, there are some signs of damage to a suspension system.
Other common signs include the following:
• The wear on your tires is uneven or excessive in a short period of time.
• Your shocks or struts are leaking fluid.
• During a turn, your vehicle sways to the side.
• Bumps cause your vehicle to bounce excessively.
• When you hit the brakes, the front of your vehicle dips down.
Repairing Suspension Systems Following a Collision
Especially when the front of a vehicle is damaged during an accident, there is risk of damage to a suspension system. A suspension system is critical to maintaining the safety of your vehicle, and keeping it on the road. If you notice any of the signs listed above, consider speaking with your local collision repair expert.
Original equipment manufacturer auto parts, or OEM parts, are car parts that are made by the vehicle’s original manufacturer. They are the exact same parts, made with the same materials in the same way, usually with the same machines, that the vehicle was made with.
It does not mean that the parts are made by the car company; many auto companies use outside manufacturers to produce their original parts. OEM parts are made by the same manufacturer as the original vehicle, regardless of who that was.
When auto parts are broken or worn out either due to an accident, normal wear and tear, or other damage to a vehicle, original equipment manufacturer parts can be used to replace the old parts. Many auto body shops and insurance companies allow the vehicle owner to choose what kind of parts to use on the vehicle during repair or maintenance, because there are other manufacturers that produce parts of lesser, equal, or superior value.
OEM Auto Parts: The Basics
They might be more expensive. Often, OEM parts are more expensive than either aftermarket or recycled parts.
OEM parts will help your vehicle maintain its value. Because OEM parts are made by the same manufacturer with the same materials as your original vehicle, they are essentially the same exact parts. Therefore, they are the best option to help your vehicle maintain its value for longer.
They maintain safety and other standards of the original vehicle. The original manufacturer helped set and adhered to the original safety standards of the vehicle. Using OEM parts on your vehicle will help maintain the original safety standards. The same applies to things like fuel efficiency, assuming that the vehicle is maintained according to the manufacturer’s requirements.
OEM parts may come with a warranty. In some cases, OEM parts come with a limited warranty, usually, one year. A dealership may also stand by their labor.
You know what you’re getting. If you’re happy with your original vehicle, OEM parts might be right for you. There is usually only one option. You’ll know that the parts you’re using to replace your old ones are going to be the same. They will fit, they will work with your vehicle properly, and they will help maintain the value and standards that your car previously held and met. However, aftermarket parts that may be made on different machinery or with different materials can either be of higher or lower quality in many ways. It takes some research to find out which aftermarket parts are right for you.
Your vehicle’s steering and suspension system plays a huge role in the performance and safety of the vehicle, and it’s one of the biggest ways that a driver maintains control of the vehicle. Usually, when the steering and suspension system is affected, it is due to a collision in the front of the vehicle or to one of the rear wheels.
The steering system is what allows the driver to control where the vehicle goes. It needs to be properly aligned to accurately control the direction of the vehicle. Most steering systems are basically mechanical, but the addition of power steering to most vehicles on the road today can make things a little more complex. Power steering makes the wheels easier to turn, but it also leave more room for things to go wrong in the case of a collision, or more upkeep after normal wear and tear.
The suspension system allows the vehicle to convert the forward and back energy from hitting bumps in the road into vertical energy, which is why the vehicle bounces up and down, especially on bumpy roads. It is made up of coil springs, shock absorbers, and other parts, depending on the make and model of your vehicle.
Maintaining the Steering and Suspension System in Your Vehicle
Like other systems in the average vehicle, day to day use causes some wear and tear on the steering and suspension system. Bumps in the road, driving off-road, allowing a vehicle to sit outdoors without being used, and other things can wear on the system. Power steering, alignments, and eventually, replacing suspension parts may all be part of a vehicle’s regular maintenance.
In the case of a collision, however, you may notice that your vehicle shows signs of damage and the suspension or steering systems may need repaired sooner. If it is not obvious by looking at a vehicle that the steering or suspension are off, these signs could mean that there is more damage to your vehicle than meets the eye.
The steering wheel shakes.
If your steering wheel is shaking either when the vehicle idles, or is going at high speeds, you could have an issue with your brakes, or it could be caused by a problem with your power steering system.
The wheels are difficult to turn.
If the power steering fluid is low or has sprung a leak, your wheels may be much harder to turn.
The wheels squeal when you turn.
This is another sign that your power steering fluid may be low.
Your Steering wheel is not aligned.
If your steering wheel is straight and your vehicle drives to one side or the other, you may need an alignment.
If your vehicle is bouncing up and down more than normal on the same quality roads, there could be an issue with your suspension system.
Your vehicle’s exhaust system consists of four main parts: the oxygen sensors, the tailpipe, the catalytic converter, and the muffler. As a system, it connects to the engine at the front, carries the gases down to the bottom of the vehicle, and runs along the bottom to the rear.
The exhaust system has two main functions. It converts harmful gasses from the engine into gases that are less harmful before releasing them into the atmosphere, and quiets the noise your vehicle emits. A properly functioning exhaust system carries the gases your vehicle emits safely away from the vehicle.
Exhaust systems need regular maintenance, and you can tell that the system needs to be worked on if the vehicle makes extremely loud noises, or if it smells like sulfur and has releases a cloud of smoke behind it.
Holes, fallen or dragging parts, or disconnected pieces can all lead to issues with an exhaust system. In some cases, exhaust problems can cause poor gas mileage, in addition to other driving challenges.
Issues with the exhaust may not immediately affect the functions of the vehicle, but can be very unhealthy for you, the people, plants, and animals in your community, and the atmosphere as a whole because of the unsafe gases released. If left unchecked, they can lead to bigger issues, including the buildup of unsafe gases in and around your vehicle.
Keeping Your Exhaust System in Shape
Rust is a big enemy of the exhaust system Those in colder climates, especially with heavy snow or rain, may need to check on their exhaust systems more often. Things like rocks or salt can wear on the underbelly of your vehicle from everyday driving.
However, exhaust systems can also be damaged in a collision, especially one from behind. If you’ve been in a collision, the damage to your exhaust system may be obvious if you check the back or underside of your vehicle.
Whether you have been in a collision or not, if you notice any of the following symptoms, you should have your exhaust system inspected, and it may need to be repaired.
– Trouble starting your vehicle,
– A louder than normal noise when your vehicle is running or when you step on the gas,
– Your ‘check engine’ light is illuminated or flashing,
– Your tailpipe is hanging lower than the rest of the undercarriage,
– A cloud of smoke is emitted from under or behind your vehicle.
If you have questions or concerns about your vehicle and whether its systems are functioning correctly, many collision shops will inspect it at little to no cost to you. When the safety and health of you and your loved ones could be at stake, it’s always better to have an expert check it out.
Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) in your Vehicle
The supplemental restraint system, or SRS, in your vehicle does exactly what its name implies: it supplements the restraint, or seatbelt, system. In the case of a collision, the primary function of the supplemental restraint system is to deploy airbags, although modern systems may initiate other actions, like reclining the driver and passenger seatbacks into a safer position or releasing curtains to protect occupants from broken glass when windows shatter.
When a vehicle collides with another vehicle or object, the airbag sensor signals the airbag to open. At the very least, a vehicle has one airbag in front of the driver and one for the passenger, but many vehicles have additional side airbags or rear airbags to further protect the vehicle’s occupants.
Your SRS Warning Light
On the dashboard, your vehicle has warning lights that are tested every time the vehicle starts. When a light remains on after the first 10 seconds or so when the vehicle is started, it’s a sign that there is an error with a system in your vehicle. The SRS system light will either say “SRS” or it will be an image of a person wearing a seatbelt with an airbag expanded in front of them.
If your light remains on and there is an error with the system, your airbags may not deploy in the case of a collision and you should have your vehicle examined as soon as possible. In some cases, if your insurance company can determine that there was an error in the vehicle that kept the system from functioning properly and the vehicle owner failed to have it taken care of, the insurance company may not pay for medical bills that result from a crash.
SRS Testing and Functionality Following a Collision
If your vehicle has been in a collision, there are several steps you can take to ensure that your SRS is functioning properly.
1. Check whether the airbags or any other safety features have been activated. This can include airbags, seat belt retractors, curtains, etc.
2. If you can, start the vehicle. Check for the SRS light. It should illuminate for a few seconds and then turn off. If it does not illuminate or if it remains on, your system may not be working properly.
3. Examine your seat belts. Pull every seat belt out all the way and look for signs of wear, like tears or strange sounds.
4. Buckle the seatbelts and ensure that all buckles still work.
5. If your vehicle has a passenger weight sensor, sit in the passenger seat to test whether it is functioning.
6. If you are unsure about any of these steps, notice any wear or malfunctioning parts, or there is a problem with your SRS, take your vehicle to a collision repair shop.
Six Signs it’s Time to Fix Your Brakes
Brakes are one of the most important systems in your vehicle. The risk of an accident increases dramatically when brakes are not functioning properly. As brakes age, they are gradually worn down, so it’s important to have them checked about every two years, or, when you notice one of these signs that it’s time to fix your brakes.
1. Your Brakes Squeal When Used
One of the first signs that it’s time to have your brakes replaced is a shrill, squeaking noise. Worn out brake pads are designed to squeak when they’re worn down specifically so that drivers know to replace them.
Brakes can also squeal when they’re wet, but the noise should stop when they dry out. If you haven’t used the brakes and they’re wet, pay attention to the noise and if it stops, they may have just been wet.
2. The Car Jerks or Vibrates When You Brake
If your vehicle jerks when the brakes are applied, it may feel like the brakes work well, then not as well, as the wheel rotates. This can happen if the rotors or brake pads are warped, and it means that the brakes are not as effective as they should be.
3. The Car Pulls to One Side When You Brake
If braking causes the car to pull to one side, it could mean that there is a serious issue with the brake system, and the brakes should be serviced as soon as possible.
4. The Brakes Grind When Used
Brakes that sound like they’re grinding have probably been squealing for a while. A grinding noise signals that the brake pad is nearly gone, and should be replaced.
5. The Brake Requires Extra Pressure to Work
Brand new brakes require a little pressure to slow the vehicle, and slightly more to stop it. Brakes that are worn down require a lot of pressure to slow the vehicle, and you may need to apply excessive pressure to get the car to stop. The more pressure you need to apply, the sooner the brakes should be serviced.
6. Clear or Light Brown Liquid Leaking Near the Wheels
Brake fluid is an important part of a vehicle’s braking system. If you notice a clear or slightly brownish liquid on the ground under your vehicle, especially near the wheels, your brake fluid could be leaking. It’s important to repair the leak and replace the lost fluid, especially if the fluid is no longer clear and has worn out.
Metals and Carbon Fiber used in Vehicle Manufacturing
As auto technology evolves, so does the materials from which vehicles are made. Many different metals, plastics, and carbon fiber are used to manufacture the various components of a car. Manufacturers may try different materials because each material can affect things like production cost, fuel efficiency, safety, and more.
In collision repair, sometimes, the parts of a vehicle need to be replaced. Regardless of what your vehicle is made from, it helps to know a little about auto manufacturing materials so that you can make an informed decision as to replacement parts.
Steel & Iron
Most antique vehicles are made from steel. Today, many vehicles are still made with steel and iron – but not nearly as much of it. Steel is still strong, durable, and readily available. Modern science and technology has led to new combinations of materials that allow the same durability and protection that steel can provide while increasing safety and fuel efficiency of a car.
While steel and iron provided a strong and sturdy vehicle, they did not necessarily provide a safe environment for a person in an accident. Today, the body of many cars is still built from steel because of its strength. However, many different kinds of steel are used, like steel that can crumple on impact to soften the force of the impact on a passenger.
Steel and iron are also extremely dense and heavy, which did not allow for maximum fuel efficiency. Today, most of the weight of a vehicle still comes from steel and iron but other materials have been substituted as well.
Aluminum is a relatively new material in the world of auto manufacturing. It is a very lightweight metal, and while not necessarily as durable as iron, it can be very beneficial in high performance vehicles. The light weight allows for faster acceleration and better fuel mileage. One of the biggest benefits of aluminum is that it is resistant to rust.
Titanium is strong, but not quite as strong as steel or iron. It is lightweight, but still heavier than aluminum. It is also resistant to corrosion, which is why it is a valuable metal to use in vehicle manufacturing.
Carbon fiber is another modern material in the auto manufacturing world. It’s used mostly in high end vehicles, and is commonly used in brakes. It is much stronger and lighter than steel, but it is also many times more expensive. However, in modern cars, it is used increasingly to replace formerly metal parts.
Which Material is Best?
When it comes to collision repair, it might be best to use parts that are the same as your original vehicle parts. But what happens when original parts aren’t available? Using substitute materials on your vehicle is not necessarily bad, but it is a discussion you should have with your collision repair shop.
Proper Joining Methods: Adhesives and Rivets
When a vehicle needs repair, old parts may need to be removed and replaced with new ones. Automobiles are made from many separate parts, and they are made to fit together and be fastened in place.
Traditionally, rivets and welds have been used to hold parts together. Many modern day collision shops and vehicle manufacturers have converted to a new system that uses more versatile fasteners and adhesives.
If your vehicle is in the shop, should you be concerned about the type of fastener used on your vehicle? Like many things in the collision repair industry, there is more than one acceptable way to safely and securely fasten two parts to each other. Each has its own benefits and downfalls.
Rivets & Welding
Riveting is a relatively common way to join two pieces of a vehicle together without melting either one. A rivet is a cylindrical piece with a flared head that is inserted into aligned holes in the two pieces that are to be fastened. Often, after installing rivets, the two pieces are welded together to strengthen the bond. There are many benefits to using rivets.
• Rivets are a fast and reliable way to secure two pieces together,
• Rivets very rarely fail – they don’t come lose after installation when used correctly,
• Once installed, a rivet can usually be hidden easily.
However, rivets are usually stronger with welding, which requires the application of heat. Unfortunately, some materials will distort with heat, making welding and rivets less versatile. Welding can also be difficult to remove should the parts need to be disconnected so that one or the other can be replaced, and may be more expensive to repair.
Adhesives are the modern fastener. While they have a shorter history than rivets, they are not necessarily the inferior method.
• Adhesives can distribute the stress pulling on either part across a wider area,
• Adhesives can be engineered to bond with multiple materials, which allows designers the flexibility to use the best,
• Adhesives do not require heat, like welding does, to join two pieces together.
There are also downsides to using adhesives. Like many newer inventions, adhesives do not always last as long as more traditional methods. As chemical compounds that are relatively new, adhesives may not always be as environmentally friendly. Like with welding and riveting, adhesives are not always easy to take apart once the pieces are fastened together.
Which is best, adhesives or rivets?
While rivets are a tried and true method for joining auto parts, adhesives are often more versatile. In many cases, adhesives are simply less expensive and can be more easily used – they require minimal training and equipment. It is important to make sure that if a collision repair shop chooses to use adhesives, that they are using the correct one and correct application, including drying time.
Today, airbags are required in every car sold in the United States as a safety precaution. In many cases, airbags do what they’re meant to do: they provide a cushion in the case of impact and minimize the injuries to passengers. However, when they aren’t installed correctly or passengers don’t use other safety measures, like seat belts, airbags can cause injuries.
Airbag Safety Requirements
Although front airbags have been required in all cars sold in the United States since the late 1990’s, they are still being improved upon. Many vehicles also include side airbags, rear-seat airbags, or front central airbags.
Airbags help to protect passengers in a crash by inflating on impact and preventing a person’s head or chest from contacting other passengers or the hard interior of the vehicle. One of the ways that airbags cause injuries is by inflating with too much force.
In 2001, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a rule that by 2007, all passenger vehicles would include more sophisticated airbags. These sophisticated airbags are supposed to have modified deployment patterns, so they will deploy with less force or not at all, depending on the weight of a passenger. This can help small children or infants, especially in the front seat, to decrease the chance of injury by an airbag. [Insurance Institute for Highway Safety]
Avoiding Injuries from Airbags
In order to get the most protection from an airbag when it deploys and to minimize the likelihood of being injured from one, it’s important to take some safety precautions every time a person is in a car.
Wear a seatbelt. Airbags are a secondary form of protection in a crash, and they are less effective at preventing injuries and more likely to cause them if a passenger is not wearing a seatbelt. It’s important to wear the seatbelt correctly and keep it on.
Keep children in the back seat. Front airbags are designed for adults, and children are more likely to be injured when an airbag deploys. Children are safest in the back seat.
Sit back in your seat. The more advanced airbags that are currently required in passenger vehicles may inflate with less force or not at all if passengers are not wearing a seatbelt or are sitting too close to an airbag. However, when airbags don’t inflate, they cannot help cushion the impact in the case of a crash.