Even if you know almost nothing about cars, virtually every motorist has heard of suspension and knows that it is a critical component.
To go into the subject deeper, suspension comprises of the springs, wishbones, dampers and links which attach a vehicle to its wheels. The main job of the suspension is to give a car specific ride and handling characteristics.
There’s more than one way to set up a car’s suspension though, and if you’ve ever heard a manufacturer or reviewer talk about a particular car, you may notice the suspension type gets a mention quite a bit. But how can one make sense of all the various terms for suspension out there?
In this guide, we list out and briefly summarise the various types of suspension which modern cars use and what you need to know about what differentiates them.
IFS (Independent Front Suspension)
What is IFS?
Independent Front Suspension allows the wheels on the front axle of the car to move up and down independently to those on the rear axle.
Independent Front Suspension Advantages
Compared to more rigid suspension set-ups, IFS can provide better stability, handling, steering and ride comfort. A complex design is required for IFS to achieve these advantages though.
IRS (Independent Rear Suspension)
What is IRS?
This works much like IFS except, as the name suggests, it’s applied to the wheels on a car’s rear axle. Nowadays, independent suspension is more popularly used at the front than at the rear.
Independent Rear Suspension Advantages
The advantages with IRS are similar to IFS - it can provide great stability and handling, especially compared to more rigid suspension options. Independent suspension at the rear also tends to be more durable than when it is installed to wheels on the front axle.
What is a MacPherson Strut?
A MacPherson Strut is a kind of suspension which has a coil spring positioned over a shock-absorbing strut.
MacPherson Strut Advantages
The main advantages of MacPherson struts centre around its simple and lightweight design. They require less components than other types of suspension set-ups and take up less space too. This makes MacPherson Struts particularly desirable to use on small cars.
What is Air Suspension?
As the name gives away, air suspension stands out by using air springs which are usually controlled by air compressors and self-levelling electronics.
A while ago, air suspension could only be found on trucks but it has become much more common and it has found its way to various sports cars and luxury models.
Air Suspension Advantages
Air suspension is capable of providing excellent ride quality as their set-up allows cars to absorb bumps effectively.
It can also be adjustable, allowing drivers to adapt the car’s ride to the current road on the fly. Air suspension can also boost a vehicle’s towing capability, a particularly welcome trait if its installed on a SUV or truck.
What is Leaf-Spring Suspension?
Leaf-spring suspension has a relatively simple design and is made up of numerous curved metal strips which are clamped together.
This is one of the oldest and most common forms of suspension and is used for many of the vehicles found in the current new car market.
Leaf-Spring Suspension Advantages
Because of the amount of metal layered together, leaf-spring suspension is very durable against bumps and carrying large loads onboard.
Its simple design also makes leaf-spring suspension cheaper to produce and replace than other types of suspension.
What is Multi-Link Suspension?
Multi-link suspension is one of more complex and expensive types of suspension used for cars.
It consists of three or more lateral arms plus one or several longitudinal arms. It’s essentially a more sophisticated form of independent suspension.
Multi-Link Suspension Advantages
This is a versatile choice of suspension which can provide a great compromise between handling, comfort and space efficiency.
Because multi-link can allow a car to flex more than other types of suspension, it’s also useful for off-road driving.
What is MagneRide Suspension?
MagneRide suspension is a modern, adaptive suspension which uses magnetically controlled dampers or shock absorbers. These send information to an onboard computer, which then adapts the ride to the current road surface almost in an instant.
It is not that common or well-known, despite being around for more than ten years, but MagneRide can be found on certain performance cars on sale now.
MagneRide Suspension Advantages
MagneRide is a very sophisticated type of suspension which is clever at maintaining ride comfort on a variety of road surfaces, yet it is also relatively simple in construction and reliable as well.