The Honda Suspension System - The Ins and Outs of a Smooth Ride

Your Honda's suspension and steering systems work together to keep the wheels moving independently of the vehicle while maintaining its suspension and stability. If you’re a local to Sandy, Utah like us, you probably experience little rest from the frequent stormy weather. That Utah rain and snow can be abusive to your vehicle's suspension system, and it’s important you’re aware when you begin to experience handling issues, squeaking noise, rocking or deterioration of your vehicle's suspension system.

Read on to learn about your vehicle’s suspension, including system components, signs and symptoms of problems and problem-solving to help you to weed out issues that could create suspension-like symptoms.

The Suspension System

Your Honda’s suspension is part of the other systems that are located under your vehicle called the chassis. The steering, tires, wheels and frame each interact with the suspension system.

  • Frame -The vehicle’s structure and support for engine and body, which are backed by the vehicle’s suspension system
  • Suspension System - The suspension system supports the weight of the vehicle, absorbs or limits shock and helps to maintain proper tire contact with the pavement or ground.
  • Steering System – The steering system enables the driver to guide and direct the vehicle.
  • Tires and Wheels – The wheels and tires make motion possible and provide grip and friction with the pavement; allowing for a smooth ride and reducing the possibility for accidents in severe weather conditions

Main Components in the Suspension System

The three main components of vehicle suspension include the springs, dampers and anti-sway bars.

1. Springs

The spring system has four basic designs:

  • Coil Springs - The most common and involve a durable, strong torsion bar coiled around an axis. The coil springs are designed to compress and expand as they absorb the motion of the wheels.
  • Leaf Springs – Consist of layers of metal called leaves that are made into one unit. These springs are used on trucks and heavy vehicles. 
  • Torsion Bars – Twisted steel properties that provide a spring-like action. One end is anchored to the frame and the other to a wishbone lever that moves perpendicular to the bar. The torsion bar twists along the vehicle’s axis to provide spring force as the vehicle moves.
  • Air Springs – Air springs are cylinder chambers of air that are positioned between the wheels and the body to absorb vibrations from the wheels.

2. Dampers or Shock Absorbers

The suspension is not built on springs alone, or we would experience an extremely bouncy ride and uncontrollable car ride. The shock absorber is a snubber, which is a device that controls unwanted spring motion by dampening the movement.

  • Shock absorbers both slow down and reduce vibratory motions by turning kinetic energy from the suspension movement into heat energy that is dissipated through hydraulic fluid. The shock absorber is an oil pump that is positioned between the frame and the wheels. The twin-tube design is a conventional shock absorber. The upper mount connects to a piston rod, which is attached to a piston and sits in a tube that is filled with hydraulic fluid. This inner tube is a pressure tube, and the outer tube a reserve tube, which stores excess hydraulic fluid.
  • Struts are another common dampening mechanism. The strut is a shock absorber that is mounted on the inside of a coil spring. The strut has two jobs: to dampen the force or energy of the vehicle as a shock absorber and to provide structural support for the vehicle.

Shocks and struts are critical safety components. Worn shocks and struts will allow excessive transfer of the vehicle's weight, and side to side and front to back movement are experienced which reduces the tire's ability to stay on the road creates handling issues and reduces braking performance.

3. Anti-Sway Bars

Anti-sway bars are also anti-roll bars. These bars are used in conjunction with the shock absorbers or struts and provide the additional stability to a moving automobile. An anti-sway bar spans across the entire axle and joins each side of the suspension together. When the suspension at one of the wheels moves up and down, the anti-sway bar transfers this movement to the other wheel, which creates a more level ride and reduces sway. Anti-sway bars are standard equipment on most cars and kits allow for the easy installment or replace of the bars at any time.

How the Suspension System Operates

When the vehicle’s wheels encounter a bump, the spring coils and uncoils and the energy is transferred to the shock absorber. The energy then travels from the shock absorber through the upper mount, then into the piston rod and the piston. Fluid leaks through the piston as it moves in the pressure tube and a small amount of fluid passes through the piston, and this slows the spring down. The compression and extension cycle work together during this process. The compression causes fluid to enter the chamber below the piston, and the expansion occurs as the moves upward in the pressure tube and pushes fluid into the upper chamber.

The compression cycle controls the vehicle’s motion and unsprung weight, and the extension controls the sprung weight. Shock absorbers are velocity-sensitive, and when the suspension moves faster, the shock absorbers provide a greater resistance. The vehicle adjusts to road conditions, and all bounce, sway, acceleration squat and brake dive are limited. There are different types of suspensions, including multi-link and coilover suspension, but this is the basic overview of the system.

Signs that the Suspension Needs Attention

  • Creaking, squeaking noises
  • Unusual sway or movement
  • Rocking up and down or back and forth
  • Vibrations over bumps
  • Bottoming out over bumps
  • Bouncy ride
  • Handling Issues

Time and Money Saver: Don't Assume Your Suspension is the Problem

Before you begin to replace parts and restore your suspension based on symptoms alone, check out these other possible, cheaper and easier causes for your vehicle's problem.

1. If your vehicle is pulling to one side while being driven or the wheels seem to shift, check for these possible alternate causes:

  • Uneven tire wear - Check the front tires for uneven wear and replace both
  • Excessive tire wear - Check the tires for excess wear and replace in twos
  • Faulty steering components - Inspect steering rack and tie rods 
  • Uneven tire pressure - Check the pressure on all four tires
  • Bad alignment - Check and adjust the wheel alignment
  • Brake calipers - Inspect your brakes for sticking caused by excessive heat or uneven wear 
  • Wheels unaligned - check and align wheels if needed

2. If you feel clunks or knocks through the steering wheel when you go over a bumpy or cracked road, check for possible:

  • Worn shocks or struts - replace as needed
  • Worn strut bearings - replace in pairs as needed.
  • Worn ball joints - inspect for play and replace if necessary.

Feel free to contact our friendly staff to gain answers to any questions you may have. Our knowledgeable technicians will respond quickly. Include your VIN in all information requests.