#180 Racing is life – driving techniques – S3 E3 – Suspension

While we tried to understand the topic around the tires a little bit better last time, today, we will have a general look at the suspension.

What is the suspension of a car?

I guess to describe this best, just imagine a car. For example an open-wheel car, where you can actually see the tires and the springs and shock absorbers and stuff moving. As we have learned last time, the tire is the only connection between the car and the road. Well, in order to do their job properly, the car needs more then just tires. It also needs linkages that “hold” the tires, springs and shock absorbers, a steering and breaking system and something where you can link that to the car, right? That all combined can be described as the suspension.

How is it working?

Every single part of the suspension has a special task to do. If everyone gives its best and is able to work properly, they will work together as a team and allow the car / race car to perform at its best. While the job of the tires is already clear, we need to talk about the other parts real quick. While the springs are mainly focusing on preventing acceleration peaks from reaching the car body, the shock absorbers try to die down oscillations of the system, getting the car back into a neutral driving position as fast as possible. Due to a steering system at the front, the wheels need to be able to actually make the steering movement, but even the wheels on the rear axle will actually steer a little bit, even without an active rear wheel steering, which is very common in modern vehicles. So, all in all, they are all somehow connected to each other, which means that if you change one single part, all the others will be effected by that. And that is not even all. In some situations, you like to have a “soft” suspension, while in other situations, a “hard” suspension will be the best. But how can we do that? I guess, the best way to describe this is the fact, that in the end, it all comes done to making compromises. You can not have the best setup for every situation, therefore you make the perfect mix between safety and comfort. Back in the world of street cars, you can use adaptable suspension systems that can actually change their parameters for the specific situation at hand, but still, they are most of the time just reacting to what is going on between the street and the tires. Like in some cars, camera and other systems can be used to detect bumps and other things in the road ahead and adapt the system accordingly, but this goes much to deep into the details already.

What else do we need to know for the start?

There are some “special terms”, people are using when talking about the suspension all the time. In this season, I want to talk about driving techniques and not giving you a degree in mechanical engineering. Homework will be to figure these things out on your own. If you know what the following words mean, and how they affect the suspension, this will be more then enough for the beginning.

  • Camber
  • Toe
  • Caster
  • Scrub radius
  • Ride Hight
  • Body roll
  • Spring rate
Engineering Explained video about suspensions

Of course this is just a very basic introduction, but I guess it is more then enough you need to know about the different components. In the end, you need to understand the whole system. But not by reading and studying from books or posts like this. You need to experience the difference. Feel what the car is doing. That is how you really understand it. But we will get to that.

See you next time!

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