We hear this statement quite often; “… my car doesn’t feel like it’s riding correctly. I have no idea what‘s wrong with it, it just doesn‘t feel right. Although this statement may sound a bit vague, it’s usually pretty accurate. 9 times out of 10, when a customer tells us that they “feel” something is amiss, they are correct. And it makes perfect sense – you drive your car, most likely, every day. Who else is going to notice things when they’re not 100%.
OK – So what exactly is “ride control”? It mostly deals with shocks & struts, but does include the front & rear suspension. Ride control will vary from vehicle to vehicle, depending if it’s a truck, SUV, sports car, or economy sedan. But, regardless of vehicle type, when ride control fails to meet expectations, repairs or upgrades may be needed.
Diagnosing ride control complaints range from easy to difficult. Obvious problems like a broken spring or leaky shock absorber are relatively easy to spot and have straight-forward repairs. But some vehicle ailments may not be so easy to identify. When did the problem first became noticeable? Under what driving conditions do the symptoms occur? Has the vehicle ever been involved in an accident?
Using this as a starting point, we’ve drawn up a road test checklist that you can use. We’re not saying that it will answer whatever problem or situation you may have, but it may help steer your technician in the correct direction. By giving he or she as much information as possible, it helps them narrow down the possible problems. Less time in the repair shop usually equals a smaller repair bill!
- How does the vehicle ride and sound on a rough road?
- How does the suspension take tar strips and bumps?
- How is the steering effort and does it return to normal after turns?
- How does the steering feel after hitting a bump?
- Does the body lean or sway when cornering?
- Does the vehicle nose dive when you hit the brakes?
- Does it squat when accelerating?
- Are there any unusual noises?
If at all possible, take a friend along on your test drive. Since it’s not their vehicle, they may notice things differently. For example, what some people may describe as a shimmy, vibration or bouncy ride may have nothing whatsoever to do with shock absorbers, struts or suspension. The real problem may be an out-of-balance wheel or a bent rim.