Is there anything more comfortable than a smooth riding experience in your car? If you are like most people, you want every journey to feel like it did when you first drove your car. It is important to pay attention to what your car is trying to tell you if the riding experience is not as smooth as you remember it being. With proper automotive maintenance, your car will handle bumps, rough pavement and even minor potholes smoothly.
If your car’s riding experience feels bumpy, or if the suspension seems loose or wobbly on uneven surfaces, you may want to check some of the most common enemies of a smooth ride:
Tires – It makes sense for tires to be the first place to check because they should be the only part of your car making contact with the road. Believe it or not, tires are actually the most common reason why excessive car vibration occurs. Common tire issues causing a rough riding experience include:
- Tires in need of rotating or balancing. A common sign that your tires may be out of balance or in need of a rotation service include a vibration you can feel through the steering wheel while driving. It is important to have your tires rotated and balanced regularly to promote normal wear-and-tear to prolong their life as long as possible. The usual recommendation is to rotate your tires every 6 months.
- Improper tire inflation is another culprit of a smooth ride. Low tire pressure will make the ride feel sluggish and sloppy while dangerously causing the vehicle’s handling to be unresponsive. Over-inflation of the tires will cause the ride to feel extremely stiff and unforgiving when riding over small bumps or minor potholes. Even worse, improper tire pressure causes the tread to wear unevenly. A good rule of thumb is to monitor your tire pressure every 2 to 3 weeks.
- Uneven tire wear-and-tear will not only cause an unpleasant riding experience, it is usually a sign that something else may be wrong with the vehicle’s suspension components. Performing a tire rotation service every 6 months helps prevent uneven wear-and-tear. If signs of uneven wear-and-tear persist with regular tire rotation, it is definitely time to inspect the car for potential suspension issues.
Suspension and Axle Issues – A car’s suspension absorbs the impact of every bump or obstacle on the road while ensuring your tires maintain contact with the surface. Just like many other automotive parts, suspension components experience wear-and-tear over time. Failing or worn out suspension components are definitely an enemy of a smooth riding experience. When some suspension parts need replacing, there are often several potential signs that may be trying to tell you it is time for an inspection. Some of the most common symptoms of a worn out suspension system include:
- Excessive suspension travel after driving over a bump or pothole. If your car continues to bounce up and down after traveling over a bump, or if you feel like you are riding in a boat over waves, it is time to have your suspension inspected. Shocks, springs and suspension bushings may need replacement if they have worn out. Because your suspension is directly related to how your car handles, it is unsafe to drive a car in need of suspension maintenance. When suspension components are in need of a replacement, ignoring them will begin to cause unnecessary damage to other parts. Stay ahead of the curve by practicing preventative maintenance.
- Car appears to be sagging or leaning in the front, back or on one of the sides. This is a sign of suspension issues that are obvious through visual observation. If your car does not appear to be level around all four wheels, your suspension probably requires inspection and maintenance.
- Excessive jolting when driving over a bump or rough road surface such as gravel or dirt. Suspension components lose their damping effectiveness over time. Suspension damping controls the spring movement when it compresses or rebounds. If your car feels like it is violently jolting around after bumps, you may be experiencing a reduction in your suspension’s damping effectiveness. A full inspection by a professional suspension expert is a good recommendation to follow.
- Many cars feature hydraulic shock absorbers within the suspension system. These shock absorbers use hydraulic fluid to create a smooth damping experience. If you notice a reddish hydraulic fluid forming puddles under the vehicle, near one of the wheels, it may be a sign to perform suspension maintenance on your car.
- Axle damage usually occurs when driving a vehicle over a larger than expected obstacle. The axle is the main shaft connecting the transmission and powertrain of a car to the wheels. If a car is accidentally driven over a curb or speed bump that makes contact with the axle, there is a significant risk of damaging or bending the axle. If an axle is bent or has damage, it will definitely cause a wobbly ride experience. A damaged axle will cause the wheels to spin unevenly and it will also cause tires to experience abnormal wear-and-tear. If you are experiencing vibrations or a rough ride, even at lower speeds, inspecting the axle is a good idea. Although a damaged axle can be expensive to replace, ignoring it will only create a larger auto repair bill later on.
Mechanical Issues – Tires and suspension components are the first places to check if you are not experiencing a smooth ride. If they both check out okay, where do you look next? The third most common enemy of a smooth ride are potential mechanical issues. Unwanted car vibrations can come from an unhealthy engine in need of some maintenance. A misfiring engine caused by failing spark plugs or an improper air-to-fuel ratio can cause a rougher riding experience. Another potential culprit is a loose motor mount. A full vehicle inspection or a standard tune-up are good places to begin if you have mechanical issues causing excessive vehicle vibration.
There are many potential causes of unwanted vibrations while riding in a car, proper diagnosis is important before the issues cause damage to other expensive parts. Preventative maintenance is the best way to keep your car’s heartbeat healthy for a long time.
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