Why does a ve­hi­cle need a sus­pen­sion sys­tem, how does it work, and what type is best? We went in search of an­swers.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents - Text and il­lus­tra­tions Cyril Klop­per

Leaf springs have been around since an­cient Egypt when a de­voted engi­neer pre­sented a char­iot with a sus­pen­sion sys­tem to the leg­endary pharaoh Tu­tankhamun. For some rea­son the leaf spring largely dis­ap­peared un­til the Greeks re­dis­cov­ered it at around 400 BC. The Greek tyrant Diony­sius of Syra­cuse, how­ever, used the leaf spring in siege weapons that shot enor­mous spears at other Greeks rather than fit it to his ve­hi­cles. The Ro­mans in­her­ited the leaf spring from the Greeks and oddly also didn’t think to fit it to their char­i­ots. Two thou­sand years later in 1804, Oba­diah El­liot from Plais­tow, Eng­land, patented the leaf spring sus­pen­sion for horse­drawn car­riages. Bet­ter late than never, we guess. Nat­u­rally they were fit­ted to the first au­to­mo­biles, but they were al­most aban­doned again be­cause leaf springs bounced too much (shock ab­sorbers didn’t ex­ist yet) and so early cars used leather strap sus­pen­sion in­stead. French au­to­mo­bile com­pany Mors was the first to com­bine metal leaf springs with shock ab­sorbers in 1901, the coil spring was in­vented in 1906, and what fol­lowed was a rapid evo­lu­tion of sus­pen­sion types. To­day, ve­hi­cle sus­pen­sion sys­tems con­sist of a dizzy­ing ar­ray of link­ages, arms, piv­ots, stress mem­bers, springs and dampers. To sim­plify things we’ve cho­sen 20 sus­pen­sion sys­tems and then di­vided them into three cat­e­gories: de­pen­dent, semi­in­de­pen­dent and in­de­pen­dent.

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