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