(This post was inspired by and includes content from Matthew Wright, Auto Repair Guide at About.com.)
Your car’s suspension system is designed to give you and your passengers a smooth and stable ride. If your vehicle has been riding roughly or handling poorly, there’s a good chance there’s something wrong with the suspension.
Here are five symptoms of suspension trouble and their possible causes.
1) Symptom: The vehicle pulls to one side or the other. Possible causes:
- Low or uneven tire pressure. Have the tires filled with air or nitrogen if necessary.
- The wheels are not aligned. Have the alignment checked and, if necessary, corrected.
- Uneven wear on the front tires. If one or both of the front tires are wearing unevenly, have the alignment checked. If the tread on any tire is less than 1/16th of an inch deep, replace the tire.
- The tie rods or steering rack could be bad. Have them checked, then repaired or replaced if necessary.
- A brake caliper is sticking. Have your brakes inspected and repaired if necessary.
2) Symptom: The vehicle is hard to steer, especially while moving at a slower speed. Possible causes:
- Low power steering fluid. Check the level and add fluid if needed.
- Loose or worn power steering belt. Have the belt tightened or, if it's in bad shape, replaced.
- Bad power steering pump. Have the pump checked for pressure and replaced if necessary.
- Leaking power steering rack. This should be inspected for leaks and replaced if necessary.
3) Symptom: The vehicle bounces, dips or dives, or continues to bounce after driving over a bump. Possible causes:
- Worn shocks or struts. These components are typically replaced about every 50,000 miles.
- Broken or slipped leaf spring. Have the leaf springs inspected, then repaired or replaced if necessary.
4) Symptom: The steering wheel vibrates at highway speeds. Possible causes:
- The wheels are out of balance. Wheel weights can fall off, so have the wheels re-balanced.
- The tires are worn unevenly or excessively. If the tread is too low, replace the tire.
- Loose wheel bolts. Have them checked to make sure they’re tight.
- Warped brake rotor. Have your brakes inspected by a professional technician and the appropriate parts replaced if necessary.
5) Symptom: Loose or sloppy steering. The wheel may even wander from side to side. Possible causes:
- Power steering fluid is low. Check the level and fill as necessary.
- Worn strut bearings. Have the strut bearings checked for play. If they need to be replaced, they should be replaced in pairs.
- Worn or broken tie rods or steering rack. Have the steering components inspected and replaced as necessary.
- Worn ball joints. They should be inspected and, if necessary, replaced.
- Broken steering rack mounts. If bad, they’ll either need to be repaired or replaced, depending on the vehicle type.