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Suspension Design

Part 1

Rob Shanahan 11-15-05


What is an Automotive Suspension?

An Automotive Suspension is the system of parts that give a vehicle the ability to maneuver. It is a 3 Dimensional Four Bar Linkage

What does a suspension do?

The job of a car suspension is to maximize the friction between the tires and the road surface, to provide steering stability with good handling

Basic Suspension Terminology

Ride Height Bump / Droop Camber Caster Toe In / Out

Ride Height, Bump & Droop

Ride Height

The neutral / middle position of the Suspension When the wheel moves upwards



When the wheel moves downwards



Tires generate more cornering force with a small amount of negative camber Camber changes as suspension moves up (bump) and down (droop)


Shopping cart action Causes selfcentering action in the steering More caster results in more camber as front wheels are turned

Toe-in or Toe-out

Toe-in results is inherently stable Toe-out is inherently unstable Race cars often use front toe-out, & rear toe-in

Common Suspension Designs

Beam Axle Swing Axle De Dion Double Wishbone / Unequal Length A-arm

Beam Axle

Around since horse and chariot days Always keeps wheels parallel Often used in rear Rarely used in front OK on smooth tracks

Swing Axle

Often used on VW based off road cars Simple and rugged Camber curve too steep Only adjustment you can make is ride height


De Dion

Essentially a beam axle with the diff now sprung weight Keeps wheels parallel Relatively light weight Better on smooth tracks

Double Wishbone

Lightest weight Lowest unsprung mass Greatest adjustability


Basic Vehicle Dynamics

Part 2

What is Vehicle Dynamics?

The understanding and study of how a vehicle and its components move and react


Yaw, Pitch, and Roll

Same terminology as aircraft X is the longitudinal axis Yawing refers to normal change of direction Pitching is dive or squat


Front end of the car washes out or doesnt turn in NASCAR boys call it push or tight Safe, because lifting off throttle reduces it Most road cars have a ton of it


Rear end of car slides out NASCAR boys call it loose Excessive application of power can cause oversteer Throttle induced oversteer is never the fast way around a corner


Weight Transfer

Occurs anything the vehicle accelerates or decelerates Cornering force Fc will cause weight to transfer from the inside to outside tires Braking and accelerating forces cause a similar front and rear weight transfer


Roll Center

A geometric construct Represents the instantaneous point about which the sprung mass will rotate due to cornering forces Roll center moves as suspension travels Goal of any suspension designer is to minimize Roll Center Migration

Roll Couple

Distance from roll center to CG is key Low roll center results in more roll for a given lateral acceleration Most designs use a low roll center to reduce jacking forces



Purely geometric method to reduce pitch movement Reduces suspension compliance over bumps No longer in favor with formula car and sports racers Might work well for Baja

Bump Steer

Caused when toe changes as suspension moves up and down Causes car to react unexpectedly over bumps and in roll Sometimes used intentionally, but be careful

Tire Slip Angle

Angle between the centerline of the wheel and the actual path Tires generate highest cornering forces at a certain slip angle


Slip Angle vs. Grip

Grip is highest a set angle, then falls off as the slip angle increases Sharper peak will give a less predictable breakaway Radial tires typically have a steeper slope than bias ply


Friction Circle

Plots the theoretical limits of adhesion in 2 axes Great tool for analyzing driver to driver variation G-analyst is a cheap tool for this

Friction Circle, cont.

Illustrates the trade off between cornering and braking/accelerating The driver that follows the path closest to the outside of the circle wins


Car Balance

A well balanced car will exhibit both understeer and oversteer at different points on the course and at corner entry and exit A good driver can change his technique to change the basic oversteer/understeer balance