Suspensions: Air Spring vs. Leaf Spring vs. Coil Spring

Weather can be extremely harsh here in Connecticut: one month we may have scorching hot weather and the next we could have a nor'easter that dumps inches of snow upon us. Unfortunately, we are not the only ones that face that effects of this wide array of weather. A five minute drive in the New England proves that our roads, and  ultimately our cars, bare the brunt of these brutal cycles  in our climate.  With that being said, it is imperative to have a vehicle that has the proper suspension in order to keep you comfortable and safe year-round.


The Function of Your Suspension

A suspension system is a combination springs, shock absorbers, linkages and other components that connect an automobile to its wheels. Your suspension assists in the braking of your car,  the absorption  of vibrations, the effects of gravitation, your car's handling and the impact of other forces from driving on the road.



 Function of Springs

Springs are a crucial part of your suspension system. When irregularities arise in the surface of the road, the springs on your car allow it to compensate and adjust for reduced bounce and a smoother ride. Additionally, springs allow your car to support excess weight without sagging and also keeps your car at a predetermined height. Without springs, cars would be dragging on the ground and incapable of adapting to various road conditions, making for an unbearable ride! Thankfully, we do have this incredible automotive invention and over the years several variations of spring systems have arisen to meet the demands of today's driver.

 

Leaf Springs

If you have a vehicle that was made before 1970, chances are it has leaf springs! Leaf springs were first invented in France in the 18th century to improve the ride of horse-drawn carriages. More advanced variations of this suspension style were created, but the designs were still simple enough to make it the most popular choice of spring for decades. In general, a leaf spring is composed of multiple layers of metal, called leaves, that are bent into an arc (elliptical springs). The arc and friction from the leaves rubbing against each other allow the vehicle to absorb bumps and hold the weight of the vehicle. Leaf springs are attached to the body or frame of the car at each end, while the wheel or axle assembly is fixed in the middle of the spring. Due to their simpler design and ability to handle heavy loads, leaf springs have been a popular option for rear wheel drive vehicles, particularly trucks. With the advent of front wheel drive cars in the 1970's, leaf springs fell out of popularity to coil springs, which are the most popular and used today.

 

 


Coil Springs

The automotive industry underwent a major change in the 1970's: Front wheel drive became the new standard for drivetrains! With this industry wide change, a new style of spring was required for most suspensions. Although the leaf spring had already been around for several centuries, it really came to light during this period.

Coil springs , or helical springs, are a heavy duty torsion bar that has been wrapped around an axis. This design allows the spring to compress and expand, helping the wheel absorb motion. meaning the tires can absorb a greater amount of motion. Compared to leaf springs, coils cannot bear as much vehicle weight. However, everyday drivers of cars do not need the extra durability that leaf springs have to offer. 

Just like the transition from leaf to coil springs, the auto industry is seeing yet another change to suspension technology. Dodge and Ram are acting as industry impetuous when it comes to air springs and their implementation in today's market.

Air Springs

Like most new technology, air springs actually date back a lot further than we may think. First invented in the early 1900's, air springs were produced and featured in a handful of luxury automobiles and heavy duty equipment such as military and construction vehicles.

Essentially, air springs are tough rubber and plastic bags that can be inflated and deflated in order to adjust the vehicles height. These bags use electronic controls, particularly air sensors and compressors, to modify the suspension depending on the needs of the automobile at the time.

Air Spring Advantages in the RAM Truck Lineup

There are several advantages that air springs have over traditional leaf and spring coils.  Air springs give you the ability to adjust your ride quickly and easily with little to no need for tools. Air springs also have the ability to vary load capacity and can adjust the handling of the vehicle to different situations. Today's air springs come with self-leveling functionality, as well as raising and lowering modes that help provide the unbelievable ride quality we are able to experience today.

The suspension of your car not only guarantees that you have a comfortable ride: it also ensures that you stay safe while driving despite whatever road conditions you may face. Dodge and Ram introduced air springs into a portion of their lineup several years ago  and are working to increase the safety, durability and function of the springs in their suspension systems!