How bad is rough terrain on your truck?

Rough terrain can wreak havoc on your suspension system.
Rough terrain can wreak havoc on your suspension system.

Careening down an old pitted road might seem like an unbearably bumpy ride, but without a suspension system on the vehicle, that same drive would be absolute bone-jarring misery. We have Newton's laws of motion to thank for this effect -- sans a suspension system, every tiny imperfection in the roadway causes tires to bounce up off the ground only to crash back down seconds later. The more imperfect the road surface, the more extreme the vertical motion becomes.

In addition, all that jumping around decreases the amount of friction between the tires and the ground. If all four tires aren't in constant contact with the roadway, then sudden accelerating, braking and cornering can spell disastrous consequences. Hard braking and accelerating toss the weight of the vehicle forward and backward, while cornering produces a centrifugal force that pushes the car outward at its center of gravity. Maintaining balance among all four tires helps mitigate problems like loss of traction and rollovers.

Enter the suspension system. This particular vehicle component didn't have to wait for the advent of engine-powered cars to gain popularity; horse-drawn carriages and coaches featured early models of modern suspension systems centuries before people hit the road in their Model Ts. Even ancient civilizations sometimes applied primitive suspension systems to stabilize their chariots and other war machines.

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But roads -- from the newly paved to the old and pitted -- are nothing compared to the punishment of off-road conditions. If a modest pothole makes a vehicle shudder, imagine the impact of miles of off-roading across mountainous ridges and cavernous grooves in unending succession, each doing its best to jostle your truck like a fishing bobber on a windy day.

For more on exactly how car suspension systems benefit the driving experience, and the different components that make a smooth ride possible, explore the article How Car Suspensions Work. To find out just how punishing that latest jaunt through the woods might have been on your truck's suspension system, continue to the next page.