Independent suspension is a broad term for any automobile suspension system that allows each wheel on the same axle to move vertically (i.e. reacting to a bump in the road) independently of each other. This is contrasted with a beam axle, live axle or deDion axle system in which the wheels are linked – movement on one side affects the wheel on the other side. Note that "independent" refers to the motion or path of movement of the wheels/suspension. It is common for the left and right sides of the suspension to be connected with anti-roll bars or other such mechanisms. The anti-roll bar ties the left and right suspension spring rates together but does not tie their motion together.
Most modern vehicles have independent front suspension (IFS). Many vehicles also have an independent rear suspension (IRS). IRS, as the name implies, has the rear wheels independently sprung. A fully independent suspension has an independent suspension on all wheels. Some early independent systems used swing axles, but modern systems use Chapman or MacPherson struts, trailing arms, multilink, or wishbones.
Independent suspension typically offers better ride quality and handling characteristics, due to lower unsprung weight and the ability of each wheel to address the road undisturbed by activities of the other wheel on the vehicle. Independent suspension requires additional engineering effort and expense in development versus a beam or live axle arrangement. A very complex IRS solution can also result in higher manufacturing costs.
The key reason for lower unsprung weight relative to a live axle design is that, for driven wheels, the differential unit does not form part of the unsprung elements of the suspension system. Instead it is either bolted directly to the vehicle's chassis or more commonly to a subframe.
The relative movement between the wheels and the differential is achieved through the use of swinging driveshafts connected via universal (U) joints, analogous to the constant-velocity (CV) joints used in front wheel drive vehicles.
Suspension is the only component that separates the driver and/or passenger from the ground. The suspension in a vehicle helps absorb harshness in the road. There are many systems and designs that do this, such as independent suspension. (Longhurst 1).
This system provides many advantages over other suspension systems. For example, in solid axle suspension systems, when one wheel hits a bump, the wheel across from it is affected as well as the one that hit the bump. This will compromise traction, smoothness of the ride, and could also cause a dangerous wheel shimmy when moving at high speeds. According to "Car Suspension Bible" with independent suspension systems, only the wheel that hits the bump would be affected. This offers many advantages such as greater ride comfort, better traction, and safer, more stable vehicles on and off the road (Longhurst 1).
This is the most common, widely used front suspension system in cars of European origin. It is a very simple and effective design that uses a strut-type spring and shock absorber that work as a team that will pivot on a ball joint on the single lower arm (Longhurst 2). This system has been used in the BMW E21 series, which are the first generation 3 series from 1976-1983 and this system is still used on cars today. One problem with this system is once the spring or the top plate becomes worn, the driver of a car with this system may hear a loud "clonk" like noise at full lock when the spring jumps back into place. People can often confuse this with a CV joint knock.
The Chevrolet Corvette is known for using a rear transverse leaf-spring suspension design. This system uses two systems to work as one. It uses a double wishbone which is supported by a leaf spring rather than the more common coil spring. The leaf spring is not used as they were commonly used before. It is very rare on modern cars. In the past it was more widely used in many Triumphs. The Herald, Vitesse, Spitfire and the GT6 all used a rear transverse leaf spring, as well as the 1995-98 Volvo 960/S90/V90 and a rare Swedish sports car incorporating the Volvo 960 rear suspension in the 1990s called the JC Indigo (Longhurst 4).
- Arvinmertitor Inc. "Independent Suspension for Off-highway Use." LexisNexis Academic.
- Longhurst, Chris. "Car Bibles : The Car Suspension Bible Page 1 of 5." The Car Maintenance Bibles. Car Bibles, 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <http://www.carbibles.com/suspension_bible.html>.
- "independent suspension." Dictionary.com's 21st Century Lexicon. Dictionary.com, LLC. 14 Nov. 2011. <Dictionary.com
- Pintado, Publio, and Miguel-Angel Castell. "Independent Suspension." Vehicle System Dynamics 31.3 (1999): 137-55. EBSCO Host. Web. 14 Nov. 2011.