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Car care for teens: suspension


The suspension on a motorcycle
is similar to a car's suspension
Photo: AP/Business Wire

The most important thing for a new driver to remember is to make sure all the major systems in your car are functioning and maintained. They consist of the break, steering, suspension, transmission, cooling, ignition and fuel systems. This article discusses your car’s steering and suspension system.

The steering and suspension systems consist of the steering wheel, steering components and shocks. The steering and suspension work together to keep the car travelling in the direction that you want it to and also affects the car’s stability on the road. Essentially, you want to have your wheels aligned. The wheels are set to factory specifications to make your car track evenly on the road. This means that the tires will wear evenly. You’ll usually get an alignment when you buy new tires. You can take your car to Firestone, Midas or any local independent tire shop that offers alignments. In Nashville this should not cost you more than $27 for a two-wheel alignment to $60 for a four-wheel alignment.

Over time some of the steering components also wear down. These are the inner and outer tie-rods, suspension bushings and ball joints. The tie-rods transfer the movement of the steering wheel to the front wheels. The suspension bushings are metal reinforced rubber washers and these give the steering system flexibility while cornering and going over bumps. The ball joints allow the front wheel to pivot from left to right. When any of these parts wear your steering loses its responsiveness. Your shock absorbers play an integral part in keeping your car stable. They also help insulate your car from bumps and potholes on the road. Be careful because there are new potholes on the road that have opened up after the winter 2010 snow storm. Hitting some of the larger ones will “throw” your car out of alignment so go slow until these holes get repaired.

You can save some money by purchasing replacement parts and getting the shop manual for your car. Replacing these parts require some specialized tools and a moderate to more experienced mechanical ability to undertake. So get some help from an experienced friend or relative. Don’t forget you can also take your car to your high school’s Auto Mechanics Department and have them change these components for you.


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