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How Does Off-Road Suspension Work?

How Does Off-Road Suspension Work?

If you're interested in off-road driving, you need an off-road suspension system for the best performance. Off-roading suspensions are designed to handle the rugged terrain and deep ditches you’ll encounter. This keeps your ride balanced and comfortable under demanding conditions.

There are different models of off-road suspensions, with each engineered for a distinct purpose. To help you determine the best type of off-road suspension for your setup, we’ll go over how off-road suspensions work, plus what sets them apart.

How is an Off-Road Suspension Different?

Lift Bronco

What makes an off-road suspension unique? It provides an adjustable ride height. You can even modify your lift from inside your cabin. Thanks to their adjustability, these suspensions are designed to handle all manners of dips, bumps, and steep inclines, making them ideal for off-road driving. Adjustable suspensions are common on heavy vehicles too.

The Parts of an Off-Road Suspension

A good suspension provides control, stability, and comfort while driving. We’ll break down off-road suspensions, part by part:

The Axle

Front axle with lift kit on new Bronco

The axle plays a key role in just about every type of suspension. Your axle will determine the performance and durability of your vehicle by balancing all the suspension parts together. This is a delicate process that keeps your suspension running smoothly.

Axles come in different types, which vary between suspension systems. Solid axle designs with coils or springs are among the most common.

Suspension Beams

Suspension systems are all about keeping things running smoothly, and beams are important for security and stability. Your beams will help support the weight of your vehicle. When off-roading, they’ll keep your suspension parts in place.

Suspension Casters

Your caster determines your steering responsiveness and alignment. For example, if you’re driving off-road, the caster will help center the steering.

Shocks and Springs

Shocks and springs kit for off-road rig

Body roll is when your vehicle leans over too far on one side, especially when turning corners. Springs are designed to reduce body roll by causing your suspension to bounce up and down. They also help out with shock-absorbing, picking up impact between your wheels and the ground. Springs need the right type of shock absorbers to be effective, so when shopping for springs, keep them as close as possible to your shock absorbers’ size and shape.

Different Off-Road Suspension Types

You can find a variety of suspension types on off-road vehicles. We’ll go over the most common types of off-road suspension:

Solid Axle with Leaf Springs

For most vehicles, this is a traditional type of suspension. This type of suspension lets your leaf springs move together, giving you greater accuracy when driving on rough terrain. You can see how this would benefit off-roaders. This dependent system uses a securely mounted bar that holds the axle together, allowing you more control and reducing body roll.

Solid Axle with Coil Springs

Coilover springs for lift kit

This type of dependent suspension is incredibly functional, thanks to its use of coil springs over leaf springs, which provide greater flexibility and performance. The parts reduce friction, preventing some wear and tear and making them last longer. Generally, this type of suspension system is smoother and more compact.

IFS (Independent Front Suspension)

An independent system, like the IFS, uses independent springing and damping. They're common on all-terrain vehicles. This type of suspension excels at shock absorption. An independent front suspension can also give you better control while off-roading. 

TTB (Twin-Traction Beam)

A TTB combines different features from independent and dependent systems. Compared to a traditional beam axle suspension, it distributes weight more evenly. It’s a simple design consisting of two beams at the front of the vehicle, improving balance. Using a TTB system in off-roading will give you higher clearance and better traction.

Independent vs Dependent Suspensions

Some of the above suspension types could be classified as dependent or independent. Both types of suspensions have their advantages. When it comes to durability and performance, an independent system wins out; they’re also great with handling and precision. We’ll go over what makes these systems distinct.

Independent Suspensions

Independent systems are designed for your wheels to move individually. The intricate level of control they provide makes them ideal for advanced off-roaders. They can adjust your suspension’s height and compression during travel, making them incredibly versatile. An independent system will allow you to travel over all types of terrain. 

Independent off-road suspension systems use two sets of springs on either side of the vehicle. This is what allows you to adjust each spring individually, changing things like compression or load capacity. With an independent suspension, you have a stronger connection between the wheels and the axle.

Dependent Suspensions

While an independent system moves wheels separately, a dependent suspension moves the wheels together. The lack of freedom sounds like a drawback, but dependent systems are great at traveling over rough terrains and bumpy obstacles. These types of systems also have excellent shock absorption capabilities. Dependent systems make driving less comfortable, and driving will generally feel bumpier against independent systems.

Lift Kits for Off-Road Suspensions

Lift kit parts for off-road trucks and SUVs

Adding a lift kit to your truck or SUV creates more ground clearance, making your vehicle more versatile on and off the road. These lift kits are designed to help you traverse larger rocks, mounds, streams, logs, and more. Simply adding a lift kit to your off-road vehicle ensures that you can travel farther, and faster, making short work of any obstacle in your way.

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