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Subaru Service – About Your Subaru Suspension System

We recently went through a cold, robust winter season, with several snow fall occurrences, below normal temperatures, and even some freezing rain. While spring is almost on the horizon, the impacts from these weather events are sure to affect our road conditions.

In a recent poll, it was found that Washington has the 11th roughest roads in the country; and as avid Subaru drivers, I am sure we will both see and feel these effects. These road hazards really can affect and increase the wear of your Subaru’s suspension system. 

When you look up the definition of Suspension, it states that it is “ a system of tires, tire air,  springs, shock absorbers, linkages and bushings that connects a vehicle to its wheels and allows relative motion between the two, and usually requires the items to be in alignment.” We should always to think of our vehicle’s suspension components as a set of things that are working together, not just individual components. Below are some examples of suspension components, and what their functions are, how we monitor their condition, and when it may be time to replace them.

 

Struts 

Typically, struts are constructed of a housing to provide structural support for the overall assembly and dampening unit (usually hydraulic). On most struts the bottom of the body attaches to the steering knuckle, which turns to a lower control arm through a lower ball joint. This integral component can affect handling, cornering, acceleration and yes even stopping distance.  

Anytime there are signs of fluid leaking from the Struts they really should be replaced, and other than a break or bend in the strut due to some sort of an accident, Fluid leaks are really the only visual sign indicating a strut replacement is warranted there is. 

From there it’s knowing how the car should perform Vs what it is doing now. These are some but not all of the indications that perhaps your Struts have become weak.

  • Does your Subaru make you question your “sea legs” when making a lane change, or seem to sway excessively ?
  • When going into or coming out of a corner do you feel safe and stable?
  • In a sudden slow down from higher speeds or even low speeds to stop, does the car lean forward aggressively?
  • Do you hear excessive noise over bumps or potholes?

 

Worn Subaru Strut Compared To New One

 

Leaking Subaru Strut

 

Bushings

These are usually round “cushions” made of several types of materials, with most common being rubber and polyurethane. They are mounted on vehicle suspension arms/linkages, that help control movement in the joints, absorb road bumps and reduce vibrations and noise. These items are usually installed in metal suspension arms called Front Lower Control Arms, Trailing Arms, Lateral Links, and Upper Control Arms to name a few. 

Besides visually monitoring the health of these items, when these items start to fail, you can usually hear or feel it. Some of things you can experience are the following:

  • Your vehicle can make rattling noises when driven over rough or gravelly roads
  • Clunks when you make sharp turns or hit the brakes 
  • Feel a consistent shimmy or vibration from the front of the vehicle
  • Can make the steering feel less responsive or loose

 

Torn Front Lower Control Arm Bushing

 

New Vs Old Subaru Suspension Front Lower Control Arm Bushing

 

Completely failed control arm bushing

 

Sway Bar & End Links

Also known as a stabilizer or anti-roll bar,  is usually mounted to the lower subframes with rubber bushings, and connects the suspension components on either side of the vehicle through small dog bone shaped items called End Links. These items help minimize body roll, and can make the steering feel “tight”. When failed, you can experience some of the following:

  • Popping or knocking noises over bumps, most commonly from the front tire area
  • Reduced handling if the end links are broken and no longer attached.

 

Sway Bar End Link Attached To Rear Lower Control Arm
Front & Rear Sway Bar Removed From Vehicle
Sway Bar Attached To Rear Frame

Tires

Tires and the amount of air in the tires are fundamental parts of the suspension system. Tires are the only part of the vehicle that are supposed to come in contact with the road, as well as being responsible for putting power to the ground, and help be responsible for stopping the vehicle. The easiest way to tell if a tire is bad is to visually inspect it, but can also include experiencing a low to moderate constant vibration, especially at higher speeds. 

  • Visually inspect for worn tread depth under 3/32nds
  • Uneven tread wear – usually caused by the Alignment of vehicle being out 
  • Excessive vibration – when half worn, more material is missing from the tread, indicating the tires should be balanced
  • Bulges, blisters, cracks or any interior metal cords showing
  • Air pressure problems becoming more frequent
  • Age of tires per the DOT number

 

Tire Gauge Showing Healthy Tire Tread

 

Measuring the tread depth on a tire, Subaru
Measuring Tread Depth On Worn Tire

As always, any replacement of suspension components should start out with an inspection of the suspension system to make sure it is sound. It is possible that one of the suspension components has suffered as a result, and may have caused another item to become weak.  This will ensure your satisfaction with the money spent on enhancing the Subaru’s performance on the road.

Hope this gives you a little more insight into vehicle suspension on your Subaru. 

Whether you need to have your Subaru suspension repaired or inspected, you can do so at either of our locations; Kirkland and Bothell! You can choose which location in the drop down below. 

Thanks for reading.

 

– Joe Malinosky

 

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