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Suspension Design notes

By Rajeev Mokashi

BAJA SAEINDIA 2011 Workshop

23rd July 2010

„ Explanation of “Automotive Suspension”

„ SAEINDIA presentation “Suspension design” by Mr Ravindra

Deshmukh, Dy GM (R & D), Mahindra & Mahindra, Nashik. 2007

„ “Suspension Design” presentation by Mr Rob Shanahan, 15-11-2005

„ “Automotive Suspension design”.


„ “Vehicle Dynamics – Theory & Application” by Mr Reza N Jazar

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What is an Automotive Suspension?

„ An Automotive Suspension is the system of parts that
give a vehicle the ability to maneuver.
„ It is a 3 Dimensional Four Bar Linkage

What does a suspension do?

„ “The job of a car suspension is to maximize the friction
between the tires and the road surface, to provide
steering stability with good handling”


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Process of Suspension Design

„ Selecting vehicle level targets

„ Selecting system architecture – type of suspension etc.
„ Choosing location of ‘Hard points’.
„ Selecting rates of the bushings.
„ Analysing the loads in suspension.
„ Designing Spring rates
„ Designing Shock absorber characteristics.
„ Designing structure of each component – Strong, stiff, Light,
easy to manufacture and Cheap.
„ Analysing Vehicle Dynamics of the resulting design

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Vehicle level targets (main)

„ Ride heights at various states of load

„ Ride frequencies
„ Roll stiffness (Deg / g of lateral acceleration)
„ Distribution of load – front to rear
„ Jounce travel (Bump / Compression)
„ Rebound travel (Droop / Extension)
„ Camber
„ Caster
„ Toe In / Toe Out

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Basic Suspension Terminology

Ride Height

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Desirables for Vehicle level targets

„ Stiffness – Design for maximum torsional stiffness and least

weight. This is checked by holding rear shock absorber points &
applying torque at front shock absorber points.
„ Provide large suspension travels – typically 250 ~ 300 mm. For
typical ATV, ratio of Jounce travel to Rebound travel is 2:1.
„ Provide sufficient ground clearance – more than 200 mm.
„ Use maximum track / overall width allowed. Place wheels at
farthest corners.
„ Design to provide tunable features – to adjust Camber, Caster,
Toe In, damping forces in shock absorber, spring force on
assembly etc.
„ Keep aggregates like Fuel tank, Powertrain etc. as low as

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Suspension Architecture

Double Wishbone McPherson Strut

(Equal or Unequal arm) / semi –strut

• Lightest weight • Compact suspension

• Lowest unsprung mass • Less adjustability
• Greatest adjustability for roll
center height, camber, caster etc.
Recommendation: Double wishbone – unequal arm

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Double wishbone suspension

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Hard point location

Hard points determine Static settings:

„ Toe (normally Toe In 3 ~ 5 mm)
„ Camber (normally 0.5° ~ 2°)
„ Caster (normally 2° ~ 4°)
„ Roll center height at design load (vis-à-vis CG)
„ caster trail
„ Kingpin inclination (normally 7° ~ 8°)
„ Scrub radius
„ Spring / Shock absorber motion ratios

Hard points also affect Handling of the vehicle in dynamic state.

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Roll center

Roll center moves as suspension travels.

Goal of any suspension designer is to
minimize Roll Center Migration.

Distance from roll center to CG is key to

decide roll couple. Lower distance the

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Design of suspension components

Wishbone – Control arms etc.

„ Keep calculations simple.
„ Draw Free Body Diagrams for loads on wishbones.
„ Design for Stiffness Æ Strength follows.
„ Create clean Drawings /Sketches for fabrication. Keep Shapes
„ Calculate stresses for single events – 5 g impact etc. Ensure
maximum stress below Yield Stress with good factor of safety.

Wishbone pivots / bushes

„ Use rubber bushings or solid bushings.
„ Ensure wishbones move freely and do not rub against attachments /
brackets etc.
Rubber bushes, if readily available, are preferred.
Compliances may be worked out during tuning

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Design of suspension components

Coil springs / shock absorbers

„ Coil springs over shock absorber designs are easy for tuning, by
providing screwed type of spring seats on shock absorber body.
„ Use wheel frequency of 100 ~ 125 cpm for designing spring
stiffness. For passenger cars, this frequency is 60 ~ 80 cpm.
„ Choose shock absorber length longer than required – by 10 mm
or more, so that it does not bottom out with full bump (2.5 g).
„ Check that coil spring does not become solid at full bump load.

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Effect of Suspension geometry
on handling of vehicle

Affect on vehicle handling,

Suspension adjustment Symptom of too much adjustment
limit adjustment
Front Spring rate increase More understeer Terminal understeer, front of car hops in
Front spring rate decrease Less understeer Oversteers. then understeers as car
bottoms excessively with jolting ride
Rear spring rate increase More oversteer Too much oversteer, hop in corners,
Rear spring rate decrease Less oversteer Understeers, then oversteers as car
bottoms out with a jolting ride.
More negative camber on Less understeer /limit Poor braking, car is road crown sensitive,
front wheels -3 degrees twitchy, tyres wear out on the inside edge
More positive camber on More understeer, can make Poor braking, car is road crown sensitive,
front wheels the tyres last longer twitchy, tires wear out on outer edge.
More negative camber on Less oversteer, more rear grip More oversteer, car feels twitchy in back,
rear wheels / limit -3 degrees tyres wear out on the inside edge
More positive camber in More oversteer, more Twitchy in back, tires wear on outer edge.
rear wheels forgiving limit

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Effect of Suspension geometry
on handling of vehicle

Suspension Affect on vehicle handling,

Symptom of too much adjustment
adjustment limit adjustment
Toe In front Car is stable while going Car has slow twitchiness under braking, feels
straight. Turn in is average. odd, wears out outer edge of tyres
Toe In rear Less likely to oversteer when Weird slow rocking movement in back, feels
throttle is lifted slow but unstable.
Toe Out front Car turns in well, good in FWD Twitchy under braking, car is road crown
cars. ( limit 6 mm toe out) sensitive, car wanders on straight road.
Toe Out rear Helps car rotate, useful on tight Not good for street driving, causes lift throttle
low speed courses and slalom oversteer, car makes violent side to side
events (limit 3 mm total toe out) rocking motions in rear.
Positive front caster Helps both stability, steady state Can increase understeer, increases steering
cornering and turn in. Limit 6 efforts.
degrees positive.
Negative front caster Not usable

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One last word …….

Figuring a suspension of car is almost entirely

a matter of making useful approximations.

It is not an exact science.

But neither it is a blind application of rule of

- Quoted by Mr Ravindra Deshmukh
R & D, Mahindra & Mahindra

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