Advantages & Disadvantages of Independent Rear Suspension Vehicles

by Jonathan Lister
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Independent rear suspensions have been used in off-road and high-performance vehicles to allow greater wheel response and performance on uneven road surfaces. While the technology allows for drivers to grip the road better, it also has several disadvantages which contribute to difficult handling and higher maintenance costs. Drivers with vehicles utilizing independent rear suspension systems should take a few weeks of practice to learn how the new vehicle handles before truly taking the car out for a high-speed spin.

Uneven Surfaces

The greatest advantage of the independent rear suspension is its performance on uneven surfaces. The movement of each rear wheel is not affected by the other so the vehicle is able to maintain traction where a solid-axle vehicle might lose contact with the driving surface. This also works to maximize tire performance as independent suspensions allow the tread to contact the road over a great surface area allowing the tire to wear more evenly and extend life.

Rear Suspension Weight

A marked disadvantage of the independent suspension system is the weight it places on the vehicle. The result of the heavier suspension coupled with independent wheel movements can result in a condition known as "under steer" whereby the car's trajectory during turns does not match up with the path the driver intends. This can result in significant damage to the vehicle and passengers if the turn is taken at high speeds or during inclement weather conditions.

Maintenance Costs

Independent rear suspensions are much more complicated pieces of equipment to maintain over solid-axle designs. This is due to the several proprietary designs of rear suspensions having unique equipment requirements that also require specific vehicle body designs. For example, a vehicle using a MacPherson strut rear suspension system must have a unibody construction to allow enough room for the equipment system. As a result, other struts are not usable with vehicles using MacPherson struts.

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