The race to find the best and toughest off-road suspension systems has led many people to wonder which types of suspension are best for off-roading.
Ultimately, the best suspension setup depends on how you use the vehicle. To help you figure out which types of suspension suit you best, we’re going to go over two major suspension configurations and how they impact off-road handling.
The main feature of independent suspension is that each wheel is able to move independently of the others. Independent suspension uses a wide array of suspension technologies, but most modern 4WDs use double wishbone or MacPherson strut configurations. These setups split the torque from a centrally mounted diff differential through axles and constant velocity joints to power the driven wheels individually. Independent suspension provides a more comfortable ride, improved handling and lightweight components.
While the complexity of independent suspension can improve handling and off-road safety, the sheer number of components increases the cost and maintenance requirements. For that reason independent suspension typically isn’t used for heavy-duty off-road applications, although it is a good choice for some scenarios.
Solid Axle Suspension
Solid axle drivetrains are a tried and true technology for off-roading vehicles. As the name suggests, solid axle suspension houses the vehicle’s differential and axles inside a single, rigid housing, meaning the vertical travel of one wheel will inversely affect the vertical travel of the other. Because of the solid housing, solid axle suspension is more durable than independent suspension, especially for off-road vehicles that travel over rocks and other obstacles.
The durability aspect means solid axle suspension is generally considered the better option for dedicated off-road driving. There are tradeoffs in ride comfort and the weight of the system, but the right springs and shock absorbers can optimise how your vehicle handles.
Choosing the Right Suspension for Your Vehicle
Ultimately, the right choice of off-road suspension comes down to your needs and how the vehicle is used. When designing an off-road suspension system, you need to consider:
- How you use the vehicle. Many 4WDs feature extreme modifications that make them great for crawling up rocky trails. But off-road suspension upgrades have an impact on how the vehicle performs in all situations. The most important thing to consider is how the vehicle gets used. If you spend all day cruising through Queensland’s outback then extreme suspension modifications are ideal. But, if you spend most of your time on the road in the city, you should prioritise comfort and safety on sealed roads.
- Weight capacity. Modifications like roof racks, bull bars and off-roading equipment all add weight to the vehicle. Suspension upgrades can increase the GVM of your vehicle, but the wrong GVM upgrades can compromise on-road safety. The best method is to calculate the weight of the vehicle and its upgrades and then design a suspension system that meets your requirements safely.
- Legal requirements. Manufacturers design their vehicles to meet strict safety standards. Since modifying the suspension can dramatically alter handling, the Australian Government regulates which modifications you can make. If you are going to use the vehicle on public roads then it needs to comply with relevant standards that limit things like suspension lift heights, GVM upgrades and tyre size.
- Durability. Independent and solid axle suspension both have their place off-road. For most, the deciding factor is durability. Solid axles are much tougher and simpler, meaning they are better suited to rough and rocky terrain. Consider where and how you will go off-road and then choose a suspension setup that matches those demands.
Invest in the Right Suspension Solutions with Driveline Australia
Driveline Services Australia has been providing world-class drivetrain and suspension components for decades. With Australia being considered the world’s toughest proving ground for automakers, we have the expertise needed to design suspension for the most extreme conditions. Talk to our dedicated team before you begin modifying your suspension. Driveline can help design, supply and install a suspension package that meets your requirements and is compatible with your vehicle. You can explore our 4WD suspension services online, or contact us to make an appointment with a Driveline location near you.