How Can I Make My Suspension Less Stiff?

Having suspension that is the right stiffness for your off-roading activities make a big difference. Not only does having a good suspension for a certain activity make the ride more comfortable and smooth, but it can also help protect a vehicle from damage. Good suspension is an essential part of a vehicle’s performance whether it be racing on a track or driving through the mud on an off-road trail. Certain activities may demand loose suspension that moves easily while others may require stiffer suspension that doesn’t budge with every little bump. 

How can I make my suspension less stiff? The majority of factory suspension systems are not adjustable, so to make the suspension less stiff, replace your shocks with a softer set. If you happen to have adjustable shocks on the vehicle then you can either follow the instructions from the factory manual or have a local mechanic adjust them.

Suspension systems are what take driving from being a roller coaster ride into a fun, enjoyable experience. The kind of suspension system that you want on your vehicle is going to depend on the type of vehicle and the type of activities done with your vehicle. Later on in the article, we will discuss how and when to use stiff suspension. 

How To Make Suspension Less Stiff

The way to make your suspension less stiff will depend on what type of suspension is one the vehicle. Most vehicles come from the factory with standard suspension that isn’t adjustable and has one fixed stiffness. The stiffness of the stock suspension system is going to be plenty suitable for the activities one specific vehicle is known for, but some drivers may prefer an even less stiff suspension. When you have a suspension system that is fixed(that is to say not adjustable) then you will have to buy new shocks. 

The shocks are the most common part replaced when someone wants less stiff suspension. This doesn’t mean that other parts to change a vehicle’s suspension can’t be replaced. Many people replace the shocks and springs as a unit, this is referred to as struts. Replacing stock struts with less stiff struts is a good way of making a suspension less stiff. Struts range from very stiff to very loose, so you will want to research what stiffness is going to be best for your vehicle. 

There is such a thing as adjustable shocks, and the stiffness of them can be changed. This means if a situation demands stiff shocks, it is possible to change them. When you want to drive on the road then you can adjust them back to being less stiff. Adjustable shocks are usually a lot more expensive than standard shocks, but are easier to work with. Adjustable shocks can be a good investment if you know you will want to change the stiffness of your shocks often. 

Is Your Off-road Vehicle Supposed To Have Stiff Suspension?

Stiff suspension will give better handling to the driver while off-roading. In most cases, you will want to have suspension stiffer than standard road suspension on an off-road vehicle. Having stiff suspension on an off-road vehicle will help protect the vehicle from damage and better absorb the massive impacts the vehicles endure. Some people argue it is better to have loose suspension when off-roading, and it has its positives and negatives, just like stiff supensions. To learn more about the pros and cons of the different suspensions, check out our article on it.

The problem with having loose suspension when off-roading is that your shocks can bottom out. When shocks bottom out they can crack, snap, or blow an internal seal. When shocks bottom out, it also means that they can’t absorb any more of the “shock” that the car feels. This means that the remaining force will go into other parts of the vehicle. When the force of impact goes into other parts of the car, it can cause breakages and massive damage. To add, it will make the ride very uncomfortable. 

Another consequence of having shocks that are too loose is that you will put yourself through a bumpy ride. One compression of one shock could cause the whole system to bounce back and forth and side to side. Having loose shocks will cause your suspension to bounce excessively. Bouncing can also lead to more dangerous situations like rolling vehicles or losing traction on individual wheels. Thus nullifying the purpose of the suspension system.

It is a much better decision to use soft supension while off-roading when you are traveling at lower speeds. This will prevent breakage and excessive bouncing.

Having stiff shocks gives an off-roading vehicle a firmer base that is more stable.If you want to learn a lot more about the benefits of stiffer suspension while off-roading, then check out our full article on that subject by clicking this link.

What Happens If Your Vehicle Has Too Stiff Of Suspension Vs Too Soft Suspension

A vehicle with stiff suspension will have a much more bumpy ride on standard roads. Stiff suspension doesn’t compress as easily and as a result, you feel more of the small bumps on the road. Stiff suspension is meant to handle a harder trail/ride and doesn’t absorb the small jolts of a vehicle. If you have suspension that is too stiff on your vehicle, you are going to end up feeling most of the vehicle’s small movements. 

Another thing that might arise with stiff suspension is difficulty steering. Stiff suspension can cause noticeable oversteer or understeer. When a vehicle has stiff suspension the suspension system doesn’t lean with the curves as much as it does with other suspensions so you will have to steer a little differently than you do regularly. You can still drive a vehicle like this without any problems, it may just take a little getting used to. 

A vehicle with soft suspension will absorb a lot of bumps. The thing that may happen if a suspension system is too soft, however, is that you may bounce. This won’t happen continuously but when you hit a bigger bump, the suspension will make your vehicle bounce up and down; the bumping can be unpleasant and annoying. This happens because of how easily your shocks can compress and decompress. 

What Type Of Suspension Is The Smoothest?

There are many different people with varying opinions on what type of suspension is the smoothest. Overall, air shocks are considered to give the smoothest and most comfortable ride. Air shocks use air and it cushion the impact of bumps. Air compressors and complex computer systems are used to fill or deflate the air bellows that are used to cushion the rest of the vehicle. 

The sensors used for air shocks are very sensitive and map out the bumps in the road so that the suspension can make micro-adjustments as you are driving. This is the big reason that air shocks are considered the smoothest suspension. Air shocks are super adaptable. Unlike gas shocks that wait for the impact of the road to compress, air shocks adjust their height and level instantaneously to minimize the movement felt in the car. Air shocks can also have a huge load capacity, so they are sometimes used in larger vehicles. 

Many other types of suspension systems provide a very smooth ride, and depending on what you drive, there may be a better option than air shocks. For smaller cars, gas shocks provide a smooth ride. 

Gas shocks are cheaper than air shocks and can still provide a smooth ride. Most vehicles come from the factory with gas shocks installed. The quality of shocks has improved over the years, but if you still want better shocks, many high-quality shocks can be found on the market. Companies like Fox and Vertex both make very high-quality shocks. 

If you have a larger vehicle then air shocks are a great option for you. Gas shocks can’t always take the large weight loads that big trucks or large SUVs have. Besides air shocks, you can install heavy-duty shocks. Heavy-duty shocks are designed for larger vehicles and do a very good job. Heavy-duty shocks are designed to absorb impact and still support heavy vehicles. If you have shocks that aren’t rated for super heavy vehicles then they will be compressed and not provide as much of a cushion to a vehicle.

Related Question

Does off-roading damage your car? Off-roading will damage your vehicle as it will exert more force and torsion on every system, wearing out parts a lot faster than everyday use. The most common damage done to vehicles when offroading is scratched paint, dented rocker panels, damaged lower control arms, and scratched oil pans. Larger damages can include a broken driveline or transmission. Click here to view the full article. 

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. His passion for cars is his daily motivator and is constantly working on his projects such as restoring his 1966 Bronco, 1968 Firebird, or modifying his 2022 Bronco.

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