Leaf Spring Vs. Coil Spring Suspension
Vehicles of all varieties have some form of suspension system. The term “suspension system” is used to refer to the collection of linkages, shock absorbers, and springs that connect the body of the vehicle to the wheels. This allows for these two entities to move relative to each other, and is what controls the handling of a vehicle and also braking.
There are many different types of suspension, but where trucks and sports utility vehicles are concerned in particular, the two most prominent options are leaf springs and coil springs. There is a lot of debate over which is the best suspension system, but the reality is that both options offer a variety of pros and cons. Ultimately, most people find that the choice between the two is dictated by their particular vehicle, their needs, and their budget.
What Are Leaf Springs and Coil Springs?
A leaf spring comprises of several curved, long, thin strips which are stacked in terms of their length and then connected via a bolt in the center of the strips. Both ends of the rear axle in a vehicle have leaf springs attached in this system, and this helps to support the suspension in the rear. Leaf springs are very, very popular, and can be found everywhere from trucks, to SUVs, to vans, to cars. A leaf spring helps a vehicle absorb shock and keep the ride comfortable for passengers and drivers.
On the other hand, coil springs are, as it says on the tin, coils of metal. These coils are flexible and firm and ride on top of the axle. They look somewhat similar to Slinkys in nature, only they are much, much more rigid than the toys are. A coil spring helps to store and then release energy that a vehicle produces through movement. Coil springs tend to only be found on trucks and other performance vehicles.
Advantages and Disadvantages: Leaf Springs
Leaf springs are the more common suspension system of the two. This is largely because their function is very straightforward given that they support the axle in the spring assembly. This makes the setup of the suspension overall less complicated. Leaf springs also allows a vehicle to have greater back load capacity.
However, leaf springs are not always the best choice for very challenging drives. They do not offer as much flexibility as coil springs do. In difficult terrain, a leaf spring suspension system can cause the wheels to not connect with the ground as well as a coil system would. Leaf springs are also difficult to adjust because they are very firmly attached at the rear of the vehicle chassis.
Advantages and Disadvantages: Coil Springs
Coil springs allow the suspension system to flex much more than a leaf spring system does. This means that many high-performance trucks go for the coil spring suspension system rather than leaf spring. A coil system allows more movement in the suspension system, making them a better choice for difficult terrain.
However, coil systems tend to cost more to install as compared to leaf spring systems. Plus, coil springs are not as good at handling heavier loads, therefore they are not a good choice for particularly heavy vehicles. Retrofitting a vehicle with coil springs is often seen as impractical.
Is a Leaf Spring or a Coil Spring Better for Performance?
This is a difficult question to answer, considering it depends entirely upon what you need your vehicle to be doing. Different situations require different suspension systems.
Leaf springs are very practical in stop-and-go traffic, which is part of the reason they are much more commonly installed on commuter vehicles. Leaf springs help your vehicle absorb the shock from constantly applying the brakes. Leaf springs are also good for dealing with speed bumps. Of course, when you encounter a speed bump you should slow down, but in the event that you fail to do so leaf springs protect your vehicle from the shock more than a coil spring does. Plus, they provide more comfort for passengers and driver in this instance.
If you are tackling a lot of gravel roads, leaf springs are also the better choice. Since leaf springs sit in the rear of the vehicle, they can help absorb the up and down and side to side motions that gravel roads often produce. Leaf springs make this easier on the vehicle and also easier on the occupants.
On the other hand, if you do a lot of serious off-roading, coil springs are going to serve you better. Driving off-road means that your vehicle is going to be dealing with a lot of shock and overall abuse. Plus, your vehicle needs to be able to raise and lower in order to deal with severely uneven ground. Coil springs make riding on this sort of surface possible. Driving in such an environment would be very difficult with a leaf spring system.
Coil springs are also good if you need a truck to haul a lot of heavy items like furniture. While a leaf spring suspension system can take a lot of weight, a coil spring system helps a truck carry a heavy load without sagging dangerously low. Additionally, when the back is empty, coil springs help provide the lift needed to keep the empty truck level.
Coil springs also pull their weight if you need to drive on steep hills or heavy inclines. Since when you are on an extreme incline gravity is going to pull a lot of weight on the back of your truck, having a sturdy coil spring suspension system is invaluable. Particularly if you are carrying a heavy weight on strong inclines, a coil spring system is the better choice.
As you can see, even though there is a lot of debate surrounding a leaf spring suspension system versus a coil spring suspension system, both of them are Rife with pros and cons. Basically, leaf spring systems are much more common, due to their more flexible nature. However, this doesn’t mean that coil springs are automatically inferior.
Which suspension system is best for your vehicle depends on the vehicle itself, where you drive it, and what you are doing with that vehicle.