Nowadays, cars are built to a higher standard, and there’s no question that vehicles todays are a lot more comfy, efficient, and safer that those produced even just a few decades ago. That doesn’t mean all rides have the same comfort levels. On the contrary, some car manufacturers have done a better job of keeping passengers comfortable regardless of road conditions than others.
What keeps car rides smooth?
There are a few things in a car that play their part to ensure a smooth ride, but nothing comes close to being as important as your suspension system. The basic function of a car’s suspension system is to allow the tires and wheels to absorb the impact of the many imperfections on most roads, before the vibration makes it to the main chassis, then your car’s seats. Thus, a good suspension must easily yield to bumps and holes on the road.
There are two primary ways manufacturers go about doing this:
- By reducing a car’s “unsprung weight,” allowing the suspension system to move faster with less input. The principle behind this is simple. The less the weight of the tires, wheels, wheel hub, and other suspension components are, the faster the suspension system can adjust to imperfections in the road. In order words, the lighter the suspension system is relative to the weight of the rest of the car, the more efficient the suspension system will be.
- The other way to go about creating a good suspension system is by making all of its components softer. By doing this, the wheels do a better job of going over the imperfections on the ground and absorbing the shock, leading to a more comfortable ride.
Neither one of the methods is capable of fully absorbing all the impact your car deals with on the road. Fortunately, there a few other things that can be done to make your car ride even smoother.
Softening the suspension
This the most effective way to bolster a suspension system. It’s also the most commonly used method. The softening of the suspension system is typically done by installing softer shock absorbers that are more geared for comfort rather than improved performance of the car. That is then followed by installing lower rate springs.
It isn’t uncommon for these springs to be worn out before other components of the suspension. Fortunately, these are easy to replace with a strut spring compressor.
There’s a wide variety of comfort shocks to choose from, but the best generally are the adjustable ones or full-air suspension systems.
Getting the right tires and wheels
A big part of ensuring you get a comfortable ride whenever you get inside your car is the tires you get. While large monster tires and low-profile tires can make your vehicle look really nice (they also may improve handling), they are the last thing you want to get if comfort is your top priority.
Why is that you ask?
It’s because low-profile tires have thicker sidewalls, leading to a harder tire that is less capable of absorbing bumps than its softer counterparts. Also, big rims are typically heavy, especially the cool-looking spinner types and solid discs. As mentioned, the lighter the suspension system is, the more comfortable the ride is.
These large monster-style wheels also have an increased unsprung mass and inertia, so these aren’t as willing to move when the tires encounter bumps.
When comfort is your top priority, go with the lightest and most narrow wheels you can find. You typically don’t want to go with anything that’s more than 7 inches wide or with a diameter that’s more than 18 inches wide. Skinny, tall tires with an aspect ratio of 60 or more are a good place to start. Regardless of the tires you decide to go with, you can also reduce the air pressure in your tires to 3-5 psi below the manufacturer recommended air pressure to give yourself a nice little air cushion.
While run-flat tires have their benefits, stay away from these if you want a smoother ride on the roads. Sure, the newer models are a lot better than the old ones, but for the most part, these tires remain a lot harder than traditional tires, so your ride won’t be as comfortable if you decide to go this route.