Expert advice: how to tell if your car has suspension trouble

suspension trouble
Car suspension is complicated and hard-wearing (Picture iStock/kvsan)

The suspension on our cars is a very hard-working piece of kit. And it’s one we take for granted – until we experience suspension trouble. While we’re driving forwards, the suspension is constantly in motion too, coping with undulations in the road surface and other forces on the car.

It’s the suspension that keeps the car’s road wheels in touch with the ground when we go round corners. And it’s the suspension that helps to insulate the driver and passengers from the outside.

Unsurprisingly with something that’s so busy, cars can suffer suspension trouble. And the number of potholes on our roads seem to be making suspension trouble more likely. Read on to discover how to diagnose it.

Signs of suspension damage

The first indication of any trouble with suspension will probably come from an unusual noise. There’ll be a knocking, creaking or clanking from under the car. In extreme cases, your car might not want to drive in a straight line without you constantly making adjustments with the steering wheel.

Why it helps to identify trouble

The trouble with suspension noise is it’s unlikely to be a consistent thing. In the past I’ve had problems with car suspension that’s only shown itself going over speed humps. And then they’ve had to be speed humps of a certain height!

The quickest way for a garage to identify the fault is if you can show or tell them when a noise happens or give them a clue which side the noise is coming from and when.

suspension trouble
If you think you’ve got suspension trouble, try your own diagnosis then take it to the professionals (Picture iStock/PokPak05)

Why you should get it fixed

When a part of your suspension fails, the car is highly unlikely to collapse onto the road. But if a suspension part does fail, it will put greater strain on other components. Although these might pick up the slack in the short term, it will prompt increased wear.

What’s more, suspension is viewed as an important safety component. If there are problems with it, your car will fail its MOT test.

What might suspension trouble be?

Different noises mean different faults. A knocking sound when going over bumps can indicate a problem with the suspension struts. There might be a clanking sound of metal hitting metal when you go over bumps. This could show the rubber bushes that join parts of the suspension have failed.

Alternatively the clanking noise might get faster the quicker the car is going. This might be a wheel bearing, brake rotor or even a drive shaft. Whatever it is, a professional should check it out.

A creaking sound from under the car when you go over an undulation such as a speed hump could indicate worn suspension bushes. And while you’re listening for noises, think about the ride. Is it less forgiving and perhaps bumpier than usual?

How to diagnose a fault?

Take your car for a drive, turn off the radio and open the windows. You’re listening for unusual noises and the conditions they happen in. For example, the noise might only happen when you turn the steering to the right.

When you get home, park the car safely on a flat surface and make sure the parking brake is on. First look at the car. Is it sagging on one side or corner? Then push down on the corner of the car you suspect might be suffering suspension trouble. They should rise up and resume their natural position without bouncing more than two or three times.

If you think that one corner isn’t behaving as it should, have a look beneath the car. The shock absorbers contain a fluid that helps them to damp out bumps. This fluid can leak out so if the shock absorber and springs are covered in a fluid, that’s probably what’s happened.

Get it checked by a professional

Whatever you think is wrong with your suspension, it’s important that you get it checked by a professional as quickly as possible. The information you’ve gleaned will help them. But they will be able to tell you exactly what the problem is and more importantly, how serious it is.

John Price is part of Green Flag’s team of automotive technical support engineers

9 comments on “Expert advice: how to tell if your car has suspension trouble

  1. Myles sullivan 26/08/2020 2:25 PM

    Please tell me when my renewal is due.

    • Richard Skinner 19/06/2023 6:41 PM


    • Richard Skinner 19/06/2023 6:44 PM

      Noise from front of car a clonking directly you pull away , mot guy couldn’t find it and put slight noise from steering side to side , jacked up and only noise I can find is possibly NSF shock

  2. nige duffy 10/10/2020 10:17 AM

    The other week, as every year was silicone spraying all my rubbers and noticed top strut mount looked odd. Jacked her up and she wobbled about like jelly. Booked into gerage and found out the bearing had torn away on near side and a crack in strut on offside. Had noticed a creaking but couldn’t pinpoint it.
    Probably all the broken verge/ pot hole on the daily commute.
    Drove straight and true though.
    Just goes to show inspection and knowing you car can’t be understated.
    Wish the post was 2 months ago would have stopped me going crazy with that noise! 😉

  3. Marie C. 10/10/2020 8:55 PM

    Good information from car theft, suspension trouble & other things. Thank you for the update GREEN FLAG. Better to be safe than sorry

  4. Ray Keall 13/10/2020 9:07 AM

    we have a knocking noise on the drivers side of our fiesta particularly when we go over potholes especially when there are a few together and only shallow. We have taken it to a garage and they put the car up on the ramp and looked underneath and they said they couldn’t see anything wrong and so its ok. But we are still experiencing a knocking noise. How can we get this problem checked properly. Ray

  5. Joseph L Johnson 31/10/2022 8:44 PM

    My car won’t drive straight it’s wants to drift one way so I have to have the steering wheel turned at a angle of 1200 o’clock is straight Im holdings it at 200 o’clock angle just to go straight what’s my problem

  6. Nina 06/08/2023 7:52 PM

    My car is like a roller coaster it’s bouncy really bad I tried to put it in neutral and and pressed the bottom button and it fixed it the next morning I woke up and it’s driving like that agin what is wrong with my car I noises just a bumpy ride I mean really bumpy

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