What Are Leaf Springs?

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A leaf spring is a component of some vehicles’ suspension systems. Specifically, a leaf spring is composed of several (or occasionally just one) thin strips of metal, called leaves, arranged on top of each other to form a single curved piece. The bending of the leaves and the friction between them as they slide slightly over each other while bending, absorbs the vehicle’s weight as well as any bumps. Most leaf springs are curved (these are often called elliptical springs); the curvature helps the spring absorb impact.

The three major functions of any vehicle’s suspension are to:

  • Support the vehicle

  • Absorb impacts from bumps, potholes, and other road irregularities

  • Allow the vehicle to turn in response to the driver’s inputs. (The steering system can be considered part of the suspension, or its own system, but either way the suspension has to allow for movement of the wheels as the vehicle turns).

Springs in general, and leaf springs in particular, help perform the first two of these functions: they support the weight of the vehicle while absorbing bumps.

A leaf spring is usually attached to the body or frame of the vehicle at each end, while the wheel or axle assembly is fixed to the middle of the spring. Usually each spring extends in the same direction as the vehicle, one on each side, with attachment points at the front and rear; a few suspension designs feature a single leaf spring attached at each side (a “transverse” spring).

The purpose of leaf springs

Leaf springs are relatively simple to make and have been used on carts and carriages since long before cars and trucks came into existence. Many of the first cars, including the Ford Model T, employed leaf springs. Leaf springs are appropriate for spreading heavy loads over a large area (because they are attached to the vehicle at the ends, which may be several feet apart) and for suspension designs that incorporate a “solid” axle rather than independent suspension for each wheel, which was common on cars up through the 1970s and is still the norm on heavy vehicles such as trucks.

These factors render leaf springs appropriate for trucks and other heavy vehicles but less so for cars, as such designs tend to have undesirable effects on a vehicle’s handling. As independent (as opposed to solid axle) rear suspensions have become increasingly common on cars, leaf springs are now found primarily on trucks, vans, SUVs, and trailers.

Maintenance of leaf springs

If your vehicle features leaf springs, do you need to worry about them? Probably not, unless they’re quite old. Multi-leaf springs occasionally get “sticky” as dirt works its way in between the leaves; the effect can be to make the ride slightly stiffer, but this is rarely a significant problem. The attachment points will need to be checked periodically and lubricated in some cases (check your owner’s manual), and you’ll want your mechanic to check for broken leaves.

If you drive a classic car you may notice that its body seems to sit too low over the wheels; this sagging is usually due to the leaf springs’ having bent slightly over time, and the solution is to have them replaced.


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Richard

15 years of experience
60 reviews
Richard
15 years of experience
Ford F-150 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Fremont, California
Excellent communicator, walked me through the fixes and even gave me an idea of what might be next on the fix list.
Dodge Grand Caravan - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Union City, California
quickly diagnosed the problem but knew it would take longer than appt time to fix. since we had appt the next day for brakes he rearranged his schedule to do it all together the next day. very knowledgeable, friendly, and professional.

Tung

14 years of experience
285 reviews
Tung
14 years of experience
Hyundai Elantra - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Mableton, Georgia
Very detailed and customer service oriented. Did an amazing job fixing my back brakes and even set-up a schedule of future appointments for my car!
Ram 1500 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Marietta, Georgia
Tung showed up on time and was very friendly. Changed my brake pads in about 30 minutes and gave me recommendations on when to change the rear pads. Will ask for him by name next time.

Horus

9 years of experience
103 reviews
Horus
9 years of experience
Land Rover Range Rover - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - San Antonio, Texas
Horace worked on my Land Rover today. Showed up on time and was professional and courteous. Replaced front and rear break pads. Great job!

Juan

11 years of experience
37 reviews
Juan
11 years of experience
Dodge Avenger - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Mountain House, California
Was very thorough in explaining the condition of the car and how the repairs will impact it’s service.

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