Ride quality: How to make your car more comfortable

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As enthusiasts, we are willing to trade some comfort for slightly better handling. If ride comfort has to take a backseat, so be it.

However, because the majority of motorists are not driving enthusiasts, they would prefer the opposite.

So, what should you do if you want to improve your car’s ride quality?

Check your tyre pressures

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Over-inflation is a common cause of rough and jarring rides. Excessively high tyre pressures “harden” a tyre by stiffening the side walls. This reduces pliancy, which in turn reduces ride comfort.

Tyres are an integral part of a car’s suspension design. But the contribution of tyres to ride comfort is less significant than springs and dampers.

Are you using big wheels and high-performance tyres?

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Apart from tyre pressures, bigger wheels and high-performance tyres can also create an uncomfortable ride quality.

Larger diameter wheels require correspondingly larger tyre sizes. Oftentimes, these tyres are also upgraded to high-performance tyres. This is done to increase the tyre’s contact patch, thereby increasing grip.

High-performance tyres have sidewalls that are stiffer than those on regular tyres. Stiffer sidewalls enhance grip and resist deformation during cornering, but this lack of pliancy compromises ride quality.

If cushiness is your priority, swop back to your stock or smaller wheel size and use comfort or touring tyres instead.

Worn suspension components

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If your car is a few years old or is a pre-owned car, its suspension components may be past their service life and should be replaced.

Worn dampers – commonly referred to as shock absorbers – are one of the main causes of poor ride quality, as they are no longer able to absorb/dampen surface imperfections.

Worn rubber bushings and engine mounts will also transmit bumps and vibrations into the cabin. Have your car checked by an experienced mechanic to determine if any of these components must be replaced.

Has your car's suspension been modified?

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If you have acquired a pre-owned car and checked that the tyre pressures are correct, your vehicle may have had a suspension modification.

Most car owners who modify the suspension do so to enhance handling. This means fitting springs that are stiffer and shorter, together with more restrictive dampers.

Some adventurous owners even replace the rubber bushings with harder polyurethane ones.

All these modifications will make a car more stable around corners and on a race track. But on normal roads – which aren’t designed for racing – high-performance suspensions will ruin ride quality and negatively affect overall comfort.

Apart from poor ride quality, other problems may arise from such modifications. Stiff suspension set-ups can affect roadholding adversely.

This is the aspect of suspension design that gives a car the ability to maintain stability over rough or uneven surfaces.

Poor roadholding translates into instability. The car may skip and hop, and the driver will struggle to maintain control – especially at high speeds and/or on wet roads.

The car may look low and cool, but on city streets, occupants will experience a jarring ride, and the driver, a hard time behind the wheel.

This article was first published in Torque.