Suspension Damping Vs Stiffness – Battle of Comfort and Control

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In modern vehicle suspensions, we see two significant components that facilitate shock absorption technology: dampers and suspension springs. Suspension damping is related to dampers, while stiffness is oriented with suspensions that use springs. 

In reality, both terms are used to standardize the shock absorption capability of a suspension system. However, many people have discussed the suspension damping vs stiffness debate. Actually, there shouldn’t be any debate or comparison between damping and stiffness, as both have their own roles that work in a combination. 

But, the critical fact is knowing them properly, especially when it comes to off-roading, and then you can understand their roles and what you should do to enhance your suspension. Don’t worry; we’ll go through a detailed explanation here. Just stick to our article till the end. 

What is Suspension Damping?

Suspension Damping

Suspension damping is the mechanism that controls oscillations affecting motion or velocity through the use of valves and hydraulic gates in a vehicle’s shock absorber. This might also differ, either unintentionally or intentionally. 

Like the spring rate, the suitable damping for comfort may be different from the damping for reducing motion or avoiding oscillations. As your vehicle’s suspension stands out, the travel speed and the resistance to motion will increase. 

Damping off the amount of flow in the shock absorber will help the vehicle return to a normal state in a minimal amount of time. You can regulate damping in modern cars by increasing the resistance to fluid flow in the shock absorber.

Variations of Suspension Damping

Numerous configurations enable you to adjust the damping, and these configuration options let you stiffen or soften the damper with the simple turn or click of the adjuster knob.

Suspension Damping Vs Stiffness

One-Way Adjustable Damping

One-way adjustable damping allows you to control compression-only rebound-only, or both, depending on the effect you desire. The drawbacks of adjusting both are that you must make trade-offs between performance and feel.

Two-Way Adjustable Damping

Both rebound and compression are adjustable two-way controls that enable the independent tuning of the vehicle suspension. This will assist you in controlling the suspension firmness for various tracks and weather conditions. Excellent for track lovers and racers targeting firing the car at the club and racing at tracks.

Three and Four-way Adjustable Damping

Three-way and four-way adjustable damping may be adjusted to control separately the sprung mass and the variable mass. Consequently, it can provide control for the sprung mass separately from the unsprung mass using three specific modes of speed. For example, slow, compression, and rebound control where low-speed suspension is uncontrolled.

Five and Six-way Adjustable Damping

Five and six-leg adjustable dampening are comparable to 3 and 4-way adjustable dampening in terms of the handle’s control of high-speed driving, but higher speeds cause more hits or ruts when driving on trails. This prevents the main valve of the dampening system from becoming saturated, allowing for a softer, more comfortable setup when exposed to crashes.

What is Suspension Stiffness?

Suspension Stiffness

Suspension stiffness indicates the ability of a spring to comfortably respond to changes in length when the spring stretches or compresses. This will be more clearly explained if expressed as the spring rate, which is a universally accepted measurement of how a material responds to force.

In short, the spring rate of the suspension spring is its resistance to changes in length with regard to compression or stretching. 

Adjustable Suspension Stiffness – Tuning Spring Rate

As we discussed earlier, suspension stiffness is defined by spring rate. Altering springs to raise your overall performance depends upon a few aspects. Spring rates fluctuate depending on what you require, the range of your height and weight, your driving method, and even distinctive aspects of a track surface.

Stiff suspension damping ability

High Spring Rate or Stiffness

A rising spring rate results in an increase in stiffness and permits the driver to have a firmer feel, and those race car drivers typically opt for stiffer springs to reduce body roll and body lean. Low ground clearance also has the effect of maintaining a very low center of gravity. 

suspension damping curve

Smooth tracks are devoid of drawbacks, so they don’t need to worry about driving over and destroying their chassis. Additionally, aerodynamics helps to minimize drag to keep your vehicle close to the track. 

Momentum also plays a role. When the effect of thrust presses down on your vehicle, it can make the ride height change. If you want your car to remain stationary at the same height as you drive, stiffer springs will counter those forces.

If your springs are too stiff, the riding quality will degrade, and your tires will not be able to operate effectively on jumbled and bumpy roadways.

Low Spring Rate or Stiffness

At lower spring rates, you will feel a less severe impact, but the springs will retain more grip on your car. Going over a curb or a dip in the road is easier with lower spring rates. 

There is no gray area when it comes to engineering. As long as you are the one making the determination, you can choose whether you want the shocks and springs to be firm or soft. You may feel your vehicle handles differently depending on the suspension settings. Pay close attention to what your gut is telling you.  

Related: Is Stiff Suspension Good For Off-Road?

Suspension Damping Vs Stiffness – How They Are Interrelated

The vehicle’s suspension features springs to deal with all the bumps and dips routinely encountered when driving. The issue with springs is they love bouncing. 

If you only drove a vehicle with springs, it would bounce all over the place. The bouncing would prove to be so severe you would literally lose control over your vehicle completely. 

This is where the role of shock absorbers comes in. Shocks are placed inside the suspension springs. A shock absorber’s main task is to control the energy of a car’s spring and provide a means for the driver to choose a more comfortable mode. 

Depending on the car type and driving conditions, the driver is encouraged to modify the shock absorber’s damping and spring’s stiffness. Both springs and shock absorbers go hand in hand, so it’s essential to pay attention to both. 

Whenever springs are compressed, they contain power. When springs rebound, their power is released. As the frequency of compression and release of a vehicle’s springs is altered, the vehicle takes on movements driven by its weight and all the road’s pressure. 

Springs are the vehicle’s casting weight and absorb the shocks created by road friction, helping the wheels follow the road’s surface. Shocks can turn the stored energies that wind up in your springs into a limited quantity of power, thereby altering the speed at which your springs move up or fall. Simply changing both strikes will give you the most effective outcomes.

Final Words

To gain optimum performance, comfort, and good ride quality, you have to fine-tune your suspension’s damping and stiffness. Which settings are correct will depend on your application, your suspension setup, ride height, the type of shocks you use, and your preferences as a driver. 

You can avoid making assumptions about these by consulting with an experienced specialist. Instead of buying a set of shocks to arrange yourself, you can go to a tuning expert.