Why Do Some Cars "Ride Rough”?

Man driving half a car (possibly in Serbia)

Whether it’s our new car reviews, word of mouth or your own experience, you know some cars ride rough.  That was to be expected before the advent of pneumatic tires, but now we have ride control systems that adjust for our comfort a zillion times a second.  What gives?  Here are some causes.

By design.  Not every car is engineered with a marshmallow suspension.  Sports cars and short-wheelbase cars tend to jostle more by design.  Body-on-frame vehicles ride inherently rougher than unibody counterparts.  Most large SUVs are built this way.  Also, unladen three-quarter and one-ton trucks and vans will ride rough without cargo weight to compress springs and smooth things over.

By choice.  Sometimes a little bone jarring is necessary in the name of handling and road feel.  For spirited driving, a number of cars offer adjustable suspension modes.  Or it could be suspension mods; aftermarket modifications over stock equipment.  Large rims and low-profile tires also contribute.

The roads traveled also figure into this.  Even if a stretch isn’t littered with potholes, its construction (like sectioned concrete) and extreme weather can affect how the road feels from the driver’s seat.

By accident.  Collision repair is a highly technical process, with manual and electronic tools that work miracles, not to mention the skilled specialists that use them.  Still, things happen.  For various reasons and on rare occasion, repairs aren’t up to snuff.  One result of this is that some cars ride rough when they’re put back on the road.

By needs.  Your car’s components take a beating even in sedate driving.  The remedy for the eventual rough ride could be as simple as a wheel alignment, something you should address periodically anyhow.  And it’s only logical that as time and miles accumulate, the suspension wears and can’t react as it once did.  At that point you’ll want to investigate replacing struts or shocks to bring back the ride and handling you once had.

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