Helper springs, also known as auxiliary springs or secondary springs, are devices used in suspension systems to support and complement the main suspension springs. They work in conjunction with the primary springs to improve the overall performance and handling of a vehicle, especially when dealing with heavy loads or challenging road conditions.
In this guide, we’ll explore how helper springs work and their role in enhancing a vehicle’s suspension system.
Understanding Suspension Springs:
To grasp the concept of helper springs, it’s essential to understand the primary suspension springs first. Most vehicles have coil springs or leaf springs as their primary suspension components. These springs are responsible for absorbing and dissipating the energy generated by road imperfections, bumps, and weight shifts during driving.
Need for Helper Springs:
Vehicles are designed with a specific suspension setup to offer a balance between ride comfort and handling. However, when the vehicle carries heavy loads, such as luggage, cargo, or towing trailers, the standard suspension might become compressed to its maximum limit. This results in sagging at the rear or front of the vehicle, which can adversely affect stability, ground clearance, and handling characteristics.
Helper Springs Function:
Helper springs are added to the suspension system to provide extra support when the primary springs are fully compressed. They come into action when the vehicle is carrying heavy loads or experiencing significant weight shifts. The helper springs work alongside the primary springs to prevent excessive sagging, maintain proper ride height, and improve the overall suspension performance.
Types of Helper Springs:
There are two main types of helper springs commonly used in suspension systems:
a. Progressive Helper Springs: These helper springs are designed with a variable spring rate. Initially, they are relatively soft, allowing the vehicle to ride smoothly under normal conditions. As the load increases and the primary springs compress, the helper springs become stiffer, providing additional support. Progressive helper springs offer a gradual increase in support, which can be advantageous for a range of load conditions.
b. Constant Rate Helper Springs: Unlike progressive springs, constant rate helper springs maintain a consistent spring rate throughout their compression range. They provide a constant level of support, regardless of the load. Constant rate helper springs are more straightforward in design and generally less expensive than progressive ones.
Installation and Placement:
Helper springs are typically installed in parallel with the primary suspension springs. For example, in the case of coil springs, the helper springs are mounted between the vehicle chassis (body) and the axle or suspension control arm. They may be placed in-line with the primary springs or installed separately, depending on the specific suspension design and the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Benefits of Helper Springs:
- Improved Load Carrying Capacity: Helper springs allow vehicles to handle heavy loads more effectively without compromising ride quality.
- Enhanced Stability: By preventing excessive sagging, helper springs help maintain proper weight distribution, which improves vehicle stability and handling.
- Reduced Bottoming Out: The combination of primary and helper springs reduces the likelihood of the suspension bottoming out on rough terrain or large bumps.
- Extended Primary Spring Life: Helper springs assist the primary springs, reducing the likelihood of premature wear and fatigue.
Considerations and Limitations:
Overloading: While helper springs provide additional support, they do not increase a vehicle’s maximum load-carrying capacity beyond the manufacturer’s specifications. It is crucial to adhere to the vehicle’s recommended load limits.
Proper Selection: Choosing the right helper springs suitable for your vehicle and intended use is essential. Consult with a knowledgeable automotive expert or refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Regular Maintenance: Like all suspension components, helper springs require periodic inspection and maintenance to ensure optimal performance and safety.
Helper springs are valuable additions to suspension systems, offering enhanced load-carrying capabilities and improved handling. When properly selected and installed, they contribute to a smoother and safer driving experience, especially when dealing with heavy loads or challenging driving conditions. However, it’s essential to understand their limitations and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for optimal results.