Leaf Springs Suck, or Not.

by AJ Deysel

On paper, leaf spring suspension sucks. It is an old, outdated design, offers little articulation, bad ride quality, low approach and departure angles and minimal clearance under the axles. Always having only been good very carrying very heavy loads.

leaf spring suspension

In the real world however, leaf springs can be VERY different, and there is very good reason why the design has stood the test of time, being proven over MANY years and can still be found on all the toughest trails and events in the off-roading community.

Durability

leaf spring suspension

They are strong. Given the very nature of leaf springs, with the large use of tough steel and the simplistic design, they are inherently strong. Yes they stick out and catch on obstacles and rocks when approaching, breaking over, or departing from an obstacle that is high and short, but they have such utilitarian, basic and tough mounting points that they more often than not just take the abuse from bumping obstacles without any problems. The same cannot always be said for links in coil spring suspensions.

Articulation

leaf spring suspension

Yes, usually a stock leaf springs has very little if any articulation, and that is mainly due to it’s purpose, as they are usually designed with a few small, thick load carrying leafs underneath the pack, so that the suspension does not sag when loading the vehicle up heavy. For vehicles not intending to carry heavy loads often, or purpose built for rock crawling or off-road capability, this can very simply be changed and set up for more comfort and articulation, by removing one or more of the smaller (but usually thicker) load carrying leaf springs from each spring pack. Without requiring having to buy any other aftermarket parts, you already have a more comfortable and flexible ride and suspension setup right there.

Depending how far you go with removing the load springs, or putting longer springs packs in, or even adding in drop shackles, leaf spring suspension setups can be made to articulate as good or better than most coil spring or coil-over suspension setups.

Geometry

leaf spring suspension

What makes most coil-over or coil suspension setups with links so daunting, is all the geometry and correct angles that need to be considered and planned for. If one or more of those angles are off, there are numerous consequences, some very dangerous. These include bump steer, wheel shudder or death wobble, premature suspension unloading, extensive body roll, floating steering or steering with a lot of play, crabbing of the vehicle or axles, some even leading to breakages or accidents.

leaf spring suspension

The attractiveness of the leaf spring suspension system, is the simplicity of it, and that is have very few angles and placements to be concerned about or that can be wrong, making it easy for almost any novice to get working and right. Other than the drag link just clearing the leaf spring during articulation, there is not much else than can be wrong with the steering if the axle is kept at a flat angle, and even that can often be easily rectified with angles shims between the axle and the leaf springs.

leaf spring suspension

Conclusion

Yes, all the millennial modern know-it-alls out on the trails with their new Jeeps will say leaf springs suck, but the older, wise off-roaders and builders with actual experience know very well not to criticize a leaf sprung truck, as they most probably will get to the end of the trail long before the modern soft rigs do.

leaf spring suspension

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