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Leaf springs are a simple and effective form of a vehicle suspension system. Essentially a long curved piece of metal with much smaller “leaves” attached to it. The first appearance of the leaf spring can be dated back to the horsedrawn carriages of the early 17th century.
Leaf springs stuck around with the invention of the horseless carriage in the earliest times of automobile history. With most modern automobiles moving on to more complex suspension systems such as the Macpherson strut, coil springs, or torsion-type suspension systems, you might ask, why do pickup trucks still utilize leaf springs?
To understand why a design that people might see as old is still commonly used today, you must first understand how a leaf spring functions.
As stated earlier, leaf springs are essentially stacks of curved metal with more or less “leaves” depending on the expected load rating of the vehicle. These leaves are attached to the chassis of the automobile and rest above the rear axle.
As the rear axle travels over the bumps and imperfections in the road, the leaf springs flex up and down, dampening the forces you and your occupants feel.
Now that you understand how a leaf spring functions, you can understand why manufacturers still utilize them. There are a few primary reasons that leaf springs still see everyday use in pickup trucks and other large commercial vehicles today.
They offer a large amount of support for your pickup truck, allowing it to haul and tow heavy loads around town and across the country. They’re reliable and can take a beating from rough usage from all that hauling and towing. Lastly, they’re a simple, cheap, and practical design choice, benefitting both the manufacturer and consumers.
Another main reason pickups come equipped with leaf springs is their cost-effectiveness. Their simple design allows for cheaper manufacturing costs and overall lower costs to produce a vehicle while offering excellent performance for the performance of a truck.
These lower costs to the manufacturer also go hand in hand with lowering the costs to repair the suspension for the consumer. On average, repairing a leaf spring suspension system is much cheaper than overhauling an equally capable Macpherson or coil spring system.
Support for heavy loads
What is one of the primary uses of a pickup truck? They come equipped with large beds for a reason, hauling big and heavy loads and towing equally as heavy things such as campers, trailers, and boats.
As your hauling or towing around these big and heavy items, your suspension system is put under immense stress, especially when ascending or descending big hills and inclines. To support these heavy loads under the various conditions you’ll encounter, a vehicle will need a solid and robust suspension system.
Leaf springs fit this requirement while offering numerous other benefits. A leaf spring design provides a large amount of support between the vehicle’s wheels, axle, and chassis. Additionally, the load that a pickup truck is carrying is evenly distributed horizontally, along with the leaf spring rather than vertically up and down, meaning a much higher load potential.
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As stated before, one of the defining characteristics of the leaf springs is their simple construction, primarily being multiple layers of metal layered over one another. This simple yet strong design leads to generally increased reliability. The rear of your vehicle will be less likely to succumb to the immense loads that it will encounter in its day-to-day life.
Reliability is crucial for both passenger and commercial vehicles. Whether you are on a cross-country trip moving your home or towing around heavy construction equipment, no one wants to be stranded on the side of the road because of a catastrophic suspension failure, especially if you’re carrying a big critical load.
One of the primary reasons for anyone to purchase a pickup truck (including for families) is the utility that they offer. Whether that means traversing terrain no car wants to travel or hauling a load a small car wouldn’t dream of carrying. Consumers always want a reliable, cheap, and effective product. Leaf springs allow manufacturers to offer a solution that meets and even exceeds consumer expectations regarding a pickup truck’s suspension.