Leaf Spring vs Coil Spring
Which one is better: leaf springs or coil springs? This question has long been the subject of heated debate among automotive enthusiasts.
In this post, we will try to answer this question once and for all. At the same time, we will provide information about leaf spring and coil spring suspension arrangements.
What are Leaf Springs?
You will find leaf springs on older vehicles. Typically, they are a suspension component made of steel strips of different sizes stacked one upon the other.
Leaf springs have an arc-shaped look. Usually, the axle will be in the center of the leaf spring system, while both ends will be attached to the chassis of your vehicle through looped steel shackles.
How Do Leaf Springs Work?
The mechanism of leaf springs is very simple. The setup will flatten upon encountering force helping dampen jolts, shocks, and bumps while driving.
Leaf spring shackles are used to attach leaf springs to the vehicle. Those have free-hanging loops at the ends, so when the wheel faces obstacles, the leaf spring shackles allow the arrangement to change in length constantly.
Also, as the axle is attached at the middle of the leaf spring, there is no need for separate linkages for the axle, which makes the leaf spring arrangement simpler. As the positioning of the axle is determined by the leaf spring, soft springs should not be used.
Because of the rigid springs used, the leaf spring system doesn’t allow a comfortable ride. But as they are sturdier than coil springs, they can handle heavy loads effortlessly compared to coil springs.
As a result, leaf springs are preferred for trucks, vans, and commercial vehicles that are used for heavy load.
Leaf Spring Suspension: Benefits and Disadvantages
- Superior backload capacity
- Simple design (easier to repair and upgrade)
- Sturdy and reliable
- Cheaper than coil springs
- Prone to axle wrap and shackle inversion
- Not good for off-roading (poor approach and departure angles)
- Doesn’t offer a comfortable driving experience
What Are Coil Springs?
On the contrary, a coil spring is the newer and improved version of a leaf spring. As the name implies, the coil spring setup consists of gigantic compression springs coiled around the struts or shock absorbers of the vehicle.
In general, this suspension component acts exactly like usual coil springs – they absorb the energy and consequently release it. Depending on the application, a coil spring can differ in size and strength.
How Do Coil Springs Work?
A coil spring suspension system is much more complicated than leaf spring suspensions. It involves more parts and components, so it can be customized further.
Normally, the coil spring system absorbs and releases the energy obtained from shocks and bumps continuously depending on the terrain you are driving on.
Coil spring suspension systems have better bend and flex capability in most types of driving conditions.
The construction of coil springs allows for better approach and departure angles, which is a great advantage of coil springs if you own a 4×4 off-roading vehicle. Thus, for high-performance and off-road vehicles, coil springs are preferred.
Coil Spring Suspension Pros and Cons
- Better ride comfort
- Allows extreme customization (fine-tuning possible)
- Incredible off-road performance
- Not prone to shackle inversion and axle wrap
- Not suitable for hauling heavy loads and heavy vehicles
What is better for off-roading? Leaf Springs or Coil Springs?
Coil springs are, without a doubt, better for off-road conditions. When overlanding, you can rely on the coil spring system as it offers incredible articulation, the best approach and departure angles, and improved handling.
For off-roading, you will need a vehicle that can handle treacherous roads with shakes, shocks, and a hefty amount of abuse.
Also, the suspension system should be capable of handling steep inclines and slopes. In these conditions, a set of coil springs is the most ideal solution, because coil springs are designed to absorb and release the energy produced via vehicle movement.
On the other hand, leaf springs don’t provide great approach and departure angles. So, you could get stuck if there is uneven terrain using a leaf spring system.
Related Post: IFS vs Solid Front Axle
Are Coil Springs Better Than Leaf Springs?
According to the above discussion, it is evident that coil springs are well ahead of leaf springs in many aspects. They provide better flexibility, comfort, and customization.
The only factor coil springs lack is that they are not suitable for hauling heavy cargo and are a bit expensive. Otherwise, coil springs are better than leaf springs.
However, things also depend on the way you are going to use your rig. For instance, if you have a trailer or truck, which you use for hauling heavier loads along with long-distance trips, then a leaf spring system would be better than a coil spring system.
However, for high-performance cars and off-roaders, coil spring suspension systems offer the best driving experience.
Because it is possible to customize and fine-tune, the coil spring suspension system is better than the leaf spring suspension systems.
In addition, this system comes with better ride comfort, better flexibility, improved handling, and excellent approach and departure angles. You can see why leaf springs have been replaced by coil springs in modern vehicles.
Which is Better: Leaf Spring Or Coil Spring?
Generally, we would say that coil springs are better than leaf springs. However, it also depends on the way you will be using your vehicle.
For example, if you would be hauling heavy loads, then leaf springs would be a good opinion.
However, for overlanding and overall better performance from your vehicle, the best option would be coil springs in most situations. At the same time, coil springs are customizable to the bits but are costlier than leaf springs.
Can You Replace Leaf Springs With Coil Springs?
Yes, you can convert a leaf spring suspension system to a coil spring system. However, retro-fits will be very expensive. At the same time, it will take a lot of time and you will need professional help to complete the conversion.
Why Do Trucks Still Use Leaf Springs?
Leaf springs are designed to handle weighty loads. Their wide and tight structure distributes the load better, so they offer superior hauling power compared to coil springs.
Due to this reality, you will continue to find leaf springs on many trucks and commercial vehicles.
What Is The Advantage Of Coil Spring?
Coil springs are the modern version of the spring system used in vehicles. They have replaced the older leaf spring suspension technology because they are full of features that leaf springs cannot offer.
For example, coil spring suspensions offer more comfort even when you drive along rough roads.
They are extremely customizable and have a superior ability to flex while offering the best approach and departure angles. As a result, coil springs are the best option for off-roaders.
Ferenc Elekes has been a devout Overlanding enthusiast for many years. During that time, Ferenc has explored 75 countries on six continents, with overland travel involved in 40 countries on three continents. From his trusty 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado with a roof-top tent, he’s blogged about experiences that can only be found in the remotest regions on Earth. Along the way, he's gained in-depth knowledge of the novel challenges overlanders encounter and practical ways to meet them. On his website, he shares informed opinions about everything from the best overland gear to how to get a vehicle unstuck. Ferenc has also written for Ih8mud, the Expedition Portal, the Overland Journal, and he is often invited as a guest to outdoors-related podcasts.
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