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Summary
  • A MacPherson strut suspension is a simple independent suspension. It usually has a control arm and a rod, which forms a triangle against the vehicle’s chassis.
  • Its simple design makes it less space-consuming, more cost-effective, and lighter compared to other suspension systems.
  • However, vehicles equipped with a MacPherson strut suspension system are challenging to adjust. It’s also less durable than other suspension system types.

Caution: Don’t attempt to disassemble a strut without the proper training and tools. The spring is strong enough to cause fatal injury. It’s best to replace struts as an assembly, and they can be purchased this way. You get a new spring and shock all in one package.

Understanding your vehicle’s suspension system can help you maintain stability, comfort, and safety while driving. By familiarizing yourself with its functions, you can identify potential issues immediately and ensure proper maintenance, making the most of your car’s lifespan.

One of the most commonly used suspensions for the front axle is called the MacPherson strut suspension.

What Is a MacPherson Strut Suspension?

A MacPherson strut suspension is a simple independent suspension that’s commonly used for the front wheels of a vehicle, but is also used on the rear of most modern vehicles.

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car strut suspension carries the weight of the vehicle higher in the car body for a lower center of gravity copy
Strut suspension carries the weight of the vehicle higher in the car body for a lower center of gravity and better stability overall. | Image Source: Richard McCuistian
photos showing a short long arm suspension and strut suspension
Photos showing a short-long-arm (SLA) suspension and strut suspension | Image Source: Richard McCuistian

How Does a MacPherson Strut Suspension Work?

In this system, the control arm guides the wheel laterally and attaches directly to the lower part of the wheel carrier or hub. Meanwhile, the coil spring is installed within the cylinder and is cupped by a wide collar at the top, while the damper shaft runs through the center of the spring unit.

When there are bumps or uneven surfaces, the spring compresses to absorb the impact force. The shock absorber does its job of dampening the motion, maintaining the ride’s stability.

illustration of struts typically used on hondas
The illustration shown here is of the type typically used on Hondas. It has two ball joints and two control arms–upper and lower–rather than just having a lower ball joint. The strut is attached to the lower control arm rather than the steering knuckle on this type, and the steering axis passes through the two ball joints rather than the center of the strut as is common on strut suspension on many other platforms. | Image Source: Richard McCuistian
illustration of a very common type of strut suspension
The illustration is of a very common type of strut suspension where the lower end of the strut attaches to the steering knuckle rather than the lower control arm. This type only has one control arm and one ball joint per side. | Image Source: Richard McCuistian

What Are the Advantages of a MacPherson Strut Suspension?

Many automakers integrate the MacPherson strut suspension into their vehicles because it offers the following benefits:

Better Stability

photo of strut towers
Strut suspension is far more stable than the older kind of suspension because the weight of the vehicle is carried very high in the body. Notice the “strut towers” (see illustration) on each side of most engine compartments. Even large SUVs now have strut suspension on the front and the rear to make them less prone to roll-over. | Image Source: Richard McCuistian

Simple Design

MacPherson strut suspensions have fewer components compared to other complex suspension systems. This simplicity reduces weight, cost, and complexity in manufacturing and maintenance.

Space Saving

The integrated design of the MacPherson strut opens more space in the vehicle’s engine bay. This makes it easier for mechanics to gain access to components in the engine bay when conducting repairs.

Low Cost

Because they have a simple design, MacPherson strut suspensions are often more cost-effective to manufacture, install, and maintain compared to other suspension designs.

Lightweight

The streamlined design of MacPherson strut suspensions helps reduce a car’s overall vehicle weight. Lightweight vehicles are more fuel-efficient compared to heavy vehicles.

What Are the Drawbacks of a MacPherson Strut Suspension?

Like any other system, the MacPherson strut suspension system isn’t perfect. Here are its disadvantages:

See also  Shocks and Struts Replacement Cost

Less Adjustability

Because the MacPherson strut suspension has an integrated design, it can offer limited adjustability compared to other suspension designs. Lowering your vehicle or adjusting handling can be a challenge.

The MacPherson strut has fixed mounting points, and that limits the ability to improve or upgrade your car’s suspension.

Lower Durability

The fixed mounting points also make this suspension less durable compared to other suspension types. There’s a higher risk of suspension damage when traveling through rough terrain.

What’s the Difference Between a Double Wishbone and a MacPherson Strut?

The double wishbone suspension is widely used on performance cars and high-end models. Let’s dive into how it differs from the MacPherson strut.

The MacPherson strut has a single integrated assembly, while the double wishbone suspension has control arms that resemble a “double wishbone.” These control arms are connected to the wheel hub and chassis.

Because it has a double wishbone structure, each wheel can act independently from each other. Also, the double wishbone suspension system’s control arm is equipped with ball joints, making it a more flexible type of suspension than the MacPherson strut.

Moreover, it’s easier to adjust your ride’s handling if it is equipped with a double wishbone suspension. You’ll have more control over the wheel’s motions through parameters like camber angle, caster angle, and toe pattern.

Some popular models with a double wishbone suspension system include the Lancia Delta S4, Mercedes-Benz (most models), and the Toyota Tundra.

Meanwhile, a MacPherson strut suspension is typical in passenger vehicles. For example, front-wheel-drive compact cars, such as the Honda Civic, and all-wheel-drive SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 are usually equipped with this system.

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Suspension Maintenance Tips You Should Know About

Whether your ride has a MacPherson strut suspension, double wishbone suspension, or any type of suspension, it’s important to keep it well-maintained.

Here are some tips that can help you take care of your suspension system:

Check Wheel Alignment

Regularly ensure your wheels are properly aligned to prevent your tires from wearing out prematurely. This also helps maintain optimal handling and stability.

If you notice uneven tire wear or steering pull, have your alignment checked right away by a trusted professional.

Inspect the Tires

Inspecting the condition of your tires is a good way to identify if your suspension system already needs to be serviced.

Start by checking for any low or bare spots in the tread. If you notice any unusual wear, don’t think twice about taking your ride to an auto repair shop.

Lubricate Moving Parts

It’s also important to lubricate moving parts like your suspension’s ball joints, tire rod ends, and control arm bushings. Proper lubrication will help reduce friction, minimizing stress on your suspension components.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

File Under : Suspension , DIY Tagged With :
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