(Updated on September 7, 2020)
While fairly uncommon, vehicles may have a hydraulic suspension system instead of normal steel spring suspensions or even air suspensions. You’ll most often find them on competition low riders although a handful of high end vehicles use a hydraulic suspension but aftermarket kits can be purchased to convert the stock suspension on some vehicles.
For the sake of this article, we’ll mainly be referring to the non-competition use of this system.
How a Hydraulic Suspension Works
Basically, with any hydraulic system, there is something called hydraulic fluid which creates pressure in the “sealed” system. This pressure creates power which is then transmitted to various other components. In a hydraulic suspension system, this transmitted power is what causes the chassis to rise off the axle.
Unlike components in a standard suspension, there are 4 separate dampers which contain hydraulic fluid in the system. Pressure can go into each damper or get removed from it, depending on the conditions of the road. The overall objective is to make the ride more comfortable, especially on rougher roads.
Hydraulic suspension systems are typically used as upgrades for an existing vehicle. There are hydraulic suspension system kits available for modifying your existing suspension. The real question is, is it worth upgrading to a hydraulic suspension system?
Some people like these systems while others say they are no good. Rather than take anyone’s advice at face value, you should examine the advantages and disadvantages of driving a vehicle with a hydraulic suspension system. Then you can decide for yourself if this type of suspension is good for you.
The main advantage of a hydraulic suspension system is it creates a better driving experience. The reaction time of a hydraulic suspension is much faster than your standard coil spring suspension.
If you drive over a bump in the road, the response from your suspension will be immediate. This is largely thanks to the independent dampers of the suspension which contain their own hydraulic fluid. That is how they’re able to be independently pressurized or depressurized to handle various shocks to the vehicle.
Another advantage of a hydraulic suspension system is that it is customizable. For instance, you can raise the shocks in your vehicle to totally different heights.
If you are not experienced with this, then don’t worry about it. Just go with the recommendation of your installer for what height to set them at. The height you set can accommodate the various kinds of road conditions that you like to drive on.
The hydraulic suspension system may create a comfortable driving experience, but it costs a lot of money as well. Whether you purchase the hydraulic suspension kit or a vehicle which already has this suspension in it, you can expect to pay a lot more money than a steel spring suspension or a vehicle with that in it.
Plus, the maintenance costs will be rather expensive for a hydraulic suspension system. Since it is recommended that you regularly maintain them, your auto expenses will add up every year.
Another disadvantage is the potential that hydraulic suspensions have to leak fluid. All it takes is for one damper to become damaged or worn out and then, hydraulic fluid will leak all over the place. This will throw the entire suspension system out of whack.
This will mean more repairs or replacements for these parts. Meanwhile, you could suffer damage to other areas of your vehicle. Compared to air suspensions, hydraulic suspensions are believed to be bumpier when you’re driving.
A hydraulic suspension system will provide a smoother ride than a standard steel spring suspension system, but it won’t be as smooth as air suspension. Basically, the hydraulic system is right in the middle between the two.
Its cost is also in the middle of the two as well. The only real benefit to a hydraulic system is that it is customizable. If you like that part about it, then it might be worth the extra money for the upgrade. Otherwise, keep your current suspension or go with an air suspension.