What Are Adaptive Dampers in Your Car?
These high-performance shock absorbers are designed to offer better comfort and body control.
When browsing the tech specs of a new vehicle, you might have come across the term adaptive dampers. Typically, this feature commands a premium price. You'll find adaptive dampers mainly on high-performance or luxury automobiles. Here's a look at how this suspension component works and the benefits it brings to driving pleasure.
Dampers Are An Important Part of Your Suspension
Dampers is another term for shock absorbers, a key component in any vehicle's suspension setup. As the name suggests, this part "dampens" the motion of a car as it moves down the road.
When everything works like it should, this prevents your car from bouncing uncontrollably on its springs when it encounters bumps or potholes by absorbing the energy of that movement. Dampers perform a similar function when cornering or accelerating, helping a vehicle's tires maintain contact with the road below.
Dampers rely on the movement of hydraulic fluid through the shock body to achieve these levels of control. Using a series of valves, the fluid restrains the action of a piston directly linked to the chassis, absorbing the energy of its motion.
Adaptive Dampers Are Designed to Provide Comfort and Control
Standard shock absorbers feature a limited level of response to road conditions. Adaptive dampers, on the other hand, can vary their response to suspension motion to provide a broader range of performance. Although the methods can differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, most of these adaptive damper systems allow the driver to specify the level of rebound and compression offered by each damper, which alters the level of control they provide over body movement.
Some adaptive dampers function automatically, adjusting suspension response in real time based on sensor data gathered while driving to respond most effectively to the demands on the vehicle. Some rely on magnetically charged hydraulic fluid that can change its resistance to movement by introducing an electric current, allowing for ultra-rapid changes in the damper's performance profile.
The Benefits of Adaptive Dampers
The more tightly body motion is controlled, the less body roll a vehicle experiences when cornering at a high rate of speed. Unfortunately, the more restrictive a shock is, the less comfortable the ride can feel. High-performance shocks can often make a car or truck drive roughly and stiffly during regular commuting.
Adaptive dampers allow engineers to balance these two poles by creating shock absorbers that are soft and supple in their response when driving at regular speeds or over rougher roads but stiffer and more controlling when it's time to drive more aggressively.
This split personality emerges on vehicles such as the BMW M3 and the Chevrolet Corvette that combine performance with luxury, and on full-size trucks and SUVs — such as the Cadillac Escalade — that marry comfort with exceptional towing and hauling capability.