Why does my Car sway when I hit a bump

When you go over a bump in your car, why does it feel like the car is swaying and want to tip over to one side? Well, there’s a few reasons for this:

There are two forces at work when you hit a bump. One force is an upwards force from the road pushing up on the bottom of the car. This is called vertical loading. The other force is lateral or centripetal force which acts towards the center of curvature of the turn. This also contributes to tipping as well as pulling you away from that center line of travel – or into oncoming traffic – if we’re talking about driving straight and hitting a pothole then veering off onto the shoulder and ditch and eventually into a tree.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume that your vehicle leans towards the outside of the curve in such an instance, and not because you were holding onto one side while driving around said pothole. But either way, it’s pretty much the same result: tipping or turning, even if very slight.

Forces tend to be applied at 90 degrees to whatever they are acting upon. In this case, when you hit a bump and turn slightly towards it, you’ve acted upon your car in two directions: vertically and laterally (or at least enough so that its effects seem present).

That means that your weight is then forced away from where your tires contact the road – usually into what we would consider ‘the bad part’ of the car, where it can’t be supported by four properly loaded tires. Take a look at any picture or video of an accident involving serious damage to a vehicle and you’ll typically see something punctured or broken on the opposite side from which the impact came.

 While this is true in many cases, your wheels are usually still locked onto the road surface – but now one corner has less weight bearing down upon it than before. This loss of pressure causes that corner to lift up – think about how much easier it is for you to raise your feet off the ground when you sit in a chair with all four legs firmly planted compared to trying to do so if all but two legs were supporting you already.

When that tire lifts up it has to take some of the car with it and that’s what we experience as tipping or swaying – depending on how much pressure is lost and how quickly.

Another scenario for this would be if you hit a pothole, there is a temporary loss in weight which may cause your vehicle to sway or lean until the weight distribution returns. This does not mean you should never hit those bumps! But this might decrease your comfort while driving because those forces can be pretty strong and definitely uncomfortable especially when you lose control over them (in the instance of a car accident).

How to fix Car sways when hitten by a bump

  1. One of the tires is low on air
  2. The tire treads are worn down or too thin
  3. You have a bent rim, which causes your car to wobble when you drive over bumps
  4. Your alignment needs to be adjusted
  5. Your brake pads need replacing (or they’re just way past due)
  6. You may have a faulty suspension system that’s causing it to sway more than usual

Chris Law

Chris is a content writer at WhatinGuide.

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