5 Link Rear Suspension (A complete insight)

In this brief article, we will discuss the 5 Link Rear Suspension, its types, advantages, and applications.

A Multi Link Suspension is a type of suspension (both dependent and independent) which consists of 3 or more control links. In general, the suspension links of the Multi Link Setup, working in combination, are aimed at constraining 5 degrees of freedom of the knuckle. This would effectively leave the knuckle free in only one direction of motion, i.e., the vertical motion.

The 5 Link suspension is a type of Multi Link suspension usually found to be the rear suspension setup of passenger cars, SUVs and Pickup trucks. The 5-Link can be applied to a Solid rear axle and an independent floating rear axle. The basic construction of the 5-Link is different for a Solid Rear axle and Independent Floating Rear axle.

The 2 different types of 5 Link suspension are:

  • Rear 5-Link Solid Axle suspension
  • Rear 5-Link Independent Axle suspension

Rear 5-Link Solid Axle Suspension

The rear 5-Link is a rear solid axle suspension setup. The rear 4-Link is a step above the 3-Link, in that, instead of just 2 trailing arms, there are 2 Upper control arms as well. The 5-Link setup is the same as the 4-Link setup, with the addition of a 5th link, namely, the PanHard Rod. In many cases, when designing a rear 4-Link set-up, the need for a Panhard Rod can be eliminated. 

This is achieved by positioning the upper control arms in a ‘V’ shape. The ‘V’ shaped upper control arms, in combination with the lower control arms, can indirectly constrain the axle from sideways movement. The only caveat is that, once the actual control arms are attached through bushings, the combined effect of the bushings in the system must be sufficient to arrest axle lateral movement. In cases where the car is performance oriented, the Panhard rod may not be possible to eliminate due to the excessive lateral forces from the tires.

Rear 5-Link Independent Axle Suspension

The 5-links are, in essence, a sort of evolution from the Double Wishbone. The Upper Wishbone and Lower Wishbone are basically split into 2 separate links. The resulting setup consists of 2 lower and 2 upper control arms, and a Toe control arm (which is the Tie Rod from the Double Wishbone setup). The Upper and Lower Control arms, in combination, are designed to counteract the Braking, Acceleration and Roll loads. The Toe Arm counteracts the Aligning Torque that tries to steer the wheel when the vehicle corners.

Different OEMs have made their own version of this basic 5 Link setup. There is no constraint on the angle at which the Links to be oriented in the suspension, nor is there any limitation on length, as long as the 5-link setup can be packaged sensibly. So, some cars have one of the links as a Trailing arm, that is almost longitudinally mounted and designed to counter longitudinal vehicle loads.

  • The Ram 1500 Pickup truck is a good example of a medium duty truck with a solid axle rear 5-link setup
  • The origins of the multi link suspension can be traced back to the Mercedes C111 Prototype Sportscar which had the first version of a Multi Link Suspension.
  • The earliest mass-produced 5-Link Independent rear suspension were the Mercedes Benz W201 chassis based, 190 Series of Models, introduced in 1982. The W201 chassis, during the design stage, was built so as to be applied as a Road car model and at the same time be a homologated racing model that could compete in the DTM class. Due to this reason, the rear suspension was designed to be a 5-link so as to resist high cornering forces of upto 1g.
  • Honda, in 1997 introduced a rather creative interpretation of the 5-Link rear suspension setup, which Honda called “watts Link” type. In the side view, the suspension setup did resemble the shape of a ‘Watts Link’.

A later version of this rear suspension setup can be seen in the first generation (1997-2002) Honda CRV

  • The Hyundai Genesis has a 5-Link rear suspension setup wherein, there are two upper links, a lower link, a trailing link, and a toe control link.
  • 5 Link suspension is typically used where achieving good ride quality as well as good handling characteristics at the same time are of high priority
  • The design advantage that the Multi Link suspension offers is the possibility to alter a hardpoint (or joint location) in the suspension, without affecting other suspension geometry. An example is the Double Wishbone suspension where, in order to alter the steering ball-joint hardpoint, it would be necessary to change the shape of the control arm. In the case of the Multi-link, this modification can be done by modifying one control arm alone.
  • Using a Multi-link arrangement, it is possible to indirectly constrain a degree of freedom, without necessarily having a control arm in that particular direction. The net effect of links, when working together would achieve the desired constraint.
  • The 5 Link design allows more freedom of moving hardpoints in order to give the suspension “Anti-Squat” and “Anti-Dive” attributes
  • In Off Roading conditions, where wheel articulations are important, a multi link suspension would provide better “Flex” ability as compared to a Double Wishbone setup. The reason is that a multi-link would use 2 extra ball-joints (one for each control arm) and that a control arm, being smaller, does not need the kind of rigidity that a Wishbone arm requires.
  • The effective steering axis of the knuckle can be moved further outboard because of the 4 ball-joints (2 for the upper control arms and 2 for the lower control arms) instead of two in the case of the double wishbone.
  • The 5 Link setup adds complexity and therefore visualization of the geometry would be difficult using a 2 Dimensional representation. The usage of 3D Computer Aided Design softwares becomes essential.
  • Developing a new 5 Link suspension would require comparatively more engineering effort and expense, as compared to an axle beam or a solid driven axle type of setup. 
  • Due to the number of parts and complexity, an independent suspension solution could also result in higher manufacturing costs.
  • The number of maintenance issues and associated costs would increase according to the increased number of parts and different types of joints involved in the 5 Link suspension.

Conclusion

In this brief article, we have discussed the 5 Link Rear Suspension, its types, advantages, and applications.

In case of any questions or comments, please feel free to ask.

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