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Unread 06-09-2019, 09:06 PM   #1
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Default 4 Link / 3 Link Rear Suspensions

While I am not new to off roading, I am new to owning an off road daily driver vehicle. This has prompted me to investigate off road suspension systems. I'm seeing that the way to go is some variation of a 4 link suspension, especially in the rear. This has inspired me to build one for my G1 Hunting Cart. The goal will be ride, articulation, and travel improvements. Once this is complete, I will rename the cart to commemorate the build.

So....I'm challenging everyone here on the forum to post their 4 link and 3 link rear suspension setups here so we can have discussion on what has worked, what hasn't, variations in designs and functionality, and how your setup came to be.

Thanks, and please post your setups!

Slo
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Unread 06-10-2019, 08:21 AM   #2
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Default Re: 4 Link / 3 Link Rear Suspensions

I guess I'll start by posting some basic info about 3 and 4 link suspensions. The concept is the same as on Jeeps etc. I am by no means an expert, so please if I make a mistake please correct me, I am still learning.

3 Link:
The 3 link is the most basic of the rear coil spring/solid axle rear suspension systems. Consists of 2 long lower link rods connecting the rear axle to the frame. This would be similar to a swing arm, except using heim joints on one end of the rod to allow for articulation. In this setup, a panhard rod is a must. The panhard rod keeps the axle centered on the frame, and prevents side to side loose movement.

This design is very simple, but it doesn't work when you need to keep the axle position fixed, meaning, the axle will swing in an arc and change the position of the angle of the drive shaft and pinion angle. So for golf carts with a belt drive this is the one that will be the easiest to fabricate, and the belt drive doesn't really care about pinion angle.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 3 link 1.jpg (51.2 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg 3 link 2.jpg (35.8 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg 3 link drawing 1.jpg (44.7 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg 3 link drawing.jpg (89.5 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg 3 link cart 8.jpg (144.0 KB, 0 views)
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Unread 06-10-2019, 08:27 AM   #3
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Default Re: 4 Link / 3 Link Rear Suspensions

4 Link Parallel:

The Parallel 4 link is the same as the 3 link, but you add two upper links. The idea is that the 4 links must be the same length and attached in the same location, but keeping the upper and lower link parallel to each other at both the forward and rear mount.

This design keeps the rear axle pinion angle constant throughout articulation and swing. It is more complicated because of the length and positioning of the links can cause issues with contacting the frame and other things like fuel tanks etc. Some vehicles are near impossible to use a 4 link, therefore, they use the 3 link. A panhard rod must be used to keep the axle centered side to side.
Attached Images
File Type: png 4 link drawing 3.png (7.7 KB, 0 views)
File Type: gif 4 link drawing 1.gif (10.5 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg 4 link drawing 2.jpg (137.1 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg 4 link 1.jpg (392.1 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg 4 link 2.jpg (131.2 KB, 0 views)
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Unread 06-10-2019, 08:34 AM   #4
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Default Re: 4 Link / 3 Link Rear Suspensions

4 Link Triangulated:

The Triangulated 4 link is the same as the Parallel 4 link, except the panhard rod is not used. Instead, the top two links are angled inward (triangulated) in order to keep the axle centered from moving side to side. Usually the lower set of links are parallel to the frame, and the upper links are angled 45 degrees toward the top of the rear end center section/pumpkin. The configuration of the 4 links can also be reversed, as long as the upper and lower sets are opposite, meaning one set angled in, one set angled out (see pics). Again, no panhard rod is needed here because the angled links keep the rear axle centered.

This setup is considered by most to be the best for articulation, ride, axle/pinion angle, and durability, and is used most commonly in the rock crawling vehicles. The disadvantage would be the angled link design can be complicated due to the surrounding frame members, location of fuel tanks, etc. This setup is also the most complicated to get the geometry spot on and takes a lot of time to get it setup correctly.

For golf carts, the triangulated 4 link is probably unnecessary due to the lack of need for serious articulation. Most golf carts are 2 wheel drive and likely won't be used for rock crawling or extreme off roading.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 4 link 2.jpg (7.2 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg 4 link.jpg (56.7 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg triangulated 4 link.jpg (16.2 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg triangulated 4 link 2.jpg (72.2 KB, 0 views)
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Unread 06-10-2019, 08:46 AM   #5
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Default Re: 4 Link / 3 Link Rear Suspensions

Common Design Mistakes:

1.) Using heim joints on all links. This can make the setup wobbly for on road use. Using a bushing on one end helps to stiffen the links and makes for a better ride, but does sacrifice some articulation.

2.) Non parallel links. This causes the axle to swing in different directions, especially in the 4 link setup. This can cause pinion angle issues and driveline problems.

3.) Too small diameter links. If soft metal or too small diameter/thickness tubing is used for the links, they can bend and cause alignment problems and driveline binding. It is better to over engineer in this department.

4.) Geometry. When building these types of suspension systems, it is best to do your homework. Read as much as you can, talk to people who have done it. This is one of the reasons I started this thread, so we can all learn what the proper way. Get it right the first time and you will be greatly rewarded with a good riding and functioning suspension action.

5.) Take your time. Self explanatory, right?

6.) Welds. Inferior welds can fail leaving you stranded, or worse, cause you to crash and get hurt. If you are not a welder, most of us aren't, do yourself a favor and get a couple books and read up on the type of welding you are doing. Clean metal, beveled edges, tight gaps, correct heat, correct movement of the puddle. These are the basics. Practice on the same thickness material until you get the settings and technique right, then do your final welding.

I'm sure there's more, but these are the big ones that I've made note of in my research. Again, I'm no expert and I am still learning.
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Unread 06-10-2019, 08:47 AM   #6
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Default Re: 4 Link / 3 Link Rear Suspensions

Please post your designs! Use good pics. Explain what you did. Tell us how it works!
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Unread 06-11-2019, 08:44 AM   #7
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Default Re: 4 Link / 3 Link Rear Suspensions

I am in the planning stages of building a 4-link triangulated setup for my RXV. I've went back and forth about whether to use heim joints throughout or just heim joints on the axle connection points and bushings at the frame. I need to be realistic as 95% of the time the cart will be on paved surfaces and I want a firm, planted on-road feel. I live in Florida so even when I drive off road it is casual and pretty flat. The more I think about it I'll likely end up using a combination of bushings and heim joints.

I don't like the idea of a parallel 4-link or 3-link suspension as these carts are designed in such a way that creating a panhard bar seems very awkward. All of the cart setups I've seen require the panhard bracket to extend down quite a bit from the frame which causes a significant amount of leverage. Additionally I don't like the aesthetics of the design.

Quote:
Originally Posted by slonomo View Post
Common Design Mistakes:

1.) Using heim joints on all links. This can make the setup wobbly for on road use. Using a bushing on one end helps to stiffen the links and makes for a better ride, but does sacrifice some articulation.

2.) Non parallel links. This causes the axle to swing in different directions, especially in the 4 link setup. This can cause pinion angle issues and driveline problems.

3.) Too small diameter links. If soft metal or too small diameter/thickness tubing is used for the links, they can bend and cause alignment problems and driveline binding. It is better to over engineer in this department.

4.) Geometry. When building these types of suspension systems, it is best to do your homework. Read as much as you can, talk to people who have done it. This is one of the reasons I started this thread, so we can all learn what the proper way. Get it right the first time and you will be greatly rewarded with a good riding and functioning suspension action.

5.) Take your time. Self explanatory, right?

6.) Welds. Inferior welds can fail leaving you stranded, or worse, cause you to crash and get hurt. If you are not a welder, most of us aren't, do yourself a favor and get a couple books and read up on the type of welding you are doing. Clean metal, beveled edges, tight gaps, correct heat, correct movement of the puddle. These are the basics. Practice on the same thickness material until you get the settings and technique right, then do your final welding.

I'm sure there's more, but these are the big ones that I've made note of in my research. Again, I'm no expert and I am still learning.
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Unread 06-11-2019, 10:49 AM   #8
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Default Re: 4 Link / 3 Link Rear Suspensions

I see what you are saying about stability. I used Heims at both ends of my drag links but my cart was for off the road use only.
The build link is old and the thread is long, mostly because the guys were having fun teasing me and I was bumping my way through having never done such a project before... or since, lol.
In the design phase my partner and I did have the opportunity to view a failed 4 link build which was quite educational. The failed design did not allow for enough twisting action associated with the rear wheels traveling up and down. On my design the wheels move 20 inches up and down.

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Unread 06-11-2019, 06:34 PM   #9
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Default Re: 4 Link / 3 Link Rear Suspensions

I agree guys, articulation off road is key. On road, not so much. I guess I'm wondering if one mostly drives on the road, why would you switch to a triangulated four link vs. the stock suspension? Isn't the idea of the 4 link to create articulation and independent movement of each rear wheel? On smooth roads you would not need this kind of movement?

Scottyb, what kind of carnage did you see on the 4 link that was not well designed? Was it from bind?
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Unread 06-11-2019, 08:14 PM   #10
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Default Re: 4 Link / 3 Link Rear Suspensions

The failed system failed at the forward motor cradle connection. It was pretty ugly when the connection failed
I used another heim joint here to a short swing arm. This gave me front to back movement as well as all the twist and rear vertical movement needed. I've no trouble with it.
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