What Is MacPherson Strut Suspension And What Makes It Popular?

The MacPherson strut is the most common type of front suspension on modern cars, but what exactly is it, and why does almost everyone use it?
MacPherson strut suspension on a 718 Spyder RS
MacPherson strut suspension on a 718 Spyder RS

If you're into cars, you'll have likely heard the term 'MacPherson strut suspension' countless times. But what does that actually mean? Thankfully, it's a reasonably easy concept to get your head around. 

MacPherson strut suspension is a simple independent suspension design used by just about every mainstream car maker in the world, normally for front wheels. It’s based around a basic triangular design in two parts; a control arm and a radius rod, which together form a triangle against the car’s chassis. Usually, this triangle is at the bottom of the suspension rather than the top.

Suspension, top, control arm, bottom, drive shaft and steering arm
Suspension, top, control arm, bottom, drive shaft and steering arm

The control arm locates the wheel laterally and the radius rod stops it moving fore and aft in the wheel arch. The control arm was usually the chunkier and stronger of the two and was the one that attached directly to the lower part of the wheel carrier, otherwise known as the hub. These days, the two have been streamlined into one, much larger, control arm in conjunction with a stabiliser bar that links the chassis and suspension unit.

Speaking of which, the spring and damper unit is mounted vertically or close to it. It consists of an enclosed cylinder that bolts to the top of the hub; within it is the shock absorber or damper. At the top, it has a wide collar that cups the coil spring, while the damper shaft runs all the way through the centre of the coil to the top of the spring unit, which is bolted fast to the structure of the car.

This is what a cheap four-year-old car looks like underneath...
This is what a cheap four-year-old car looks like underneath...

In this way, the MacPherson strut creates a three-point fixing structure for the wheel that proves very strong and versatile, and can easily be tailored to more demanding usage like track driving. At least as importantly, it’s also a cheap design to produce. Car makers love ‘cheap and effective’ just as much as we do.

The design really came into its own as cars began to be produced with ‘unibody’ chassis, also called monocoques. Monocoques have high relative rigidity between the MacPherson strut’s mounting point areas, giving it the kind of support and control it needs in order to work properly.

...and this is what a more expensive 12-year-old car looks like underneath
...and this is what a more expensive 12-year-old car looks like underneath

Various developments over the years have seen different interpretations of the design emerge, from Earle S MacPherson’s first sketches where an extended anti-roll bar also functioned as the radius rod, to current ideas where the two are separate. Some cars also now use a wishbone instead of the old control arm and radius rod combination.

It’s obviously a good system. The likes of BMW and Porsche use it, and you’ll find it hiding behind the front wheels of the Golf GTI, for example. It’s not just for shopping cars, even though 99 per cent of them use the same basic design.

A double-wishbone setup allows more adjustment for camber and roll centre, which can reduce body roll. It’s also a stiffer option and some people say it introduces more control to a car’s handling. The fact remains that the MacPherson strut is a brilliantly effective way to combine strength, spring and stability at a low manufacturing cost.



Uhmm Matt, I’m actually here to talk about the last post where EVERY COMMENT was glitched to downvote oblivion.

We know that there is someone exploiting the Downvote glitch. can you please do something about it, or at least can you fix the issue permanently. It truly is ruining the state of the website mate.

Please tell your IT team or whatever to try and do something. It honestly is getting out of hand

07/26/2018 - 14:13 |
54 | 12

‘’Why’’, you ask?

07/26/2018 - 14:15 |
28 | 4

Also, the post actually helped me out here

I’ve seen many car reviews talking about these and torshen beam systems(maybe a post about those would do as well) and m it kinda makes sense now!


07/26/2018 - 14:16 |
4 | 2

torshen beam

You mean torsion beam, right? It does exactly what the name says, it’s a beam that twists and works as a suspension that way. Exclusively used for rear suspension. It is, much like the MacPherson strut in the front, not the most ideal design ever, but it’s good enough, cheap to produce and very compact.

07/26/2018 - 15:19 |
6 | 0


07/26/2018 - 15:38 |
0 | 0

Fk MacCheapsh*t strut.

07/26/2018 - 15:39 |
8 | 2

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

true double wishbone, not that idiotic hybrid

07/26/2018 - 15:40 |
0 | 2
Luke ZS 96

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)


07/26/2018 - 17:58 |
0 | 0

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

And I’m here driving my car with MacPhersons that handles better than 95% of cars with other types of suspension

07/26/2018 - 20:53 |
6 | 2

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)


pushrods make everything better -jeremy clarkson

07/27/2018 - 03:52 |
2 | 0

I’d like to see L McPherson ‘s strut

07/26/2018 - 20:05 |
2 | 2

One important reason for Porsche using the MacPherson setup (While f.e. the AMG GT uses a “more sophisticated” double wishbone suspension) is the ability to keep the suspension compact in order to provide usable luggage space.
Why does the Golf GTI uses a MacPherson front suspension? Well, you wouldn’t change the whole system from the standard car since it would lead to high costs.
The problem with high-powered fwd cars and MacPherson is torque steer, and Ford modified the standard setup with their “revo knuckle system” by keeping the steering axle closer to the middle of the front wheel to keep the 350 hp of the Focus RS Mk 2 somewhat tamed.
As far as i know the new RS uses a conventional MacPherson system again, since it is 4WD.

07/27/2018 - 13:18 |
6 | 4

High end safety features
As the Gemini or Opel suspension IFS..
Function at it’s high performance

11/03/2018 - 06:33 |
0 | 0


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