Engineered for Potholes

By Ford Social Member

Sometimes they are unavoidable, those potholes and damaged road surfaces. You cringe and hold your breath as you are forced to drive right over the obstacle, hoping your vehicle comes through it without incident and that you aren’t too rattled either. But Ford vehicles are put through similar paces long before you’ll ever be behind the wheel and faced with that scenario.

The Ford Lommel Proving Ground in Belgium and Michigan Proving Ground in the U.S. have miles of test tracks that re-create potholes of various shapes and depths, as well as damaged surfaces and other extreme public-road conditions.

“We have created some of the worst potholes in Europe on our own test track. If our cars can pass these tests, then they can cope with almost anything they encounter on public roads,” said Eric-Jan Scharlee, technical specialist for Durability Testing at Lommel Proving Ground. “You name the road surface, we have it at our proving ground.”

The standard is repeated at Michigan Proving Ground. “We go over gravel. We go over cobblestone. We go full-throttle. We shake things up,” said Dan Coleman, manager of Global Durability Process in Dearborn, Mich.

Alongside simulated real-world surfaces are artificial testing potholes designed to place controlled loads on Ford vehicle suspension components and allow Ford engineers to measure the forces and demands placed on cars as they pass through them. “We use two types of test tracks at Ford to re-create the loads customers are seeing on public roads,” said Eric-Jan. “One type simulates actual public roads, such as Lower Dunton Road in Essex, U.K., while the other comprises a variety of potholes that have been artificially constructed to mimic different driving conditions.”

Several types of road conditions are simulated, including moderately rough roads such as those in Europe and North America and severely rough roads like those in emerging markets, taking into account that weather conditions can make these roads even worse.

Engineers at the Lommel Proving Ground and Michigan Proving Ground test vehicles for all global markets, and all new Ford models are put through a tough testing and development process to ensure they not only offer class-leading levels of ride comfort for occupants, but are easily capable of withstanding the loads placed upon components by damaged road surfaces. Rigorous testing and development processes have been established for chassis and suspension systems.

“The challenge for a suspension system is when it exits the pothole,” said Simon Mooney, test engineer for Road Load Data at Dunton Technical Centre in Essex. “The impact can be like hitting a curb. We test all the wheel and tire sizes that we produce for our vehicles to their limit, so we’re confident they can cope.”

Chassis and suspension testing for passenger cars is conducted in two phases, with the first phase designed to simulate the extreme demands placed on the vehicle’s suspension and major structures over the course of its lifetime. During the second phase, the emphasis shifts to the entire vehicle, including high speed and rural road driving simulations. During these tests, high-tech equipment is used to record the loads and strains placed upon suspension components. “We use specially instrumented wheels on the car that measure the force and corresponding moments in three directions,” said Simon. “On some vehicles, there are various sensors totaling some 200 channels through which to get the data.”

Ford develops suspension testing for global customer requirements, and testing procedures and requirements at proving grounds around the world are commonized. To re-create realistic road conditions, Ford engineers survey drivers of every vehicle segment in different parts of the world asking them to rate the roads they drive on and how they use their vehicles. Then they create a statistical profile of the driver, the type of roads the driver uses, and his or her driving habits and apply it to a durability test cycle at the respective proving ground. Using this data, engineers can extrapolate how much load is likely to be placed on the vehicle over the course of its lifetime, which tells them how much the vehicle needs to be able to withstand.

Both Lommel and Michigan Proving Ground feature replicated real-life road surfaces from around the world. Visitors to the facility in Belgium, for instance, may be surprised to find road signs indicating they have traveled to France, the U.K. and the U.S., all within less than half a mile, but it is through such painstaking re-creation of real road surfaces from across the globe that Ford is able to deliver the products that meet and exceed the requirements of real-world drivers.
Tomasz K 11/11/2013
why these tests since the 25000 km interior creaks terribly
Ed Schmid Ford 03/31/2011
Lord knows we need that after a long winter. Lol :)
Karthikeyan Muthukrishnan 03/30/2011
when i drive my ford in india i can only see the potholes.. But i dont feel like i drive on them.. Ford excels for their good suspension and dynamics on indian roads too..
Bruce Harold See 03/30/2011
Alway laugh at the Fool with there Big Toyota & Nissian Truck slowly going over pot hole; must be afraid they'll Fall apart!
Greg Wavell 03/30/2011
I can't comment on some posts am I banned? Lol
Corey McDonald 03/30/2011
Hope they build that at the Chicago Assembly Plant the roads are perfect for testing
Sal Undy 03/30/2011
That's great! I seriously value durability! Good Job guys!
Dan Mark 03/30/2011
Just drive 'em down Pontiac Trail in Walled Lake, MI - If they survive that they'll survive anything...
Leo Pascua 03/30/2011
Ford are very good car in kuwait specially mustang,edge, grandmarquis,taurus,also lincoln brand.
David Matthews 03/30/2011
Ford: making up for the incompetance of your state DOT.
Evan Barnett 03/30/2011
so should i Aim for potholes now? :D
John 03/30/2011
Handling is crucial to the economy of an "eco-car." The more the car can absorb with little to no aftershock the better the gas mileage the vehicle will get. This is because the engine doesn't have to work nearly has hard to maintain speed while it's weight is being shifted in all different directions.
Michael Reale 03/30/2011
Now the statment ford build for life in canada comes to, my daily comute is full of pot holes u can drownd in!
Bob Martel 03/30/2011
Finally, a car specifically made ofr use in Michigan!
Justin Smith 03/30/2011
This could not come soon enough. Can't go 5 feet here without hitting a pothole or 50
Mathew Poynter 03/30/2011
lol sometimes potholes are impossible to avoid, I guess you have never driven in southeastern michigan
Zachary Heck 03/30/2011
Wrong. Why would an average driver need superb handling? It's can eco-car, not a rally car...
Soccersn Nonamehere 03/30/2011
Just drive thru southeast michigan- oakland and wayne counties
Joey 03/30/2011
Have you ever driven on Michigan roads? That is the proving ground. No wonder they are engineered for potholes.
Ramon Kumquat Rodriguez 03/30/2011
My Mercury Grand Marquis handles poor roads with ease and the ride is still smooth despite potholes and bumpy surface. Oh and not to mention that it's a '95 m/y and it has over 210K miles and still drives like new!
Berserker Iwo 03/30/2011
Feel free to test it in Croatia; once you get off the highway, the whole country is a very realistic proving ground ;)
Mathew Poynter 03/30/2011
lol good question
Tony L. Green 03/30/2011
Test them on Broadway
Tracy Wendt 03/30/2011
How do they keep the test potholes from becoming real potholes?
Mathew Poynter 03/30/2011
Ford's own backyard, Wayne County Michigan, has the worst roads in the country, why test cars on a simulated proving ground environment when you get a more real world experience driving on actual streets.
Dan Graveen 03/30/2011
If only they could make it smoother.. I'd like one that handles potholes well and rides like a '76 Cadillac!
Andrew D Dziatkewich 03/30/2011
Come to Edmonton, we have over 450,000 vicious potholes for you guys to smash into
Dave Evans 03/30/2011
@Michał - They said "potholes" not craters.
Dristin Kucera 03/30/2011
Cummins is better:)
Chris Mullen 03/30/2011
Minnesota is the place to test!
Noreen Cioffi 03/30/2011
"Ford: Now the official car of Philadelphia."
Engineered for Potholes
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