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213 Stovel Ave W
Box 3005
Melfort, SK S0E 1A0
Drop some inches!
— by Mr. X
Are you looking to lower your ride, tighten your suspension, or improve your car's handling? Coilovers might be just what you need! Think about it--those factory springs and struts on your Civic were designed for comfort, not performance: they're supposed to carry Granny to church and the grocery store, not haul butt down the quarter mile. On top of that, they might be starting to sag after a few years of service, and sooner or later your ride will suffer.

So, what can you do about it? Aftermarket lowering springs lower your car's suspension by half an inch to two inches, improving the stiffness of your ride and creating a lower center of gravity for greater handling stability. Lowering springs are a good low-cost choice for daily drivers who are looking for a lower look and a better ride than stock. Do not lower your car too much! You want to maintain at least 1-3/4" of travel.

If you are a car show junkie or a weekend warrior at the track, you might want to look into coilovers. Besides even
Adjustable Coilovers
Coilovers make any car look good
more lowering--as much as 3 full inches lower than stock-- coilovers can make your suspension stiffer than lowering springs can. You adjust your suspension using a special set of wrenches supplied with your coilover set. Coilovers are for casual racers who need to stiffen their rides for a launch, or for people who want to slam it to the ground at a car show while still getting a great daily ride.

You've probably noticed by now that there are dozens of coilovers on the market. Where do you start? Well, as with so much in life, you get what you pay for. The craftsmanship and overall quality of a set of, say, $300 coilovers is going to be much higher than for a $100 set. Not to mention the $1000+ coilovers that feature fully adjustable ride height and shock dampening. Spec-wise, the biggest difference is going to be in the spring rate--the better coilovers will be much stiffer. A good set of coilovers benefits from a lot of research and testing rigidity, bound, rebound, and other factors. In short, your ride will be more smooth with every dollar spent. If ultimate performance isn't that important to you--or if you're sick of eating ramen noodles because you spend every penny you have on your ride-- even a cheap set of coilovers will get you the droolworthy look you're after.

Even if you're saving bucks wherever you can, it makes sense to pay a professional to install them for you. On a scale of 1 to 10, installing coilovers rates about a 6, but it's a dangerous 6. It's not like that shift knob you installed in 3 minutes last week. Coilovers, like all suspension components, work under tremendous compression and an incorrect installation could damage your car or cause very serious injury. That ain't no Slinky you're messin' with!

Here are some general basic rules if you want to improve your cars handling:

Do not lower your car too much! Lowering looks really cool and can make a significant improvement to a cars cornering capability but going too low is detrimental to both handling and even safety. Going too low can cause bumpsteer, where the tie rods and control arms are traveling different arcs resulting in the wheels steering themselves with no steering wheel input. When a car is so low that the suspension bottoms under cornering loads, the end of the car that bottoms first will violently slide out. Super low guys are convinced that they are driving super touring cars but if you take them out on the track they will suck incredibly.

Buy and install matched components from a single manufacture. For instance do not put H&R front springs in with Eibach rear or a Suspension Techniques front bar with a TMC rear. Suspension manufactures usually offer these parts as a tuned set with rates, etc. made to match each other.

If you are using high performance springs, try to wait until you can afford the shocks also. Performance springs store more potential energy when they are compressed. They need a shock with more rebound damping to keep the car from bouncing all over the place after you hit a bump. Really good shocks like Koni or GAB’s are adjustable so you can tune your shocks to the springs.

Limiting body roll is good. Install stiff springs and swaybars with matching shocks, and lower the car to a reasonable level. Limiting roll keeps the weight from transferring excessively, allowing the inside tires to work more in a turn. Limiting roll also helps keep the car from bottoming in a turn and keeps the car out of the bumpsteer zone. McPherson strut cars not gain negative camber under roll either so limiting roll helps keep the tires from folding over.

Having adjustably is good. Having the ability to adjust shocks, camber and toe is very useful when trying to extract G’s from your car.

Align your suspension and optimize your tire pressures. Alignment and tire pressures can make a huge difference. If you are poor, you can still make big improvements in your cars grip by just playing with tires pressures and the car’s alignment. Try the poor boy technique and dial in some front negative camber, increase the front tire pressure, decrease the rear and set your toe.

Cut your snubbers. It is important to cut the rubber strut shaft snubbers on our shock shafts to get a little more wheel travel out of our lowered struts. Cut an inch or one segment out of the front and rear ones. Do not go crazy and remove the snubbers or cut off more than half of them away.

Don’t over tire or wheel your car. Your cars will go the fastest and handle best with the widest, lightest 15 inch wheel that will fit. 16, 17 and 18 inch wheels which look radical, really slow the car down because they are heavy and the bigger diameter screws up the gear ratio.

You might want to print this table out and put it in your toolbox.

Suspension adjustment

Affect on vehicle balance, extreme useable adjustment limit

Symptom of TOO MUCH adjustment

Front spring rate increase More understeer Terminal understeer, front of car hops in corners, excess wheelspin in FWD car
Front spring rate decrease Less understeer Too much oversteer, oversteer then understeer if spring is so soft that the car bottoms under lean, car bottom excessively with a jolting ride
Rear spring rate increase. More oversteer Too much oversteer, hop in corners, twitchy
Rear spring rate decrease Less oversteer Car understeers, if way to soft car understeers then oversteers as car bottoms out under lean, car bottoms out excessively with a jolting ride
Front antisway bar stiffer More understeer Terminal understeer, Lifts inside front tire off the ground which can cause massive wheelspin, also not good for most effective tire usage as inside wheel is now doing nothing
Front antisway bar softer Less understeer Oversteer
Rear antisway bar stiffer More oversteer Big time oversteer, Can cause the inside rear tie to lift off the ground which is not two bad on a FWD car. On Classics, if this happens while trail braking into a turn, the abs can shut the brakes down which can be a bit scary
Rear antisway bar softer Less oversteer understeer
Front tire pressure higher Less understeer

Except with BFG R-1 tires. They will grip less and understeer more if the pressures are increased within a reasonable amount.

No traction as tire is crowned so more understeer, bad wheel spin, jarring ride, center of tires wears out
Front tire pressure lower More understeer

Except with BFG R-1 tires. They will grip more and understeer less if the pressures are decreased within a reasonable amount.

Edges of tires wear quickly because tire is folding over, feels mushy, tires chunk because low pressure means more heat build up
Rear tire pressures higher Less oversteer

Except with BFG R-1 tires. They will grip less and oversteer more if the pressures are increased within a reasonable amount.

No traction as tire is crowned so more oversteer, bad wheel spin on RWD cars, jarring ride, center of tire wears out
Rear tire pressures lower More oversteer

Except with BFG R-1 tires.

They will grip more and oversteer less if the pressures are decreased within a reasonable amount.

Edges of tires wear quickly because tire is folding over and cupping upward, feels loose in back, tires chunk because low pressure means more heat build up
More negative camber on front wheels Less understeer/ -3 degrees Poor braking, car is road crown sensitive, twitchy, tires wear out on the inside edge
Positive camber on front wheels More understeer, a little can make the tires last a little longer Poor braking, car is road crown sensitive, twitchy, tires wear out on the outside edge You almost never want to have positive camber unless you are a dweeb
More negative camber on rear wheels Less oversteer, more rear grip, less breakaway warning when limit is exceeded/-3 degrees More oversteer, car feels twitchy in back, tires wear out on inside edge
More positive camber at rear More oversteer, more forgiving at limit Car feels twichy in the back, tires wear out on outside edge
Ride height to low, rice boy style Car twitchy with unpredictable dynamics, don’t race on when you see it because they will crash, taking you out Everything that could possibly be wrong, sudden over or understeer, twichy due to bumpsteer
Toe-in front Car is stable while going straight. Turn in is average/1/8 inch total toe-in Car has slow twichyness under braking, feels odd, kills the outside edge of tires
Toe-in rear car is less likely to suddenly oversteer when throttle is lifted/1/8 inch total toe-in Weird slow rocking movement in back, feels slow but still unstable, wears the outside edge of tires
Toe-out front Car turns in well, works pretty good in FWD cars as they tend to toe-in under load/1/4 inch total toe out Car is real twitchy under braking, car is very road crown sensitive, car wanders on straight road, kills inside edge of tires.
Toe-out rear Helps the car rotate, useful on tight low speed courses and slalom events/1/8 inch total toe out Not to good for street driving, causes lift throttle oversteer, car makes violent side to side rocking motions in rear, tires wear more on insides
Positive front caster Helps both stability, steady state cornering and turn in because the suspension will get more negative camber when the wheel is turned/ 6-7 degrees positive, negative caster is not useable Can increase understeer, especially in cars with wide, low profile tires due to a non linear increase in corner weight. Increases steering effort, SE-R’s are not easily modified to make this adjustable, FWD cars can see an increase of torque steer with excessive positive caster

THE POINT: So, for $100 to $300 you get a better-handling ride, you get to adjust your suspension height to better suit your taste, and your car looks way cooler. Compared to the $200 or so you'd spend for an average set of lowering springs, coilovers just make sense from a pure bang-for-your-buck perspective, and you get a lot more versatility.

Mr. XBigger, Better, Faster

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