Suspension Options - Coilovers vs. Traditional Struts and Springs
Coilovers vs. Struts and Springs
Ever driven a stock vehicle or even a heavily modified vehicle that severely lacks handling and control? Maybe that vehicle just plain rides rough from the factory. At Modern Automotive Performance, we’re here to change that.
Since I was young, I always appreciated a predictable, sharp handling, and sure footed machine. How did I transform each car, whether it was a DSM, truck, or my current FR-S which handles well out of the box. I started with either springs and shock combos or coilovers. There are many different suspension aspects we could look at and we could even extend (pun intended) into wheels and tires, but we’ll stick with what actually keeps your car in contact with the road.
Springs and shock combinations are more traditional in their application and construction, mostly keeping stock suspension geometry, mounting and dimensions. At first glance they offer several advantages to the average buyer. The first of which is that they can be purchased as you build your system. You can usually buy springs first, to get a feel for the new center of gravity if the ride height is changed, and the new balance of the car given the spring type and rate. Then you can buy the upgraded shocks to allow smoother and stiffer damping to keep the chassis settled in any alterations in the road surface. This does a few things: It keeps the budget friendly or at least spreads out the upgrade cost over time, and you can pick the brands and specs of each component by hand. On top of that, if you have a failure of any kind you can replace that single component usually at a lower price. It’s important to note that not all vehicles require damper upgrades with their spring upgrades. The general rule of thumb is not exceeding a larger than 2K spring rate difference from stock and you may keep your (potentially) smooth factory dampers, so that they don’t wear any faster than you want. Now that we have an idea of what that path looks like, let take a look at the more common option in most modern vehicles.
We’ve all heard the word coilovers thrown around in every car culture scene, but what are they referring to, and why does it seem so standard? Well as mentioned before, sometimes you want to start fresh. New damping, and new spring rates entirely. Moreover, you might want to adjust your ride height to a lower or higher level than a fixed spring location has to offer. Plus, most coilovers give you the option of stepping up your shock valving to a competition grade of high and low speed adjustments, including external reservoirs for easy access, cooling, and capacity. The construction of coilovers tends to also outpace your typical struts as well. With proper alloys in the shock bodies, and optional upgrades like radial bearing mounts to help smooth coil bind conditions while turning/compressing, it’s easy to see the potential. It’s these little things that add up to be a big deal. For you alignment gurus, top hats are an essential piece to the equation and while some coilovers reuse OEM top hats, the option of adding adjustable mounting is ideal. You might be thinking, that sounds expensive! Have no fear, MAP is here! With over 10 years helping customers meet their needs with springs, shocks, and coilovers, the first thing to keep in mind is budget. But just like any product, I do caution against the bare bones knock off versions you see for nearly the price of mere springs alone. They do lack proper safety measures in quality, are easily damaged, and likely have calibrations of spring rates, or travel distances that create terrible driving experiences. One side bonus of coilovers tends to be clearance inside each wheel well/suspension area. This is usually due to the fact the spring perches are much smaller in diameter, allowing wider wheel and tire combinations that would otherwise rub.
In conclusion, each path has advantages and drawbacks to execute properly. Either way you’ll wind up with a more stable, smoother riding, more supportive suspension system that keeps you planted, and the tires on the ground. Let me know your thoughts and how I can better help you get dialed on the right path to better control.