Suspension – every car has it, but not everyone understands it. There’s a shit load of science to getting you car looking, handling and most importantly – driving right. So what does what job and which suspension products are right for your needs? This will help you decide…
WHAT IS A SHOCK ABSORBER/DAMPER?
These are there to, errm… absorb the shocks. Its main job is to control the spring’s movement, or dampen the spring. There’s two parts to the damping process; bump – this controls the compression movement of the spring; and rebound – this helps controls the movement of the spring to its original resting position. Most performance adjustable shock absorbers only offer control over the stiffness of the rebound. Whilst more advanced dampers offer both bump and rebound.
WHAT ARE COIL SPRINGS?
The spring dampens shock loads caused by bumps and undulations of the road as your drive along. Springs are made in various different strength or ‘ratings’. Softer spring rates will be used if comfort is a priority, whilst a harder spring rate will be employed for a performance bias. In most cases, cars that leave the factory will have spring rates that give a nice balance of comfort and performance.
WHAT ARE PERFORMANCE SPRINGS & DAMPERS?
If you’re only interested in going mega-low, then these kits aren’t for you. But if you want your car to handle, then a fixed ride-height spring and damper kit is a great choice. The springs and dampers will have been designed to work perfectly together. This should result in improved handling, and give a small to medium ride-height drop. Success.
WHAT ARE COILOVERS?
Here the spring surrounds or ‘coils over’ the damper and sits on a height-adjustable platform. There are a couple of advantages to this set-up. First up, coilovers are much more compact allowing for the fitment of bigger and wider wheels. Secondly, the platform the spring sits on is adjustable for ride height allowing you to get your car sitting exactly how you want it – millimetre perfect.
Coilover kits offer many different types of damping settings; the most common are fixed damping (ideal if you just want to get your car low), rebound adjustment (this is the most common form of adjustability on coilovers) and bump and rebound adjustment (expect to see this on top-end coilover units designed for very fast road/track cars.
WHAT IS A PERFORMANCE SPRING KIT?
This is the simplest suspension upgrade and it’s ideal for those of you on a budget, or if you’ve got a newer motor that you only want to drop a little. Spring kits usually give a drop of 30 to 40mm – this is perfect. You can get some kits that’ll give a drop of 80mm, but we wouldn’t recommend lowering your car this much on springs alone.
WHAT ARE SUSPENSION BUSHES?
Designed to reduce vibrations, road noise and harshness, these babies get fitted to suspension mounting points and joints. Stock bushes are made of rubber, so polyurethane bushes can be fitted as an upgrade to tighten up any play in the suspension. ANTI ROLL BAR… or ARB is basically a metal bar that runs between the left and right lower arms of your front and or rear suspension. Like the name suggests they help to control roll when cornering.
WHAT ARE TORSION BARS?
Mainly found at the rear-end of French cars, old skool Beetles, 911s and even at the front-end of shit cars like Alfa’s 75, a torsion bar is a type of spring. The system is actually pretty clever and saves quite a bit of space. Usually there are two torsion bars (one for each side) and the car is sprung by the bar’s resistance to twisting. The bars have splines which locate and lock in place. To lower a car packing torsion bars you have to remove them move the suspension arm and then refit the bars.
GET SOME SUPERLOWS
Going super low without running an air or hydraulic suspension kit is a bit of a black art. If you want to go any lower than 60mm less than standard, then there are fixed platform suspension kits available that will serve up a monster drop. These days though, you can pick up a budget coilover kit for your car from around £250, so spend the extra few quid and bag yourself some ride height adjustable suspension to really dial in some aggression.
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