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How to tune your adjustable coilover/damper kit for the street.

There are a lot of folks out there, bless their souls, who have bought into the craze of coilover suspensions without having full knowledge of what they are getting into.

This article is a shot-gun approach at dialing in your favorite coilover kit for the street. Aimed at our core market, front wheel drive Honda and Acura cars, primarily driven on the street.

Front

First thing you would do is set the preload back to zero and then move the valving in the front at least midway, if not more stiff or almost full stiff. This will give the input control and sharpness of steering and handling you probably want. Less "bounce" per-say or "float" in the front end that gives a certain distrust in the handling of the car and your ability to control it. Moving this stiffer should not adversely effect the ride at all although there will be a little more harshness through the steering/firewall. It may seem that the car is transmitting more from the road, and this is a good thing. Dial it back to give more NVH isolation if needed, but keep it firm. You should not need any more preload here, but if you need add a little I would do it maybe 1/4" at a time.

Rear

Now the ride quality and ultimate balance of the car is dictated by the rear. Here I recommend people make the dampening as stiff as they can without feeling too much discomfort. Start in the middle and move softer if you need more response and comfort over large and small bumps (you won't be able to make it perfect over all bumps, you are going to have to find a compromise) or firmer if the ride is acceptable to you. The firmer you make it the better the car is going to corner, but will ride worse and worse. Ultimately you want to find where you are unable to accept the ride and dial it back a bit. In general you want as much stroke in the back as you can get because this will allow capacity a good ride, but where the damper is set dictates what the ride feels like. Preloading too much here, or putting stiff springs, is great for swinging the tail around an auto-x course, but makes the ride like garbage. Don't preload the rear if you can help it.

This is a really general methodology, but it works. People often get mixed up because the changes they make in the front or rear impact the other end of the car, and you keep chasing your tail. With this approach you get the front all dialed in on what is important there, and you can tackle how the rear reacts afterward.

Spring rates and preload.

The only real reason to change rates is if you are exceeding the cornering load limits the kit was designed around. Springs are spec'd to hold the car up and to resist forces in cornering. A car with lighter weight will need lighter springs, and heavier cars need heavier springs. Also a car cornering at .8g will not need a firm a spring as a car cornering 1g. I think a lot of people think that works in reverse...get a .8g car heavier springs to make it corner like a 1g car. Maybe this is true to a certain extent, but more important are the tires, tire pressure, road surface, and other grip related factors.

Wider tires mean more grip meaning harder cornering loads requiring firmer springs. Increasing the rates will allow the car to cope with harder cornering loads, but will dramatically impact the ride. This is especially true if the dampers are not tuned to accommodate these changes. Many adjustable suspension kits are designed around a single spring rate and allow some latitude up and down in spring rates, but don't mistake this as truly stiffening or softening the suspension.

Ultimately, the springs on the car need to be right, and the dampening is set to tune how the spring is controlled. Does the car react lazily or abruptly to force changes? Does it correct itself quickly or slowly? When it does correct, how rigidly does it do so (or does it move around it's neutral state freely)? All these questions are sort of beyond the lay-person's ability to answer effectively, so consulting with a specialist is helpful. For that, give me an email at support@heeltoeauto.com!



3 Comments


 
Cord cullen
11-05-2016 05:47 PM at 5:47 PM
Hello i have been reading all the information on you site. Very helpful. I have a 2002 lexus gs 300. I purchased 20 inch wheels. 208.5 front 35 offset 245 35 20 and 2010 rear 38 offset 275 30 20. Conservative offsets. I only wanna take away the wheel gap all the way around. Inch and a half in the front and 1 inch in the rear. Looking at bc racing coilovers 12k front 10k rear. Or rsr 9k front 8k rear. Car weights about 3800 lb. Which one to go with.
Administrator Note:
We suggest that RSR is a possibly a more refined package while the BC Racing is going to be more affordable. As with most things the general value will become less as the price climbs over a certain point. Ultimately, get the best you can afford.
 
Rear wheel drive
10-16-2016 12:25 PM at 12:25 PM
Hi. Very useful article. I have a 1990 1.6 miata and I am about to change the rock solid suspension set up that the previous owner put on it. Does the same approach as described here also apply to a light, sporty, rear wheel drive car?
Many thanks
Administrator Note:
I think it would apply from a standpoint of adjusting the ride. What would vary is the actual settings and springs for the kit, but that should probably be sorted out by the producer of whatever parts you are using.
 
09-27-2016 11:00 PM at 11:00 PM
Thanks!! You guys are really professional and informative.
Administrator Note:
Thanks for the feedback!

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