How and why to upgrade your suspension
Whether you like to toss a car sideways on the track, burn on a muddy road in the local mountain, or feel the car pressing on the road when driving at high speed, the suspension of the car can let you do this with stability The things of sex, comfort and controllability. It also allows you to turn at different speeds, accelerate correctly, and brake fast enough to avoid collisions.
Yep... Your suspension really is that important!
There are many components that make up your car’s suspension, each of which can be swapped for a modified version. Why would you do that? These modified suspension parts perform many different functions and purposes, depending upon the part you are swapping.
For example, a ’00 Ford Crown Victoria has an outrageous amount of body roll in turns. This is due to the soft suspension being designed for the most comfortable ride possible. The ’00 Crown Vic comes with a 25mm front sway bar (also known as anti-sway bar), and a 21mm rear sway bar. These bars, depending on thickness, give a certain amount of flex in turns and over bumps.
These can be replaced on a ’00 Crown Vic with a 29.5mm front bar, and a 25.5mm rear bar. Doing this will provide a more stable feeling in turns and going over bumps. Also, you can rest assured that these parts truly benefit the car because it’s what the ’00 Crown Vic police cruiser has, among other suspension upgrades.
The cops would have a hell of a time doing all those sharp maneuvers with stock suspension.
There are various ways to beef up your suspension; however, you need to determine the style of driving you want or like to do to figure out the best setup for you.
Even if you are just an everyday driver who doesn’t do too much in the way of extreme motoring, there are still ways to better your suspension for safety and personal preference.
First, what kind of car do you have? If you are driving an ’06 Nissan 350Z, you probably don’t need to mess with anything for regular road driving and cruising.
However, if you are the “lucky” owner of a ’91 Thunderbird, you may be thinking about stiffening your suspension up just a bit. The best parts to swap, without spending ungodly amounts of money, for regular driving and cruising are sway bars and coil springs. A thicker sway bar setup will improve the suspension rigidity, while upgraded coil springs will make the car feel more grounded, and less like it’s floating.
If you are one of those people who use their downtime to speed up and down dirt trails, gravel roads, or snowy paths, your suspension is what gives you all that happiness. Most folks who are into this type of fun drive a rally-style or baja-style vehicle. Examples of these include the ’05 Subaru WRX STi and the ’12 Ford Raptor, respectively.
These vehicles are pre-designed with off-road driving in mind, and thus are pretty much ready to hit the trails as soon as they leave the car lot.
However, you can still have off-road fun in your ’94 Mazda 626. You just need to improve you suspension enough to allow you to have some fun off-road, without falling apart 15 miles inside a forest. This can get a bit pricey, but it’ll cost a lot less than buying a newer, rally-style vehicle. Take a look at some coilover kits. These replace your shocks, struts, sleeves, springs, and mounts. These are generally adjustable, so they’ll allow you to set your ride height to your preference. These kits will serve to stiffen your suspension, provide greater resistance upon impact, and provide more stability in less-stable environments.
AUTHOR’S OPINION: XYZ Suspension makes reliable, easy-to-use kits. This is a worthwhile place to start your shopping.
If you are into the g-force pulling action of drifting, you are probably familiar with your suspension components. However, as the sport of drifting grows every year, there are a ton of new people flooding the scene, and trying to participate in all the smoke and octane of the drifting world.
While many folks will tell you that tires are the first thing you swap when getting into drifting, I firmly disagree.
I have thrown a 75° drift and held it for 4 seconds in a ’86 Toyota Corolla GTS that had just got new coilovers, sway bars, and strut bars, but still had regular road tires. Having a suspension setup that eliminates body roll, increases torsional rigidity, and is set to proper ride height will allow for an excellent learning platform for the great world of drifting.
Things you will eventually need to consider for a drift car project are...
FWD, AWD, or RWD. Although all of the above CAN be drifted, RWD is the easiest to learn with.
Parts to add or upgrade. As I mentioned above, coilovers, sway bars, and strut bars are a good place to start. You will eventually want to look into roll cages, which greatly increase rigidity, and camber kits, which allow even more customization ability.
Rules of your drifting location. NEVER drift on the open road, or in parking lots. Find a track near you, and check out the rules. Also, look at the rules of all the competitions you want you take a trophy home from. These rules will show you what parts are and are not allowed.
So now you know how and why your suspension is important. The next time you drive your car, pay attention to the various feelings that the car throws at you during different actions, like accelerating, turning, and cruising.
Determine what you like and dislike about the driving feel of the car. Then you will know exactly what to change.
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