Coilover obession - Why do you really want coilovers???

warren_cox

Back from the dead
I'll be honest from the outset, I'm only taking the time to write this thread as I am bewildered. This thread will provide me with no benefit at all, so its not selfish. So why am I writing it?? It's in response to the ever increasing number of threads that seem to be surfacing on the forum from people who decide to modify suspension, and immediately decide the only word in the language of suspension they need to hear is COILOVER.

I don't dispute the coilover is an incredible invention. It is at the pinnacle in its product area allowing trained professionals to attain fantastic car handling results through repeated trial and error across many disciplines of motorsport. Many will choose not to read this post because it is long. I hasten to add the facts in this page will be made up from tangiable internet resources, and not my own opinions.

So what is my aim with this thread? I'm not interested in reducing the number of threads on SCN, or in the 1.0L Arosa section asking whats the best cheap coilover to DIY fit. All I want to do is to provide some background for people to decide if they really NEED coilovers, or whether a well chosen set of similar prices 'spring / dampers' may be as, and if not MORE effective as at least you / others won't have input the WRONG or INAPPROPRIATE settings.

I appreciate if you have aspirations of slamming your motor to the deck 'to be scene' (make a scene), then coilovers may be the only route of choice. Likewise, if you practice track day racing (and I mean circuit, not quarter miling so much), I can also understand fully why you may embark on the route of coilovers. Likewise if you are battery relocation / or prepping your car with a huge ICE install in the boot, in cases where the the weight balance of the car is being significantly redistributed coilovers can offer the opportunity to offset these changes.

Coilovers offer so much adjustment, that to the untrained, you can easily cause as many issues as you solve with as little as a wrong quarter of a turn or adjustment here or there. And particularly now that so many people seem to be fitting them themselves :doh:. I'm not saying you can't do it, but qualified trained experts don't always get it right! The net result is that your car could handle significantly differently (and even in some cases worse) with poorly configured coilovers, than with a kit that is wearing out.

I know there will be many protesters on here who will say I'm talking absolute rubbish, and I welcome their opinions, thoughts and any links they may have to supporting info. I don't want anyone to not buy coilovers if that is what they truly want to do, it's your money. But at least make an informed decision, and buy something relevant to the disciplines of your driving habits, that is in line with the performance of your car (do you need coily's on a 75bhp 1.4??), or your ability to set them up. Likewise I'm not encouraging you spend less. I'd be inclined to spend as much on a spring / damper arrangement as on a cheaper coilover kit. It's likely the ride will be far better. Also I'd always ensure that anything you buy has a TUV approval marking on it.

My intent is to hopefully stimulate some open, honest and intelligent debate on this subject, and stop people blindly wandering into a world they potentially know so little about. Any thoughts gratefully welcome, really interested to hear peoples thoughts.
 
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warren_cox

Back from the dead
Some info lifted from the net:

Coilovers

A coilover shock is a high quality mono-tube shock that includes provisions to mount coil springs on the shock. The springs and shock are therefore combined in a single, compact package. There is nothing particularly magical about coilover shocks – their use requires strict attention to mounting geometry, spring rates, and shock valving the same as any other system. However, they do offer a number of advantages:

* High quality, long-travel, mono-tube shock.
* Completely rebuildable - parts are available separately at very reasonable cost.
* Easy to package - compact, easy to fit, frees room for link geometry and steering.
* Revalveable - easy to adjust or modify valving to suit needs.
* Tuneability - with a vast array of spring lengths and spring rates available, coilovers allow you to select spring rate for a specific target suspension frequency, and then use spring length and the built in adjuster to achieve a target ride height / suspension height.
* Multiple spring rate - easy to set up for use with a combination of springs, providing a soft initial spring rate that transitions to a firmer spring rate as the suspension compresses.
* Adjustability - built in adjustable top spring seat provides ability to adjust ride height, suspension height, & preload as well as accommodate different length springs with different amounts of spring travel. Adjustable stop ring provides ability to adjust position where spring rate transition occurs.

Introduction

Because of the complexity, we will be tackling the subject of coilover tech in several parts – this is the first. In this first part we’ll be reviewing basic shock and spring tech, examining the types of coilovers and their parts, going over their use and advantages, covering the concepts of installation ratio, wheel rate, and suspension frequency, then concluding with some preliminary spring-rate selections. Future articles will cover more advanced topics such as: spring length selection and tuning, coilover adjustments / tuning, spring selection using spring force modeling, re-valving, and hands-on tech procedures such as rebuilding a shock.

There is much to learn – even if you’re a seasoned coilover user as there exists a lot of misinformation about coilovers. This is because, more than with any other style of shock & spring, the coilover user is presented with almost limitless options regarding setup. Mounting, valving, spring rates, spring lengths, gas pressure and more are all completely in the hands of the installer and can be easily changed from one extreme to another. When those hands are expert – the result is phenomenal performance. When those hands are not so expert – the unfortunate result is that we novices really just have a huge amount of rope with which to hang ourselves. Instead of a huge number of ways we can tune, we are faced with a huge number of ways we can get it wrong, and sometimes badly wrong at that.

To make matters worse, after we’ve unknowingly gotten it wrong (or someone else has) and we're observing the results, without a proper grounding in the basics, we lack the ability to properly interpret the results we are observing. The unfortunate result is that, instead of passing on wisdom, we unintentionally contribute to myth and misinformation. Again, without the proper grounding to accurately communicate our observations and conclusions, and despite our best intentions, we end up spreading myths and misinformation across the Internet – preventing the next hands from becoming as expert as they could be. And the cycle begins again.

My aim with this article is to help break that cycle, to help your hands become just a little bit more expert, to take back some of that rope yer fixin’ ter hang yerself with.

One last thing before we begin. We are going to have to be extremely clear about the definitions of the terms we use – and disciplined in their application. There are so many terms that get bantered around, often with completely different meanings, that confusion is virtually guaranteed. If nothing else, we need to agree to strive to use the correct terms, and use them consistently, to avoid adding to the confusion.

A word about design philosophy.

All design, including suspension design, is a compromise of factors to achieve a desired result that will be judged by some criteria. Those criteria are numerous, often subjective, and may range from cost and complexity to performance and even appearance. With this in mind, my philosophy is that there are very few, if any, absolutes – very few “rights” or “wrongs”. Some will have you think otherwise – especially the so-called “band-aid” accusers. For example, some will say that the use of an anti-roll bar is a band-aid for poor spring rate selection. Some will say that a limit-strap is a band-aid for poor link geometry. Some will say a “helper coil” is a band-aid for improper spring length. There are many other examples. In my opinion, very few are valid. There are many tools in the box of design, and if they are applied with reason and understanding, then they are certainly valid. Only if they are applied from lack of understanding of a better way do they become a concern. May this article expand your understanding so that any and all “tools” you use from the box of suspension design, you use with knowledge and confidence. Good luck!
 

DPJ

...........
Dec 13, 2004
7,996
1
NN Yorks / Salento
www.seatcupra.net
This is a fascinating topic - I really wish there had been more discussion on it before I spent money on my kit. I'm happy with it, I will get my car corner-weighted, but I don't think I had my eyes sufficiently open to the alternatives.
 

warren_cox

Back from the dead
Cheers Dave. I appreciate fully when people love their cars as much as I love mine (and she's a total bitch to me), you always want what appears to be best.

My gut feel is that the industry has noted there is a coilover obsessed market, and may be 'value engineering' the product back so far that they are actually inferior product (particularly e-bay type stuff) than the equivalent spring / damper arrangements.

My Lupo GTi ran H&R coilovers and it was never right. It was skittish, used to bounce horribly, and in the end even sending it to people who were good indepedents never got me into a space where I had full confidence in the cars handling. The Lupo GTi has an extremely short wheel base and low kerb weight so it is an extreme example to use, but I am honestly concerned that peoples obsession to get adjustable suspension which to be fair is rarely used properly is costing them financially, and if set up wrong may actually risk their wellbeing.

What I find more worrying is the amount of DIY installs on a product that has so much adjustment. This in some cases could be catastrophic not only for the car owner but pedestrians or other road users. I don't mean to cme across all Quentin Wilson, but lately it seems to be epidemic and all being done on the cheap and I don't think people are giving enough consideration as they believe coilovers bring about invincible handling just by being on the car!

ALSO: Do a google search on SEIZED COILOVERS. If they ain't well maintained they are more hassle than they are worth.
 
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olethalb

ibiza gone!!!
Oct 9, 2008
252
0
bracknell
for me they tend to give a better feel than uprated shock/spring combo.

more importantly for me i can get mm perfect wheel to arch and chassis to floor clearance as 90% of my cars have been lowered in the region of 100mm which no shock/spring combo can offer.

also mostly i'll drop a car as low as it will go and leave it but sometimes the height will need to be altered. ie;

1)needed extra ground clearance to get across the field at santapod

2)taking my polo up the strip and scrabbling for grip can raise the rear for nose down stance

3)mot time, before coilovers were widely available it was 'car won't go on the ramps mate, thats a fail!' go home change full suspension to standard get it mot'd then next day put it all back again.
 

[email protected]

Back older greyer and less oilier but always hope
Jun 19, 2001
12,370
26
Gloucester
Road car hasn't got em as i can't see the point going to work and back especially the state of the roads

Hot rod has em for both ease of height adjustability and as they are easier to physically fit space wise + choice of springs available will enable me to get a more acceptable ride when it's finally running

Dragster has loads of em as they tested over and over and valve tuned and sprung to match varying track conditions and temperatures to ensure we eek every last ounce of useability out of the power amongst many other things.

i guess most people have them for both the 'cred' and of course the ability to go 'loooow' but average car with normal daily use seesm pointless

once drove a Bilstein pss9 car around local roads to settle it down before recheck/adjust and has to be the worst drive of my life ever - not fun but i bet it was perfect round a track
 

warren_cox

Back from the dead
Road car hasn't got em as i can't see the point going to work and back especially the state of the roads

Another very real point, if we had the autobahns of Germany, or 'A/B' roads layered with thick soft tarmac rather than a patchwork of reworked crud then again coily's win hands down. Britain's roads are so bad that it makes you wonder whether again in some cases they are justified spend.

If people spend a tenth as much on driving training as they do on suspension mods I bet they would not only enjoy driving more, but have a far clearer understanding of the pure physics of driving rather than relying on the mechanics to mop up the inconsistencies. I once sat with Luke Hines in an LCR at Prodrive and I was astonished what a completely stock car is capable of, let alone one with well chosen mods.
 

DannyC87

Rubbing is Racing :-)
Mar 4, 2008
3,459
0
interesting read so far coxw; i'm glad I spotted this thread as I'm thinking about changing my suspension in the summer; I was keen on coilies; but this has definitely made me think twice now :clap:
 

kriso

_______ C U P R A _______
Jan 29, 2007
2,326
3
Brighton
I'm still undecided between coilovers and fixed drop. Do you need to jack up/remove wheels when adjusting coilovers? I'm tempted to go the fixed drop route now and save some £££ but just a little worried it will still sit too high
 

warren_cox

Back from the dead
I'm still undecided between coilovers and fixed drop. Do you need to jack up/remove wheels when adjusting coilovers? I'm tempted to go the fixed drop route now and save some £££ but just a little worried it will still sit too high

I never touched my coilovers once after it was set up, but if you slam it I can't imaging you can get your hand in to adjust anything without some level of jacking.

One thing I'm not sure about is if you drop your car significantly (60mm+), and then readjust back up again (to 30mm drop for instance), should you be getting camber / tracking / toe adjusted too?
 

DannyC87

Rubbing is Racing :-)
Mar 4, 2008
3,459
0
I never touched my coilovers once after it was set up, but if you slam it I can't imaging you can get your hand in to adjust anything without some level of jacking.

One thing I'm not sure about is if you drop your car significantly (60mm+), and then readjust back up again (to 30mm drop for instance), should you be getting camber / tracking / toe adjusted too?

I would imagine that after any adjustment in height a full alignment should be done due to the angle of the control arms changing? Also when adjusting height is it possible to ensure each coilover is adjusted exactly the same amount; or can this lead to misalignment too?
 

cupra.rich

Active Member
Dec 20, 2008
172
0
i am going down the route of v-maxx coilovers, i chose coilovers because not only do they HELP the car handle well but as my lc is only used at weekends i want to go lower than the average bear... and springs can only go to a max of 35mm which in my opinion is not much.
 

DOLBY

Nothing to say ATM...erm
Jun 24, 2006
2,907
97
North of London
www.facebook.com
i tink if you go the coilover route, you should idealy go with the products that offer the most adjustments. i.e better damping...no one wants to drive a car that crashes over bumps, cos the suspension is set to super stiff.

i once saw a rover 220 coupe on the crappy roads around my way, and over small imperfections on the road (ones that my car would absorb pretty well and im standard) his was just so rigid and stiff that i thought he must have the cheapest, crappest suspension ever, or he hadnt set it up correctly for such a powerful car.

as you say there are some people that get them for looks, as most springs dont go low enough, but you have to think long term aswell...as in, if you want to sell the car, all you do is jack it up to the standard height, adjust the damping accordingly and the new buyer will never know the car has been fettled with...

just a few points, but tbh imcompletley out of my depth when it comes to suspension, as above it may be better saving for the best coilovers to get the comfort of springs/shocks but with the performance you are looking for....plus resale value
 

Tfsi_Mike

Active Member
Aug 30, 2007
2,387
5
Doncaster / Germany (Army)
I love this thread. It is very true and I myself am guilty. Luckily money not really been an option. I was able to fork out for some Kw V3's which are no doubt for me, overkill.

I think it is a mix between shiny kit syndrome and wanting the best kit for my car that I can afford. Aswell I think I was reluctant to put 'cheeper' kits on such a car MK2 leon cupra. Finally to be able to show off and lower the car to the exact height, whenever it takes my fancy...

I dont doubt that the right spring shock set up could match or even outperform some coilover kits. The cost effective way to improve handling.

I agree that some one could easily upset the balance of the car and the handling characteristics with full adjustable kits, something i was aware of when ordering mine.
Its nice to know i can play around with it. A call to kw and theyle guide me through the settings (even fone up and let them know what type of ride or what race track im at and get exact settings :) )

My two pence
 

Tfsi_Mike

Active Member
Aug 30, 2007
2,387
5
Doncaster / Germany (Army)
Another very real point, if we had the autobahns of Germany, or 'A/B' roads layered with thick soft tarmac rather than a patchwork of reworked crud then again coily's win hands down. Britain's roads are so bad that it makes you wonder whether again in some cases they are justified spend.

If people spend a tenth as much on driving training as they do on suspension mods I bet they would not only enjoy driving more, but have a far clearer understanding of the pure physics of driving rather than relying on the mechanics to mop up the inconsistencies. I once sat with Luke Hines in an LCR at Prodrive and I was astonished what a completely stock car is capable of, let alone one with well chosen mods.

Oooh another point I live in germany most of the year (Army) so dont suffer the apauling road conditions at home when driving low and hard rides...
 

Willie

LCR Track car
Aug 6, 2004
8,939
1
Sunny Scotland
As said above really, most people want coilovers to slam their car.
These people are not worried about the consequenses of doing this and perhaps aren't aware there are consequenses in doing this.
I have read a huge amount of information on VW Vortex and suspension set up guru's white papers etc etc. This has enlightened me and initially this set me on a quest to find out what set up gave the best handling for a LCR/LC. And guess what, no one wanted to help me. No pictures, no measurements nothing.
SCN people do become very well infoprmed through the forum but there is a big hole in the people providing the information to filter down to other users.
What alot of people want is someone to tell them what they have done and as long as a few others agree then this is decided to be the best way ahead. The Koni FSD Eibach springs one was a good one, alot of people jumped on the band wagon with this set up. But not any more, as it turns out this left a numb feeling ride and didn't give the slam boys the drop they wanted, not good.
I have tried to do research into the perfect coilover height for the above cars but still not alot of help, most stick to 20mm drop from stock and leave them there.
I had convinced myself that I needed KWV3's, at £1,000 plus fitting, setting up and alignment this was going to be a massive bill.
The main reason I was going to coilover route was 1. I will be using my car on the track to go round corners. 2. It is impossible to find out what the stock spring rate is for the LCR, no body knows, even companies on here who sell 'uprated' suspension systems don't know. How can they sell uprated systems if they don't know the stock set up?????? I've asked Seat dealerships, even they don't know.
So I wanted to try shocks and springs but if you can't find out the stock rate and stiffness how can you match or upgrade from these??
I still want to fit coilovers but I have not come into this decision blindly wanting a low down car.
Like Dave I plan to get my car corner weighted and set up properly. As for the KWV3's, I ain't going for these any more. As said above I will find it difficult to tell when the ride height needs changed, let alone the bound and rebound settings. I've also asked if any of the guys with coilovers have set the rebound settings to their softest settings to see how it feels, no answer on this either.
Also as said above the LCR is a very very capable car in the right hands, perhaps the money is better spent on driver tuition.
Another massively over looked handling mod is to freshen the bushes, how many people do this before they change the suspension???
1, ME:p
 

warren_cox

Back from the dead
As said above really, most people want coilovers to slam their car.
These people are not worried about the consequenses of doing this and perhaps aren't aware there are consequenses in doing this.

Given your requirements and the way you are going about the set up I'd happily say you are making the right choice.

And I guess ultimately where I hoped this thread may shine some enlightenment was at the people who blindly follow like sheep putting the cheapest coilovers on their car they can possible source, and then go on to fit them themselves which probably results in as dangerous, if not in some cases worse geometry/handling than the old OE **** they peel off. People have become so obsessed with 'the look' rather than 'the substance', that they'd happily compromise any ride quality or outright safety to be (one of my favourite words of the moment!! - NOT) 'scene'!! :cartman:

In some cases, some of the sports damper spring kits that come in around the equivalent price of utterly **** coilovers will actually offer superior handling and ride. People spend thousands on modding to get 5 or 10 extra BHP, then whack on a set of badly set up coilovers with some budget tyres. The logic of this beggars belief. Coily's are complex animals that require some ongoing maintenance to ensure they work well. To think that you can buy a set as cheaply as you can say a set of Weitec sports damper / springs means there has to be some tremendous 'value engineering' in the product, meaning they could be far more likely to last less long than a conventional spring/damper set up, or do a much worse job of what they do.

In my eyes no-one could accuse VAG cars of being lightweight super handling class leading platforms. They tend to be heavy, understeery and a bit devoid of feel at times. Even if we put Ohlins top of the range coilys on VAG cars, with great bushes, strut braces and ARB's they will never be a focussed driver tool unless we rip the guts out of the car to get the weight out, and even then it's questionnable due to the high centre of gravity.

I guess why should I care at all? Also in some cases by writing this thread you could suggest that I am effectively being deflamatory to a large proportion of people who believe that what they are doing is going to be the best course of action. I love my car too, and when I change something I want the best I can afford to offer effective returns. But sometimes I tend to think people can feel coilovers are the only upgrade path, and if you're a daily driver who knows that they won't be hiking the car up and down every 2 minutes then the non-coily route is safer, more effective and likely to offer better long term reliability. It's ultimately not my place to say don't do it, just that people use some logical thought before they blindly wander like lemmings down a road that they may not need to.
 

Willie

LCR Track car
Aug 6, 2004
8,939
1
Sunny Scotland
Good points, well made.

As you said, this post was supposed to open peoples eyes and hopefully it has.
Also as you said suppliers are getting wise to people thinking that the word coilover means an excellent set up with great handling characteristics. It does if its a quality kit and properly set up but other than this it could mean a low and horrible handling car. But if you've got a 1.4 Leon and you just want it to look low then this will do the job but remember your cars handling has been compromised.
Also coilovers have moved on massively in there developement and this has been passed down the ranks. Cheaper kits (NOTE not cheap kits, cheaper as in over £500) are now built to be as good quality as the expensive kits were 15 years ago. I'm very keen on the Weitec coilovers, I see that they have the benifit of being in the KW family and gleaning off of their research whilst putting forward a good product at a cheaper price. With the proper maintenance I think the TX could be every bit as good as the KWV2's, but maintenance being the key. Also finding out how good each of these set ups are is very difficult, do you take someones word for a set up that has never pushed to the limits of his set up on a track???? Is someone who has lowered there car for looks a good judge of a set up??
 

ChromePete

Spanner Monkey
Apr 29, 2008
53
0
Petersfield
www.geocities.com
Hi,

This makes interesting reading. I need to change my suspension as there are some suspect creaks from the rear anyway and I figured coilovers are the best way to get the ride height you want without compromising comfort too much.

I agree with you guys that the VAG cars are bricks, and not great cars to start with when trying to set up a track monster, but the stock ride height does not look good at all.

I have worked on a few Beemers recently and the had to test drive them a reasonable distance. They are so comfortable, even more so than my car and compared to mine they look slammed. I know they have the extra complex suspension at the rear, but the front is basically the same as VAG. Can it really be that the dampers are far superior in quality? A McPherson (macpherson?) strut for my car is about £60 - £90, the Beemer was £210. Perhaps you do just get what you pay for?

Incidently I went out in a new Civic Type R and the ride was abysmal. Looked good from the outside, but I can't imagine a trip onto the continent or down to Cornwall. I'm sure it was very fast round corners but my butt was as numb as it was in an Elise and the Lotus would trounce the Civic any day!

What are the alternatives? 30 - 50mm fixed drop on "quality" dampers? How do people feel the comfort is compromised?
 

andycupra

status subject to change
totally agree.
most people would be better off with a good spring/shock set up than 'coilovers'.

While i cant blame them for supplying what people ask for, i think that most tuners are guilty of not discussing what people want/need and putting other options to customers.