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One of the most important aspects, when it comes to the performance of your vehicle, is suspension. From a performance perspective, the suspension helps you really develop a relationship with your vehicle in terms of knowing your limits as a driver and knowing how far you are comfortable pushing your vehicle under high-performance driving conditions. Suspension is one of the larger aspects in the overall big picture of owning an enthusiast-type vehicle. If you're ready to start performing suspension upgrades, then here is a short list of effective suspension upgrades to improve the overall handling, feedback, and look of your vehicle.
Coilovers could be the most popular and well-known suspension upgrade. On the surface, coilovers are known to be the easiest out-of-the-box way of lowering your vehicle beyond the limits of your conventional lowering spring. People want race-inspired looks, and coilovers can certainly get you to that point. However, there is so much more to coilovers. There are so many available levels of coilovers from basic coilovers that allow you to just lower your vehicle to advanced coilovers that come with adjustable camber hats, damping and rebound adjustment. And some coilovers have external fluid reservoirs. Most coilovers come ready-to-install right out of the box which eliminates the need to get spring compressors and perform disassembly of your factory shock and spring setup. The beauty of coilovers is versatility; you can change your ride height to suit your vehicle for that special set of wheels you just got, you can change the ride height for the next car show, and you can set the optimal height for weekend track use. And most coilovers will have damping settings to either soften the ride quality for the street or they can be stiffened up for competition use.
Sway bars simply help plant your vehicle to the surface of the road under high-speed cornering conditions. Also known as anti-roll bars, a larger sway bar not only reduces the body roll when entering or exiting a corner but also improves the understeer and oversteer characteristics of your vehicle. This is one of the more cost-effective suspension upgrades and the most rewarding (in our opinion) for the driver as they improve driver confidence on the track, under spirited canyon runs, or on the street. Sway bars are available in many configurations. Typically, a larger sway bar generally improves your overall handling. But seasoned track enthusiasts or people who really know their car's handling capabilities may opt for a larger front or a larger rear sway bar to compensate for over or understeering, or if they simply want to find the right balance to accommodate their driving style.
This is something that should never be overlooked. Although a proper alignment is critical on the track due to the fact that you are going at a high rate of speed, it is equally important on the street to avoid premature tire wear. In high-performance driving conditions, caster is an important alignment angle to focus on. Caster is essentially the angle between the upper and lower ball joints on your front suspension. If the angle leans towards the front of the vehicle, that is negative caster. If the angle leans towards the rear of the vehicle, then that is positive caster. You want to avoid having an alignment with a negative caster as it could make your vehicle feel unpredictable on the track and could make the vehicle feel as though it was harder to control. A proper alignment with a good caster degree will provide the vehicle with better overall driving stability especially in a straight line because it keeps the wheel straight under a load. This is also beneficial for events where there are several turns such as an autocross or even drifting. If you come out of a fast heavy corner and start sliding, your natural tendencies will start turning your steering wheel in the opposite direction. Once you feel that you have gained control again and let go of the steering wheel while in motion, the steering wheel will naturally want to straighten out. This would be the result in a proper caster angle setting in your alignment. And when you're on a track traveling at a high rate of speed, there is always that inherent risk of spinning out of control. Good caster geometry will help you stay in better control of your vehicle on the track, on the highway, or even on the way to the grocery store.
Aftermarket control arms make for an excellent investment into your suspension because with some coilover setups, you could lower your vehicle to the point where the factory alignment settings won't be effective. Additionally, your control arms host some of the more pivotal bushings in your vehicle as they absorb much of the energy of the suspension. Worn bushings in your control arms should always be replaced especially if you plan on taking your car to the track. Worn bushings in your control arms will make a lot of noise and can also cause premature wear on other suspension components. But it could greatly have an effect on the handling and the performance of your vehicle. Making sure that your control arms are in good standing is critical for high-performance driving conditions, and aftermarket control arms will have additional alignment settings to make sure you're within the strike zone especially if your vehicle is lowered on coilovers.
Chassis bracing is incredibly beneficial especially if you have an older car that is still competitive. Whether on the street or the track, chassis bracing greatly improves the structural rigidity of your chassis and suspension to improve the overall driving stability. All of which have been designed to keep the chassis flex to a minimum. Proper chassis bracing not only benefits the driver feedback, but it really adds extra muscle to the suspension and maximizes the overall purpose and design of your suspension components.
In conclusion, these suspension modifications are a great way to really change the handling characteristics of your vehicle for the street or the track. Start with the small and easy steps, such as a proper alignment, before swinging at the fences. You could have all of the suspension upgrades in the world, but if you don’t have proper alignment, you will be counterproductive. Learn the limits of your driving ability, and when you're ready to start attacking those corners better, visit us to view our large menu of quality suspension upgrades.