If you are unhappy with the performance of your car’s suspensions system, Coilovers may provide the solution you are looking for. Perhaps your car does not corner very well. You may feel that the car is going to tip over when you take a curve too fast.
Maybe your car sits too high, and the center of gravity is also high as a result. Lowering your car would help with the center of gravity and avoid that tipping feeling. The shocks on your car seem to deal with bumps and potholes well.
However, the hood tends to bounce around whenever you hit a bump, and there is a feeling that you may lose control of the vehicle. Replacing the car’s suspension system, the shocks with coilovers that combine the shocks and springs provide a great deal more control of the suspension and the stiffness of your rides.
Adjustments can be made to reflect the type of driving and the location of your driving. If you do a lot of cornering, e.g., on a circular track, coilovers may be the solution that provides additional control over your car as you corner at high speeds. Let’s look at Coilovers in more detail.
What are coilovers and How do they work?
Coilovers replace your car’s existing shocks and springs. They provide the ability to make adjustments to your car’s ride and allow you to customize several suspension features to adapt suspension performance to meet various road conditions.
Their purpose is to ensure that your car is stable under all road conditions, providing excellent traction, especially in cornering situations and that the tires provide excellent traction. Specifically, they provide car owners the ability to make adjustments:
- Car height – raise or lower the center of gravity
- Stiffness – how fast the shock compresses when you hit a bump
- Compression – how far a shock will compress
- Rebound – how quickly they rebound after hitting a bump
However, coilovers must be installed and adjusted to suit your needs as a driver. Handling may improve, but the car ride may be rougher. Every pothole and bump is felt by the driver and passengers unless you make adjustments to provide a smoother ride.
Coilovers typically arrive from the manufacturer with stiff settings meaning you will feel the bumps. Make adjustments to meet your preferences, recognizing you may trade handling for a smoother ride. Note that your passengers may not have the same appreciation for cornering as they experience a rougher ride.
Do coilovers make your ride smoother?
How smooth your ride depends on the settings selected for your Coilover by the manufacturer or when you install the unit on your vehicle. There are three scenarios we will look at when discussing how smooth your ride will be when coilovers are installed on your car. For most people, improving suspension performance in cornering situations is more important than how smooth the ride is.
Coilover Manufacturers Settings – the manufacturer usually ships coilovers with settings set to a stiffer ride since most people have an objective of improving cornering performance. As a result, coilovers installed with these settings tend to deliver a stiffer ride than what you may be accustom to.
Coilovers from another car – you may have driven in someone’s car and felt the ride was perfect. When offered a chance to buy them used at a significantly reduced price, you jump on it and install them on your vehicle, expecting a similar ride. Not so fast. Many variables could change the smoothness of the ride and the performance of the suspension.
Car weight and height on the road are two factors that will affect suspension performance. You may need to customize the adjustments on the coilovers to improve your driving expectations to obtain the response and smoothness you are looking for.
Select the Correct Spring Rates – Spring rate is how much force is needed to compress your springs. Higher spring rates mean more force is needed to compress the spring leading to a stiffer ride. The wrong shock length for your ride height can lead to less than desirable results.
How to adjust Coilovers for a smooth ride?
Coilovers can be adjusted to provide a stiffer high cornering capability or a smoother ride but less responsive cornering capability. There is a balance between the two that will meet your needs and those of your passengers.
Note that the manufacturer will ship their coilovers set to a stiffer ride since most people are looking for improved cornering suspension performance. Height adjustment lowers or raises the center of gravity point.
A lower height improves cornering and lowers the risk of rollovers. However, a lower car is prone to scraping the road when you encounter bumps, potholes, and other road hazards, which can potentially damage the underside of your car. Raise the car for a smoother ride.
Adjust the valves for compression and rebound (dampening). These valves control how quickly oil inside a shock body moves from one side of the shock piston to the other when there is compression as your tire hits a bump in the road and how quickly it recovers afterward.
There are usually many settings, with higher settings providing a stiffer ride and lower settings allow the shock to absorb the force of the bump and provide the passengers with a smoother ride.
Choose the right spring rate
Choosing the right spring rate for your car is very important. If your car is not heavy enough to compress each spring, or conversely, if it is too heavy, the spring will not be able to do its job since it will be compressed too much. In addition to weight, the spring should be compressed 25-30% of the free length of the spring, while for drag cars, each spring should be compressed as much as 30-35% to provide a stiffer ride.
Spring rate is defined as the amount of weight needed to compress any spring by one inch. This is a linear measurement which means that if you add 200 pounds and it compresses one inch, adding another 200 pounds will compress it another inch.
Always select coilovers for the specific car that they will be mounted on. Purchasing used coilovers from someone may cause your suspension to not respond appropriately since every spring is meant for a different weight.
Adjusting ride height and shock length
Coilovers come with the ability to adjust the ride height. However, there are several issues to consider as you make adjustments. Adjusting the Coilover to lower your car also reduces the distance the springs can compress, adding stiffness to your ride.
While the center of gravity is lower, and there is less chance of rollovers during hard cornering, the ride will be very stiff. You are going to feel all of the bumps on the road. Our roads are full of potholes, and many municipalities add speed bumps to slow drivers down.
With your car set to ride low, there may be insufficient space for your car to clear the speed bumps, or your car’s undercarriage may touch the road in some of the larger potholes. Even dips in the road can cause serious problems and damage the bumper and undercarriage of the car.
Anyone living in snowy conditions in the wintertime will find that their low cars are a non-starter during any snow buildup on the roads. Experts suggest that a ride should be 13.5 inches and still keep the look you desire while not hitting the speed bumps unless they are higher than normal. Remember to lock the spring perch after you have reached your desired height.
Increase or lower the damper on your shocks
The job of a shock is to dampen the response of your car whenever it hits a bump and keeps the tires in contact with the road. Lose contact with the road, and you can lose control of the wheels. Coilovers come pre-set with a stiffer setting. However, you may want to make adjustments to deliver a smoother ride or, conversely, provide more control.
Rebound control is how quickly weight moves away from your tires, while compression control is how quickly weight moves toward the tires. By softening the damper control and full compression controls on coilovers, you can have a smoother ride. Coilovers have one or two knobs to turn to adjust the stiffness of the shock.
Some coilovers do not have adjustable rebounds and compressions. For these units, you will have to settle for whatever they provide. Others will have one dial to make adjustments. More expensive units will have two, one for rebounds and one for compressions.
How do I make my Coilovers ride smoother?
Drivers who have decided to install coilovers but want a smooth ride need to consider several different elements, starting with the first step, which is finding the ride height, so you don’t increase bump travel, and you actually maximize suspension travel and droop travel.
Adjust The Ride Height – Higher ride heights provide a smoother ride since the springs have more travel space to absorb the bumps on the road. Although the center of gravity is lower since your car is higher from the ground, it will be smoother at the price of reduced cornering performance by the suspension system.
Buy Coilovers With The Correct Spring Rate – always purchase coilovers meant for your car. The weight on the springs is different for every automobile, and making the wrong purchase can lead to a rough ride or even reduced suspension response during cornering situations.
Adjust The Compression and Rebound – Make adjustments to the compression and rebound for a smoother ride if your coilovers are equipped. A high setting provides a stiffer ride, while a lower setting offers a smoother ride to the driver and passengers.
Do Not Adjust Preload Without Experience – Since preload is set at the factory for your model and adjusting preload will not impact ride quality. Preload is the amount of compression of the springs without any load. Every spring should be given some pre-load treatment. It’s what keeps them from flopping around when fully extended and ensures your auto stays in good condition.
Fine Tune Shock Valving – Improper shock valving is another common cause of a harsh ride. This can be dangerous because it wears down your tires and causes abnormal wear on them, which could lead to more serious issues like blowouts.
Which way do Coilovers need to be adjusted?
Coilovers are delivered and set by the manufacturer to provide a firmer ride, and it is up to the mechanic or car owner to make adjustments to meet their preferred ride comfort. For most people, it is better to set the new coilovers to a firm level initially to avoid bottoming out when you go over a speed bump or some other bump in the road.
While this setting could provide a stiffer ride than what you desire, it will avoid bottoming out your lowered car and damaging the bumper and undercarriage. On coilovers with one adjustment control, you turn the dial counterclockwise to make it softer and clockwise to make it firmer. The instructions that come with your Coilover will indicate how many positions are available for setting.
Set your Coilover setting at least two-thirds of the way towards a firmer setting initially to confirm the type of ride delivered based on your car’s weight etc. if you find that the ride is too stiff, rotate the control counterclockwise to provide a softer ride. If the ride is not stiff enough, rotate the Coilover control clockwise to stiffen up the ride. Make sure the shock is not loose to control suspension travel.
Are Coilovers designed to be comfortable?
Coilovers are designed to give car owners control over their suspension for the conditions that they typically drive their cars in. They can provide a relatively comfortable ride if they are set appropriately. However, most drivers are purchasing coilovers to improve cornering, lower their car closer to the road, and provide better traction.
A stiffer setting and lowering your car closer to the road to lower the center of gravity will improve traction and cornering. However, you will have a stiff ride, and you will feel every little bump and pothole in the road. Note that lowering your car too much may cause your undercarriage to hit the road, especially when encountering speed bumps.
At the other extreme, raising it as high as possible and softening the end of the setting will improve your harsh ride and make it more comfortable. However, there will be a noticeable loss in control since your suspension cannot compensate for the stresses placed on it while cornering.
Most drivers make full range adjustments to their coilovers until they find the correct settings for their personal preferences that provide an acceptable level of control while providing a smoother ride to the driver and their passengers.
Linear rate springs vs. Progressive rate springs
A Linear rate spring is a spring that has a constant stiffness no matter how much it is compressed. So, if someone sits on the spring, the same amount of force goes up to their bottom as if they stood on it. If you pick it up and drop it, the spring will always stop at the same point.
A progressive rate spring is a spring that has a level of stiffness that changes as the spring gets more and more compressed. This means that if someone sits on the spring, it will be softer than if they stood on it. If you pick up the end and drop it, it will stop at different points too.
Coilovers are simply a spring placed over a shock, with adjustment capability to set them to the desired level to meet your need for improved suspension control and a smooth ride. Not all coilovers come with the ability to make adjustments. You will find either single or dual adjustable options.
Front and rear coilovers are set by the manufacturer to stiffer settings at the factory. They are designed for your car’s size and weight. Fully threaded coilovers have a lot of options for ride height adjustment and preload, so no matter what type of auto you drive, it will be an excellent choice.
One more thing, don’t forget to measure from the top center of your wheel arch on both sides and make sure they have exactly the same measurement. When you run negative or positive camber, it may affect tire wear. Also, if you dial them in too high or too low, the shock runs out of stroke. There is a vast selection of good brands out there to choose from.