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Suspension FAQs
#1
Here's some good, beginner/intermediate information on suspension tech. I pulled from SHO. As always, I must give credit to LordAccord and SHO for bringing this information to my attention in the first place...

LordAccord Wrote:Section 1: Basics - it's all about energy


Lets start with some terminology:

Coil Spring: The load bearing component of a Honda suspension. Springs, basically, convert road inconsistencies into a compression or expansion motion, otherwise known as oscillation. If a car did not have springs, you would feel everything you hit; nothing would stop the energy created by the road from transferring to the frame of your vehicle. To illustrate, try to recall being pulled down the street in a little red wagon when you were a kid. Remember what that felt like? Well, that's what it would feel like if you had no springs on your car. If I remember right, it was hard to turn corners at high speeds in that wagon too... hmm.

Spring Rate: The amount of force needed to compress a spring by a specific amount. In the U.S., we usually see this measured in Pounds per Inch (LB/in). Spring rate is affected by the size of the coil (A), the size of the spring wire (B), and the number of coils that are able to compress ©.

Linear Rate Springs: It's not difficult to describe linear rate springs. Essentially, all coils in a linear spring are spaced evenly and made with the same design. This translates to a predictable reaction to certain road (track) conditions. With a linear rate spring, you must apply a static amount of pressure for the spring to make an additional compression. Hence, there is one, single given spring rate.

Progressive Rate Springs: Most springs, for Hondas, are progressive rate springs. In this style of spring, coils progress from being wound closer together to being wound further apart (also, sometimes, with different materials or design). The effect this creates is that the spring under no load is soft; it takes less force to compress it because there are more coils to be compressed. As more force is applied, the softer coils begin to collapse onto each other, essentially extending the resting point of the active spring downward. All of a sudden, your spring is rendered shorter and thereby stiffer. So, in a progressive rate spring, the force needed to compress the spring increases as the spring compresses. Hence, there is a range of given spring rates.

Dampers (aka Shock Absorbers, Shocks, Struts): The suspension component that stops springs from oscillating.

Dampers are more commonly referred to as shocks or struts, and the question always comes up as to what the difference is. I'm not going to explain it, simply because we already use the terms so interchangeably. The bottom line is that you have one or the other, you can't replace one with the other, and - if you must know - almost all our Hondas, technically, use shocks. If I say you should replace your stock struts, that doesn't mean you have struts, it's just what I'm used to saying.

The damper, because of its other names, is commonly thought to be the part of the suspension that actually absorbs the shock. If you were reading above, you already know this is not true. Springs actually absorb road shock by turning that energy into spring oscillations; dampers stop spring oscillations by turning that energy into heat and spreading that heat through a liquid.

How, you ask? There are actually quite a few ways, but this is called "the basics," now, isn't it? What you need to know is that there is usually a piston, two chambers, and some kind of fluid (usually oil, sometimes accompanied by a gas). The damper operates by pushing the piston through the fluid, expanding a chamber and forcing varying amounts of fluid to move through holes in the piston head and fill that chamber. Ok, so maybe that doesn't seem so simple, but really, it is. Think of it like a bicycle tire pump, except instead of pushing the air out of the tube, you force it into the top of the tube. This is how a damper works.

Dampers (well, the whole suspension, really) go through two different cycles that we generally refer to as compression and rebound. In the compression stage, the spring is compressed, and the damper attempts to lessen this effect by resisting the piston's movement into the bottom chamber. In the rebound stage, the spring needs to return to its initial position, and the damper attempts to lessen this effect by resisting the piston's movement back into the top chamber. Likened to a storm door, one direction of piston movement usually creates more resistance than the other. This is what's referred to as damper valving. Most dampers are designed so they compress quicker and rebound longer. Some also have adjustable valving for rebound, compression, or both. You will find adjustable dampers to be very popular among Honda tuners, especially those that track race or autocross.

Coil-Over Suspension: The Honda suspensions that we usually deal with use a basic spring-over-damper design; this is otherwise referred to as a coil-over suspension. There are, however, different kinds of coil-over suspensions. The most commonly used in our Hondas is a double-wishbone style suspension, which combines two wishbone (or A) shaped control arms that are attached to the frame of the car. The strut assembly is mounted to the lower control arm and passes through the upper and attaches to the frame of the car. The upper control arm is suspended by the wheel spindle, which attaches to each control arm with a ball joint. These are the components of your suspension that determine the characteristics of your car's drivability and alignment; the most variable alignment settings are:

Camber: The amount of lean of your wheels towards or away from your car-
From in front of your car: /-----------\ = negative. Lowering often results in negative camber. To dial in a more precise camber setting, people often install a camber correction kit. Proper camber settings and the various types of camber kits will be discussed in the FAQ section. Camber does not cause tire wear.

Toe: The amount that your wheels are turned toward or away from each other-
From above your car: /-----------\ = toe in. Toe can be corrected easily with an alignment; it is usually adjusted via a bolt or thread on your tie rod ends. A non-zero toe setting will wear tires faster.

Caster: The alignment of your ball joints with respect to ground plane. Caster usually doesn't need to be adjusted.

Various Honda cars and trim levels also make use of McPherson Strut systems, as well as Trailing Arm systems. However, the suspension concepts remain, for the most part, the same. If you want to learn how these differ from your basic Double-Wishbone, then I suggest checking out the following website.
http://www.chris-longhurst.com/carbi...ion_bible.html

Bushings
: Small pieces of rubber that are found where most suspension components attach to the vehicle or other components. The soft, rubber bushings that are on most cars allow a lot of suspension flex and can have a lot of effect on stability and control. You can, and probably should replace rubber bushings with poly-urethane bushings; these increase your steering response and suspension stiffness, but can also require more care and cause you to feel a lot more of the road.

Sway Bars (aka Anti-Roll Bars): Sway bars are used to reduce the play between the frame of the car and the lower suspension. The primary result of this is reduced body roll in corners, allowing your car's suspension to do the work it was intended to do, especially at faster than normal speeds. Many cars do come stock with sway bars, but they are thin and sometimes even slightly hollow. The most effective sway bars are thick, rigid, and solid. Be careful with your application of sway bars, because they are capable of having a drastic effect on the understeer / oversteer characteristics of your car.

Strut Tower Braces (aka Strut Bars): Most people think that strut bars are for looks. And to be honest, some of them are (that will be discussed later). It's true that strut bars don't have near as much of an impact as sway bars; however, they shouldn't be ignored as a plausible way to tighten up your suspension. Strut bars are designed to link your struts at their upper frame contact points. The main effect of this is an increase in steering rigidity. Many people will say they do the same thing as sway bars do, but realistically, all they do is transfer the flex from one strut tower to the other. This does give the suspension less overall play, and it does increase control while cornering, but the effect is far less noticeable on a car once it has been lowered. Like sway bars, in order for a strut bar to be truly effective, it really needs to be thick, rigid, and solid.

Last but not least for the basics, I think I'll throw in Tires. I know that most of you know what tires are, but do you? I only say this because I believe that tires are the most important component of your suspension. The way they grip, the way they wear, their size, composition, tread pattern, and flex all have drastic impacts on how your car handles, rides, and corners. I don't think I really need to explain all of those things, but I can't count the number of times that someone has complained about bad handling, soft suspension feel, or ride harshness solely because of putting on the wrong tire (usually a cheap tire). So, make sure tires are one of the first things you look at in your overall suspension design, and be careful in your choices of tire, because no matter how low or stiff or stable your car's suspension is, they are capable of compromising it.



Section 2a: FAQ - Don't be an idiot.

1) How can I lower my car?

There are typically three options for lowering your car:
Spring and Damper
Airbags
Hydraulics

For this thread, I'm assuming you are looking for performance and/or inexpensive looks. Cross out bags and hydraulics. The most efficient way to lower your ride, maintain suspension integrity, and increase your performance is to use some sort of spring and damper combination. Here are some of the product options you are going to run into.

Lowering Springs: Coil springs wound shorter than stock, and usually stiffer or progressively stiffer to compensate for the drop. Basic lowering springs can run anywhere from $100 to $400, depending on the quality and manufacturer.

Aftermarket Dampers: Dampers made to handle a shorter, stiffer spring. Some aftermarket dampers are adjustable, and some are non-adjustable (na). You can usually find quality dampers ranging in price from $250-$800, depending on what options you want.

Full Coilover assemblies: Usually, Full Coilovers refer to a specific spring matched to a specific damper and sold as one piece. More often than not, Full Coilovers are height adjustable via a thread on the damper body. Some also offer adjustable dampers. From the basic matched spring / shock coilover, to a fully height and damper adjustable coilover, the prices range from around $600 to $3000.

Coilover Sleeves: Lowering springs seated on a ring that is attached to a threaded centerpiece (or sleeve); the entire assembly is placed over a damper as if it were a regular spring. Coilover sleeves are intended to simulate Full Coilovers in order to lessen the cost of a height-adjustable suspension. Coilover sleeves range in price from $150 to $500, and the price usually reflects their quality.

2) Why would I want a stiffer spring? Isn't that going to compromise my comfort?

Well, frankly, yes it is going to compromise your comfort, but only if you think that stock is comfortable. Some people prefer the more rigid feel of a lowered car, and the bottom line is that you can't lower a car without leaving some of your stock feel behind.

Some people try to avoid comfort loss by using a shorter spring that has a close to stock spring rate. However, If you use a lowering spring that is as soft as your stock spring, your suspension is going to have as much play as your car did when it was stock. This increases your risk of bottoming out, and it allows your car body to roll onto your suspension in a heavy cornering situation.

This is one reason why lowering springs are usually progressively wound - it allows the ride to be comfortable when the suspension is not under heavy duress, but when you enter a corner, or hit something that causes a hard compression, your spring, essentially, becomes stiff enough to counter the pressure.

So, if you use a quality made, progressive rate spring, your ride will still usually be stiffer than stock, but you won't notice it nearly as much until your suspension is under a load. Most progressive rate springs maintain an at least bearable level of comfort for normal driving conditions.

3) Can I put lowering springs on my stock shocks?


People tend to ask this question a lot, and the answer is always the same:

Of course you can, but I will never recommend it.

None on these forums, nor any reputable technician, nor any sensible car enthusiast will ever recommend the use stiffer springs with stock shocks.

When you've been around these communities as long as I have, you tend to hear all of the stories. There are always going to be people who put enormous drops on 1993 stock shocks and get away with it for 100,000 miles. It is possible, and it does happen. Then there are the people with 2004s who put on the springs that supposedly "work with stock shocks," and their shocks are blown within a few days. These kinds of accounts tend to debunk the idea that the most important factor contributing to whether or not a stock shock will last is its age. Sorry, the age theory just isn't true. If you are going to consider the shocks' age, you also have to take into consideration the road conditions they were exposed to, how they've been driven on, what they have carried, etc. Still, none of those factors can outweigh sheer physics.

It remains that the single most important factor that determines whether or not your shock will survive is the spring that you place on it.

The bottom line is that stock shocks were not necessarily designed to handle springs that are much stiffer than stock. I know people want to assume that whatever happened to their buddy is what's going to happen to them, but that's not how it works with suspension. This is a very dynamic game, and you need to be prepared to deal with the worst case scenario.

4) I heard that I can cut or melt my stock springs. Is this a viable way to lower my car?

NO! Coil spacing is not the ONLY thing that affects spring rate! When you remove coils from a spring or melt coils down on a spring, you have the potential of increasing your spring rate by an excessive amount. This is the kind of work that is done by engineers, not wannabe drifters out to save a few dollars. Cutting or melting coils usually results in a very stiff, often uneven, and unnecessarily harsh ride, and you have an even higher risk of blowing your stock shocks than you do with lowering springs. Furthermore, you can never revert back once you go this route, and if you screw one spring up in the process, you are botched all the way around. Cutting or melting springs should never be considered as an option for lowering your car unless you know exactly what you are doing (from a design/engineering standpoint) and can maintain a high degree of precision.

5) What are the differences between different brands and their spring designs?

As discussed, lowering springs with a larger drop are generally stiffer than those with a shorter drop. Each spring manufacturer has its own specifications, of course, but the pattern usually holds true. In the applications section, I will hopefully be able to provide some details on the spring rates of various lowering springs, but for now, here is a simple guide to go by that will apply to most Hondas.

H&R OE / Suspension Techniques Sport / Neuspeed SofSport
Soft, 0.5"-1" drop, 3 finger wheel gap

Eibach Pro-Kit
Medium-stiff, 1.2"-1.4" drop, 2 finger wheel gap

Neuspeed Sport / H&R Sport / B&G Sport / Vogtland
Medium-stiff, 1.5"-1.8" drop, 1 finger wheel gap

Tein S. Tech
Medium-soft, 1.8"-2.1" drop, >1 finger wheel gap

Eibach Sportline
Medium-stiff, 1.8"-2.1" drop, >1 finger wheel gap

Neuspeed Race / H&R Race
Stiff, 2.0"-2.3" drop, wheel gap approaching 0 or tucked

Susp. Tech. / BBK / Intrax / TenzoR / Tanabe / Skunk2 / Sprint / Progress
Stiff-very stiff, 2.0"-3.0" drop, wheel gap approaching 0 or tucked

Suspension FAQ 2.0 recommends that you avoid names you don't see on this list. Suspension FAQ 2.0 also does not recommend buying springs just for their color; you can powder-coat good springs, too. Suspension FAQ 2.0 also advises you not to buy a spring simply because it's supposed to be "JDM." Stick with the tried and true, folks.

6) What about coilover sleeves?

Coilover sleeves are in a little bit of a different realm than lowering springs. Most coilover sleeve springs are purposefully wound stiffer simply because the manufacturer does not know how much you are going to drop your ride. In other words, coilover sleeve springs must be stiff enough to handle the maximum drop relatively well. For this reason, it's almost imperative that you pair coilover sleeves with some well made aftermarket shocks. Now we reach a bit of a slippery slope:

Good coilover sleeves and aftermarket shocks will end up costing anywhere between $500 and $1000. Full coilover kits, with matched spring/shock combinations, tend to start at around $600. So, if you're going to use coilover sleeves and do it correctly, then it's probably time to start looking at full coilover assemblies. In fact, when all is said and done, the only way that good coilover sleeves are truly cost effective is if you do not replace your stock shocks, and that, of course, is not recommended at all.

Because of this, my personal recommendation for sleeves is limited to only a few brands:

Ground Control: uses Eibach springs, very high quality, good documentation, not overbearingly stiff, includes everything you need for installation.

Skunk2: well manufactured, well proven- very stiff springs, but they are going to get the job done well.

If you are just really trying to save money, then I won't count out TenzoR or WeaponR, but I don't give them my whole-hearted recommendation either. There are really very few well tested coilover sleeves, and you need to keep that in the forefront of your mind if you decide to go this route.

And I'll post the disclaimer again, just for effect. Suspension FAQ 2.0 recommends that you avoid names you don't see on this list. Suspension FAQ 2.0 also does not recommend buying coilover sleeves just for their color; you can powder-coat good sleeves, too. Suspension FAQ 2.0 also advises you not to buy a coilover sleeve simply because it's supposed to be "JDM." Stick with the tried and true, folks.

7) What's the big deal about aftermarket dampers?

If it hasn't become clear to you by now, it's highly recommended that you replace your stock shocks when you put any sort of stiffer spring onto your car (this means most lowering springs and coilover sleeves). One of the most common questions that comes up is "why?" Here are some of the reasons:

• Stock shocks were not designed for stiffer, shorter aftermarket springs
• Blown shocks can cause extreme wear to your axle and other parts of your suspension and chassis.
• To replace your springs, the entire damper assembly must be removed anyhow. If you are not doing the install yourself, it just isn't cost effective to pay for a spring install and NOT have new shocks installed. This goes for simple stock replacements as well.
• Shocks aren't any cheaper to replace once they are blown, so why risk stock shocks not blowing if you know you don't have the money to replace them if they do?
• Blown shocks are very dangerous to you and your passengers - it is imperative, especially with stiffer springs, that you have something to stop spring oscillations. The result of having no damping is a potential loss of your suspension's contact patch with the road, which equates to losing control of your car.
• Aftermarket dampers will improve your performance and handling, whether or not it "feels" any different. Unfortunately, some people won't realize this until they lose control of their car or find themselves in a tight corner / quick reaction situation.

8) What are the differences between different brands and their damper designs?

The popular damper manufacturers among Honda tuners are Koni, Bilstein, Tokico, and KYB. Here's a basic breakdown of the various damper models produced by these companies and the drops that I would recommend pairing with them:

KYB GR-2
Non-adjustable, intended as stock replacements.
0"-1" drop max, if any at all.

Tokico HP (Blue) / Bilstein HD
Non-adjustable, better valved than stock, designed to carry a larger load, but not necessarily designed to handle all lowering applications.
0"-1.5" drop max, if any at all.

KYB AGX
Eight or four way rebound adjustable (depending on your car), the lowest setting being equivalent to the GR-2s. Decent valving, but not the strongest of the popular dampers.
0"-1.75" drop

Bilstein Sport / Koni Special (red)
Non-adjustable (reds can be adjusted 3 ways when disassembled), very firm valving, high quality, best non-adjustable applications.
0"-2.25" drop

Tokico Illumina
Five way rebound/compression adjustable, valved for lowering applications and sport performance. Thick shock body has problems accommodating a few coilover sleeves, but overall quality is high.
0"-2.5" drop

Koni Sport / Neuspeed Koni SP3
Non-incremental (fully) rebound adjustable, the best widely-available aftermarket strut available for lowering applications. The Neuspeed version features a shorter shock body and five adjustable height perches.
0"-3"+ drop

Tokico D-Spec
Non-incremental (fully) rebound/compression adjustable, Tokico's answer to Koni sports. Too soon to tell where these will stand in the marketplace, but they have the potential of standing up to Koni, which would please some hardcore enthusiasts.
0"-3"+ drop

There are very few other damper manufacturers that produce anything that competitively stands up to the value and performance of those listed above, at least not in standalone applications. Keep that in mind when people are trying to tell you what will and will not work for your car. Suspension FAQ 2.0 recommends that you avoid names that you don't see on this list.

9) What about full coilover assemblies?

This seems to be where most people are turning nowadays, because it continues to get cheaper, and the quality of a matched spring / damper combination is hard to pass up, whether or not there is adjustability. It used to be that there were no real "bad" full coilovers, but nowadays, you will run into some cheaply made combinations that are really not tuned to each other at all. Be leery if there is no brand, or if there is no indication that what you are buying is anything more than some no-name spring pre-attached to some no-name damper. Also, see if you can talk to other people that have the application you are looking into.

Like with springs and dampers, there have been some names that always hold true when it comes to full coilover suspensions. I will work on a comprehensive breakdown for the application section, but for now, if you decide to go this route, you can probably place a safe bet on Tein, Mugen, Apex'i, D2, Progress, HKS, Bilstein, Koni, H&R, Tokico, Tanabe, B&G, Omni, or Spoon. The following are some of the most popular applications that are widely available in the market right now.

Tein Basic
Height adjustable, high quality, good value entry level.

Tein SS
Height adjustable, 16 way rebound adjustable, one of the most popular coilovers for everyday use.

Apex'i WS
Height adjustable, decent quality entry level.

Apex'i N1
Height adjustable, 13 way rebound/compression adjustable, very high priced, but good design, can be harsh for the street.

D2, Omni
Height adjustable, non-incremental (fully) rebound adjustable, relatively new manufacturers, but good results thus far

H&R Street
Height adjustable, decent quality entry level.

Tanabe Sustec S-S
Height Adjustable, eight way rebound adjustable, decent middle of the road approach.

Tokico Illumina-R
Height adjustable, five way rebound/compression adjustable, uses threaded Illumina shock and matched spring, good value entry level.

There are a few other manufacturers that I really didn't mention, such as NEX and OBX. I am not going to tell you to steer away from them, because their products are not necessarily bad quality. What it comes down to is that you can get a better product for the same price by going with Tein or Apex'i. Furthermore, there are a lot of different applications available beside the ones I listed above. If you are serious about a full coilover setup, you need to do some research beyond what is in this thread.

10) What are the pros and cons of each suspension setup?

Stock
Pros: smooth ride
Cons: significant body roll, no drop, low performance

Cut or melted springs
Pros: dropped look
Cons: dangerous, bouncy and rough ride, blows stock shocks quickly, no height or damper adjustability, uneven spring rates

Just lowering springs
Pros: dropped look, acceptable compromise between comfort and performance, reduced body roll
Cons: stiffer ride, tendency to be bouncy, blows stock shocks quickly, no height or damper adjustability

Just aftermarket dampers
Pros: improves handling and suspension response, slightly stiffer road feel
Cons: maintains significant body roll, no drop

Lowering springs and aftermarket dampers
Pros: dropped look, decent ride, best compromise between comfort and performance, reduced body roll, improved handling and suspension response, can be cost effective, can have damper adjustability
Cons: stiffer ride in rough places, no significant height adjustability

Just coilover sleeves
Pros: height adjustable, dropped look, decent performance, reduced body roll
Cons: threads can slip, blows stock shocks quickly, very harsh ride, tendency to be bouncy, no damper adjustability, requires some maintenence

Coilover sleeves and aftermarket dampers
Pros: height adjustable, dropped look, acceptable ride, decent compromise between comfort and performance, reduced body roll, improved handling and suspension response, can have damper adjustability
Cons: threads can slip, tendency to be harsh (even with aftermarket dampers), not cost effective, requires some maintenence

Full coilover assemblies
Pros: height adjustable, dropped look, best ride, best compromise between comfort and performance, reduced body roll, springs threaded directly on shock body (no slip), improved handling and suspension response, can be cost effective, can have damper adjustability
Cons: requires some maintenance, stiffer ride in rough places

Others (airbags and hydraulics)
Pros: instant height adjustability, smooth ride, marginal compromise between comfort and performance, impressive for show
Cons: lacking performance, constant maintenance, not cost effective for a daily driver

1) What setup is best for me?

Ahh, the eternal question. What's best? Well, I could tell you straight up that what's best for you is what looks and feels right to you, but that's easy for me to say when I've ridden, driven on, critiqued, and learned about so many different combinations. Obviously, each application is going to have its own set of unique pros and cons. If I could cover them all here, I would, but that's not what this thread is for. I will however, give you some common scenarios I have encountered over the years and my recommendations for them, and hopefully it will help you get closer to making a decision.

I'm all show, I just want to impress people
Common. Sad, but common. If you are out just to show off your car, that doesn't mean that you should compromise on your suspension. You need your car to drive right and ride right, even if it's dropped. I would recommend:
• Tein S. Tech, or Eibach Sportline springs and
• Bilstein Sports or Tokico Illumina dampers
It shouldn't break the bank, but it will make your car look significantly lower, and you should retain a fair level of comfort.

No, I mean ALL show. I want to take my ride to a car show every weekend
Interesting. Well, this probably means that you want to be able to set your car down on the showroom floor. You're going to want an adjustable suspension. If this is also your daily driver, then I would recommend:
• Entry level full coilovers
If this is strictly a show car, then I would recommend:
• Air bags or hydraulics

I'm all go, I'd like to blast through curvy city streets with 30 mph speed limits and many pedestrian crossings and school zones

You're a moron.

I'm all go, I'd like to hit the autocross track on weekends, and I have this closet dream of drifting into my driveway
Sounds like you're pretty serious. Unfortunately, you may also be the hardest to please, because simple lowering may not be enough for you to be successful at the autocross or your driveway. There are many setups that could appease you depending on your level of involvement. If you are just starting out, on a budget, and want to see what your car can do, I would recommend:
• Eibach Pro Kit, Neuspeed Sport, or H&R Sport springs and
• Tokico Illumina or Koni Sport / SP3 dampers
If you really want to tune your car for the weekends, then you might look into:
• Basic height and damper adjustable full coilovers or
• Entry level full coilovers
If you are a serious autoXer, which you probably aren't if you have to read this thread, then you might want to shell out some cash on:
• Height, compression, and rebound adjustable full coilovers

I'm all go, I just only go straight to the drag strip

I haven't talked much about drag setups, but again, if you are all out serious about drag racing, you probably don't need this thread. Nevertheless, it's come up before. Progressive rate springs aren't always the best choice for a drag racer, you usually want something that you know can counter the pressure to your rear suspension and keep the car level. So, if you are involved in drag racing and want to really stiffen things up, look into:
• Custom rate, linear springs + dampers or
• Custom valved full coilovers

I like to drive. I just want something that I can enjoy on the backroads, but still take on a road trip without being too worried
You're going to want to avoid a heavy drop if you like to venture into unfamiliar territories, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun. The perfect static setup for what you're asking would be something like this:
• Eibach Pro-Kit and
• Bilstein Sport, Tokico Illumina, Koni Sport, or KYB AGX dampers
If you want to be able to ride low most of the time, but raise it for the family vacation, it sounds like you need to look into:
• Entry level full coilovers

I love to drive. I like to push my car's limits whenever I can, as long as I'm not putting anyone else in danger.
This is me. A lot of you are like this; you want to seize every opportunity to get out on the open road, be it curvy, straight, wide, or narrow. There's quite a bit of risk involved to your car, but it's worth it. When you look at driving like this, almost any combo could work, but I tend to favor:
• Basic height and damper adjustable full coilovers or
• Neuspeed Sport, H&R Sport, Neuspeed Race, or H&R Race and
• Koni Sport / SP3 dampers

I'm a cruiser. I really do care how my car looks and performs, but in reality it's only going to be for quick right turns and smooth four-lane roads

Sounds like you really just need to make sure people know that you're not out on the strip because you're on the way to the grocery store. It's that, or else you want to look damn good on the way to the grocery store. Either way, you could probably settle for a pretty decent sized drop. I'd go with:
• Entry level full coilovers or
• Eibach Sportline, Neuspeed Race, or H&R Race springs and
• Tokico Illumina, Bilstein Sport, Koni Red, or Koni Sport dampers

My parents don't want me to lower my car
This is one I have had to deal with personally in the past, and it's one that will crop up again and again. If your parents own the car, then there may be nothing you can do to convince them it's alright. I would be happy to talk to any parent that has reservations, but most of the time they won't want to hear what I have to say. If it's your car, but there are consequences that you may have to face if you do lower your car, the best advice that I can give is to go with a mild drop that might not be too noticeable, such as an H&R OE / Bilstein HD setup. It will give you a slight performance increase, and it shouldn't be so obvious that your parents will really notice it. If it's your car and your parents are just being hard asses, then I recommend doing whatever you want. You will have to deal with the cost of it yourself, anyways, and there's no disrespect to your parents involved in modifying your own property.

I'm extreme. I like to take my Accord off roading, and I like to drive over speed bumps at twice the recommended speed.
Get the hell out of here.




LordAccord Wrote:Section 2b: Side effects - now you're in the big leagues

1) How do I know if my shocks are blown?

This is one of those questions that people only ask if they've (a) never ridden in a car with blown shocks or (b) has never ridden in a car with working shocks. You will have a pretty good idea that something isn't working right. Even on stock springs, when your shock is dead, the car get's extremely bouncy and unstable. Basically, what happens, is nothing is stopping your spring from continually oscillating. Yeah, if your shocks die, you are going to know it.

If you are performing maintenance on your car and want to double check, see if any oil is leaking from around the seal where the piston rod enters the shock body. This is also a clear indicator that a shock is wearing out.

2) I've heard that lowering my car will cause my tires to rub - is this true?

It can be true, but most lowering springs are not capable of lowering your to the point that your tires will rub inside your fender. Some situations will require you to "tuck" your tires under your fender, which prevents you from correcting any negative camber; however, as long as you retain your stock overall wheel/tire diameter, you still shouldn't have any issues.

Most people actually run into rubbing problems as a result of
a) wider rims with an incorrect offset to compensate
b) taller tires that increase the overall wheel/tire diameter
c) soft or sagging springs and/or soft / blown shocks

As long as you do your research on the above issues, you shouldn't ever run into any noteworthy rubbing problems.

3) I've heard a lot of people talk about camber. What exactly is camber?

First off, I will say that too much emphasis and worry is put onto camber. This isn't a problem that just pops up on certain cars every once and awhile, camber is a condition that changes all the time in ALL CARS. This isn't just a Honda thing, and this is not just a lowering thing. However, it does need to be handled correctly if you want your tires to wear properly.

Camber refers to the amount of lean that your tires have towards or away from each other if referenced from a line perpendicular to the ground plane. So, imagine you were looking at your car's axle from directly in front of the car.

With negative camber, the bottom of the wheel shifts outward, causing an effect that would appear like:
/========\
With positive camber, the bottom of the wheel shifts inward, causing an effect that would appear like:
\=======confused0036
If you have no camber (0 degrees), your tires would make complete contact with the ground, and your wheel would appear to look like:
|========|

4) How does camber affect my handling?

Camber is DYNAMIC. it changes all the time based on the load in the car, the angle that the wheels are turned, the position of the springs and shocks, and the specific components in the suspension.

In most Hondas, camber is set between .5 and -.5 with a driver and a normal load. If you have a full carload and are pulling a trailer, your camber is most likely setting at -.5 to -1.5, possibly more. But for most non-performance- conscious consumers, that is never even realized; they drive short distances or take one time trips, and they have tires with 400 treadwear that they rotate every 3000 miles because they like to pamper their cars. It is never an ill effect that is noticeable to them. On some other cars, especially like BMW and Mercedes...even some domestics, there can be as much as -1.5 degrees of stock camber, which is an acceptable range for those cars. The bottom line is that cars known for their suspension performance usually don’t have positive camber. Why? Well, how else did you think they racked up those points in suspension? It’s because the way the tires grip the road is the most important aspect of a car’s suspension; it’s not all springs and shocks and how many bars we can stick on. Under tight cornering and even hard braking, camber plays a very large role in the performance of a car.

The camber on every car changes, the numbers that we measure are only for a car that’s at a standstill or static position. When camber comes into its most serious play is when a car is cornering. If you have negative camber going into a corner, it means that as your body rolls and your wheels lean, the camber on your inner wheel will increase (get closer to 0) and the camber on your outer wheel will decrease (get more negative). Therefore, you gain grip and stability on the inside track of your turn while your outer wheel pushes you force towards the center of the turn. Optimal settings would have us have 0 camber on all wheels at all times, but having more negative camber is the only real way to accomplish 0 camber while cornering, and it is in such a way that it gives a slight performance edge. Reducing body roll is the only way one can really help effectively gain traction without having static negative camber; however, realistically, we well never reduce body roll enough to counter the advantage that negative camber gives.

5) So why do I need to worry about camber?

Lowering your car usually comes at the price of increased negative camber. Negative camber usually comes at the price of increased inner (and outer, depending on how many corners you do hug...and how hard) tire wear. Unfortunately, a serious performance car that has negative camber is also likely to be sporting performance tires that actually grip the road. These sticky, low profile tires can't always make it through quite as many corners as our good ole' Uniroyal 450 treadwear 100,000 mile tires could. So, many people that lower their cars try to correct their camber using a camber correction kit. Adverse tire wear is the main, sometimes only reason that people look into buying camber kits.

6) How does a camber correction kit work?

There are generally three ways that camber kits are designed for Hondas:
• to change the position of the upper control arms, effectively: to move the points where they mount to the frame (anchor-bolt), and shift your ball joint and the top of your wheel spindle out
• to change the ball joints, making the point where the wheel spindle attaches to the upper control arm adjustable
• to change the actual upper control arms to a shorter arm or an arm with built in adjustability

For the rear wheels on some Hondas, you can shim the upper control arm using washers on the two bolts that attach the arm to the frame. A basic breakdown of the procedure can be found here:
DIY: Camber Washer Trick

7) Should I buy a camber kit?

This is one of the most annoying and common questions that gets asked on Honda web boards, and this is how it should be answered every single time:

Not until you know how much you need your camber corrected! Nobody knows exactly how your car is going to be affected by your drop. Every car, despite having the same design as others like it, will end up with different ride heights and different alignment needs.

The best way to determine if you need a camber kit is to lower your car, get an alignment, get your camber specs, and make a decision from there. It's something you should plan for, yes, but don't buy the kit until you know for sure that you need it! Bottom line: get an alignment after lowering and go from there.

8) Wait, I have to get an alignment when I lower my car?

YES!! It is absolutely imperative that you get an alignment when you make any major suspension modification to your car! By getting an allignment you are in essence answering about 4 different questions about your suspension:
• How much did my lowering effect my camber?
• Do I need a camber kit?
• How many degrees should my camber kit correct?
• What other alignment settings are affected?

The last time I dropped my car, the answers to the above questions were:
• about -3 degrees
• yes
• at least 2 degrees
• toe

I chose an Ingalls anchor-bolt kit that corrected from +1.25 to +3 degrees. However, the use of this kit also presented a few problems with the clearance of my control arms.

9) Your camber kit caused control arm problems? I thought it was supposed to be fixing problems!

Well, as far as I know, some control arm clearance issues are common with the 4g and 5g Accord using an anchor-bolt camber kit. There may be other Honda/Acuras that experience the same issue, but I'm not sure which ones.

The problem usually arises when trying to correct camber more than approximately +2 degrees. Why? When the control arm is adjusted at the anchor-bolt, it is moved out and up slightly, and it sits in a position it was never intended to sit in. This placement can cause the control arms to scrape or hit the outer finder lip and also to hit the top of the inner fender well. Both of these are bad physical problems that can cause long term damage and wear.

10) Is there any way around the control arm clearance problem?

Really, the only way to remedy the issue is to:
• not adjust the camber as much or
• shave / cut parts of the control arm / fender
• use a different kind of camber correction kit

I ended up using the anchor-bolt kit on my car, so I had to cut some fender lining and shave some of my upper control arm. This allowed me to deal with the issue, but if I had to do it all over again, I would have chosen a ball-joint camber kit. In fact, I may still do so sometime in the future.

11) So when should I start to worry about camber correction?

I would not bother getting a camber kit until your camber is more than 1 degree on the negative side. Getting one before then is really quite pointless, especially if you anticipate having problems with control arm clearance. Furthermore, having your camber at 0 gives you little advantage from both a tire wear and performance standpoint than having your camber at -1.

12) Commonly misleading information about camber:

"If you have less than a 1.5" (or 2") drop, you don't need a camber kit!"
How can you be so sure? This is a generalization based on the most common results. I happened to follow this advice when I had a one inch drop, and my car's camber was below -2 for the duration. Don't follow advice like this, it will never be as accurate as an alignment.

"Negative camber really increases performance in corners, just like on a race car!"
True, however, it's only a slight increase in our cars for the price we pay in tire wear. Most race cars (that use even similar suspensions to begin with) will have in the downwards of -4 degrees of camber, which is where the performance would really start to actually be noticeable. Furthermore, they are on an angled track optimal for the use of camber settings. They also replace their tires after only a few laps, and I'm guessing that you want to keep your tires for at least 20000 miles (unless you are rich or crazy). At some point, the novelty of being "like a race car" has to go down the tubes.

[Image: suspfaq2-11.jpg]
[note - I haven't been copying his pics for this thread, but this one made me laugh so I did - HonduhDave]

"I can't get a camber kit for my car because my control arms will hit!"
Yes, a camber kit can make your control arms hit, but even with the +1.25 to +3 degree correction kit, you can set it to the minimum or near minimum setting and it will still be doing you some good (probably more good than pushing it all the way out). Just because a +3 kit is available does not mean that you must set it at +3. Your camber may not be able to be corrected that far without the arm hitting, but in the majority of applications, it can be corrected some without it hitting.

"If I get a camber kit, I will eliminate all tire wear!"
Sorry to pop your bubble, but chances are you still have negative camber even with your camber kit... probably up to -1.5 degrees of it. To keep your tires from wearing out so fast, you need to do a rotation often (about every 3000 miles), and you need to watch how much time you spend in the twisties! If you spend all your days winding corners, even with a little bit of negative camber, you will wear out your tires pretty quickly.

13) Are there any other side-effects I should worry about?

Yes. It's important to understand that adverse tire wear may not only be caused by negative camber. Improper toe is actually the largest contributor to tire wear after changing the suspension components in a car. The good news is that when you go to get your alignment, they are usually going to be able to take care of any problems with your toe. The more important thing is that you actually get an alignment.

14) Well, I lowered my car and my wheels look nice and straight. Do I really need to get an alignment?

The answer is still yes. The naked eye is not, I repeat, is not an accurate judge of alignment settings. Your settings may look fine, but I can almost guarantee you that something has changed. I suppose it's really up to you whether or not you get an alignment, but when you go through a set of 600 dollar tires in a week after lowering, don't come crying to me about it.

15 ) Is there anything special I should say, ask about, look for, or be careful of at my alignment shop?

Try to find an alignment shop that is willing to work with you. Ideally, it would be best if you can:
1. lower your car
2. get an alignment
3. install a camber kit (if necessary)
4. get an alignment

Most shops are willing to do this, but some want to charge you for each alignment. This puts you in a hard position, because you really need to know how much your camber is off before you pick out a camber kit.

You also want to make sure that your shop knows exactly how to work with your camber kit. A shop that does not understand the concept may do something stupid, like adjusting your control arm unevenly thus throwing your caster off.

You should definitely be careful if a shop wants to make modifications to the frame of your car. Even shaving control arms and cutting fender lining like I have done with my car can cause damage if done improperly. Some shops will try to tell you that you can correct camber by bending your control arms, but this is unsafe and can cause your suspension to become unstable.

Bottom line: Consider raising your car or removing your camber kit before you make any drastic changes to the body or frame of your car, especially if you want to stay safe and retain resale value.

16) Which is the best camber kit?

There are many brands of camber kits, but the most popular names are Ingalls, Sprint, Eibach, Progress, Skunk2, KMAC, Omni, SPC, and GSR.

Determining the best kit is really dependent on the amount you need to correct your camber and the way you want to do so. For some Honda/Acuras, there is only one type of kit available. For others, there is only one brand offering a certain type of kit. Eventually, I will try to gather this information for the application section. Until then, I'd say that the best way to determine this is to do research on the kits available for your car, find the ones that best fit your application, and ask if others have had experience with those brands / styles of kits.

Thanks to Steve, I've added a "point/counter-point" to this section as the OP seems to have spent a lot of time on camber and we now know that toe plays just as much a factor, if not more, in tire wear than camber does. So this section is here thanks to Steve (IAD) and PatrickGSR94 from H-T.

PatrickGSR94 Wrote:Camber vs. Toe
Well I guess this thread is long overdue, as I've had several requests to make a thread like this.

Despite the myths that have been perpetuated since the mid-90's, camber kits ARE NOT required to prevent uneven tire wear after lowering a Honda. Even the very first issue of Super Street magazine in 1996 talks about installed camber kits to prevent tire wear.

Here's what really happens. When you lower your Honda, especially those with double-wishbone suspension, the camber angle goes negative, but the front tires also toe out. That toe-out condition is what is important. Toe-out will destroy the inside edge of a tire MUCH faster than negative camber ever will, because the tire scrubs on the pavement as it rolls in a toe-out condition.

So the myth has been that you need a camber kit to bring the camber angle (non-adjustable on most Hondas) back to stock specs. So you install a kit, take the car to alignment shop, and *poof* no more tire wear. However, what really happened is that along with adjusting the camber, the shop also adjusted the toe. That toe adjustment is what REALLY saved your tires.

The truth of the matter is that you have made your car handle worse with straight-up zero camber (or close to it). It is also truth you can easily run -1.5, -2, -3, even close to -4 camber up front with very little tire wear issues. You just need to be sure to keep your alignment in check and rotate your tires every 5K miles or so. You should get an alignment at least once a year, or better twice a year if possible. All you need to do is get the toe adjusted back to stock specs. If the shop tries to sell you a camber kit, tell them no, just adjust the toe. If they say they can't do the alignment until you get a camber kit, then leave immediately and go to another shop because that is 100% COMPLETELY FALSE!

So let's talk about the "cons" of camber kits:
  1. Cost, plus the extra cost of alignments every time (could be $150 or more)
  2. Usually made of sub-par materials that rust, corrode, and seize up
  3. Greatly reduces suspension travel clearance, both UCA replacements and just the bolt-type kits
  4. Bolt-type kits are nearly impossible to keep straight and adjust correctly without throwing caster off
  5. UCA-replacement kits often use POS ball joints and have even more reduced clearance under the fender
  6. Likely to slip out of adjustment, requiring another expensive alignment

What are the "pros" of camber kits? Well you can add MORE negative camber than what you get from lowered suspension geometry alone, which can be good for track use. Other than that, I can't really think of anything.

One exception: 96-00 Civic rear suspension has a pretty steep camber curve, and could benefit from slightly reducing the negative camber in the rear from what you get from a drop alone. I would recommend the replacement rear upper arm-type camber kits. Those use a turnbuckle-type adjustment that will not slip.

And now for some personal experience. I lowered my car back in early 2002 and had about -2* camber up front. I've been on various suspension setups since then with anywhere from -1.5* to -2.8* front camber and have NEVER used a camber kit. Since then I've driven about 175K miles, and I've only been through 5 or 6 sets of tires. I've always used V or W-rated summer tires, and they always last 30K-35K miles.

Now I do get a slight bit of inner wear, but I attribute that to my worn stock bushings that aren't keeping the toe in check like they should. I have all new bushings waiting to go in and I expect tire wear to be even less than before. But my tires do usually wear down past the wear bars before the inner edge shows any belts, so at that time it's time to replace the tires anyway.

I know there are many others on this site who can relate similar personal experiences. I'll let them chime in if they want.

Well that's about all I can think of to say. Hopefully this will help to dispel some of the myths. Hopefully I can help some people keep some extra money instead of wasting it all on camber kits and expensive alignments.

*edit* something else to add - lower profile tires will tend to wear a bit more on the inside edge with negative camber, even with proper alignment. I do get a bit more inner wear on my 205/45-16's than I did on my 195/55-15's or 205/50-15's. I would imagine 40-series tires would be worse. A taller sidewall can flex more, therefore more even pressure is maintained across the tread even with negative camber.


LordAccord Wrote:Section 2c: Spending money - the crux of it all

1) How much should I expect to spend on my suspension?

Here is a basic breakdown of approximate prices:

Lowering Springs: $100-400
Coilover Sleeves: $150-500
Aftermarket Dampers: $250-800
Full Coilover Assemblies: $600-$3,000+
Camber Correction kits: $100-400
Four-Wheel Alignments: $50-200
Suspension Installation Labor: $50-200

When making a budget for your suspension, I would use values that fall somewhere in the middle of the price ranges above. If I were getting springs and n.a. dampers, and I wanted to do the installation work myself, I would probably budget around $900. If I were getting a full coilover assembly, and I wanted a shop to install all of my parts, I would probably budget around $1400. It's going to vary from application to application.

A safe approach to a complete suspension setup, done correctly, is usually going to have a budget of at least $1,000.

2) I don't have $1,000 dollars. What should I do?

Well, we here at Suspension FAQ 2.0 have done a lot of research, and have concluded that you have multiple options, such as:
• Win the lottery
• Win on The Price is Right, Jeopardy, or Wheel of Fortune
• Have multiple car washes or bake sales in your neighborhood
• List your soul on E-Bay and say it's JDM... it'll sell
• Sell your body to science
• Become a Tupperware peddler
• Shine shoes in airports
• Get your car sponsored
• Inherit your grandma's estate (note: we did not say to kill grandma!!!)
• Invent a time machine and do the sports almanac thing like Marty did in Back to the Future.

Ok, maybe those options are a big ludicrous, but hey. Really, the best thing for you to do is be patient and save your money. If you are looking for someone to tell you that it's O.K. to cheap out on your suspension if you want a drop now but don't have the cash, you've come to the wrong place.

[Image: suspfaq2-12.jpg]

3) Alright, I think I'm going to look for a used suspension to save a little cash. Is there anything I should know?

I'm not going to criticize private / classified sellers here, because we've all been there and will be there again. However, it can be a bad idea, sometimes, to buy a used suspension. The main problem is that suspension components do wear over time. Springs are the worst culprits here. After 2-3 years, many springs start to soften and sag. Buying used struts doesn't worry me quite as much, especially if they are from a reputable manufacturer and have a lifetime warranty. Other suspension components, like camber kits and sway bars, are probably just fine to purchase used; the only thing you will want to do is replace bushings if it's a suspension component that uses them. Just make sure that you are buying from a reputable seller, and if you have an questions as to the quality of a component, refer to this thread as a guide in your purchase.

4) Screw all of this money talk, I want my drop now. I'm just buying some cheap springs off of E-bay and having Uncle Dave do my alignment.

This is the point where I say, "it's your car, not mine," and wave goodbye. If you read this thread, and then you decide to cheap out, that's your prerogative. But if I ever see a post from you complaining about how bad your ride is, how you lost control of your car that had blown shocks, or how fast your wore your tires out on your -xtreme three inch jdm drop-, anyone who has read this thread reserves the full right to flame the living crap out of you, and don't think we won't do it.

I mean, I don't really, honestly care what you do with your car. What I care about is that you know how to do it right, and that you can't blame any Honda web board for any of your future problems.

Bottom line: take responsibility for your own choices, and don't be an idiot.
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#2
Jeez, that post was soo long, took 2 trips to the bathroom before i got to the end.. lol Thx for the info dave Goodjob
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#3
Bookmarked this one as well as the turbo one
very useful info THX.
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Rather than working within them.
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#4
thanks alot dave

Christopher's the name.
98' STI Blue GSR Integra
The Original CGP Crew Member #1
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#5
Nice find Dave.

The only thing I found wrong/controversial was the camber issue. Give this a read over and decide for yourself:
http://www.honda-tech.com/showthread.php?t=2614449
Steven

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#6
more great info.
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#7
Thanks Steven, updated post to reflect that info. I did notice that he put a lot of emphasis into camber and spent very little time on toe. Honestly, I read this information a while ago and learned a lot. But I didn't do a whole lot of proof reading when copying it over. We now have both sides of the camber/toe issue posted up; I'll look around and see if I can't find any more information on that issue to contribute bigthumbup
Jackie-O Wrote:My house is home to the illusive, yet powerful, Nom Noms. He will eat your babbys. His eyes are like laser beams, his claws are sharp talons. He slaps like a pimp and makes dogs run in fear.
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4 Doors FTW

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#8
I was just gonna read a few but read the whole thing
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#9
He contradicts himself by saying camber doesnt wear tires to come back and say it does, none the less it does have alot of good and correct information. Id like to add that its completely silly and pointless to lower your car and not replace a good majority of bolts and add a camber kit while everything is already apart. Even a half inch drop can put your alignment out of spec, good news is that camber is the only angle that gets so bad that youll need a camber kit to properly align, toe can be adjusted via stock or aftermarket tie rods and caster on our cars is non adjustable. Great find though dave, very useful info that can really help alot of us out.
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#10
Hmmm, I'll have to read through the post in it's entirety and edit it a lil to be more cohesive. Also, if someone knows offhand the bolt sizes for the main things that will be replaced I would be glad to add that into the mix somewhere. I agree that it's ideal to replace your bolts/bushings/nuts, etc. when you're already taking things apart. I know I wish I'd replaced my rear LCA bolts when I installed mine!
Jackie-O Wrote:My house is home to the illusive, yet powerful, Nom Noms. He will eat your babbys. His eyes are like laser beams, his claws are sharp talons. He slaps like a pimp and makes dogs run in fear.
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4 Doors FTW

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