Which Shocks Are Right for My Car?

Monday, October 17, 2011 by Alex Mouroulis
KYB Gas-A-JustHave you ever felt that your car bounces more after you go over a bump? It just doesn't feel as connected to the road as it did when it was new? Shock absorbers are an expendable item that has a big effect on your ride quality. When it comes time to replace shocks, you're going to have access to your springs. This is a great time to add lowering springs.

Not every shock is designed for all driving circumstances. There are two major categories for aftermarket shocks: performance and touring.
  • Performance shocks give the firmer ride, and help reduce body roll. They are often combined with lowering springs for the ultimate handling combination.
  • Touring shocks are more focused on a soft, compliant and comfortable ride. Touring shocks add to that supple, luxurious ride by soaking up more impacts and road imperfections.
Listed below are a few terms that will help you better understand the characteristics of a shock adjustment:
  • Compression - The collapsing stroke of a shock, directly correlated to the movement of your axle.
  • Rebound - The return stroke of a shock, directly tied to vehicle pitch and ride quality. To learn more about shocks check out, "Damper Dynamics."

Take a look at a few of the shocks available at Tire Rack:
  • KYB Gas-A-Just: An Original Equipment replacement shock.These are your excellent-value option, as they are self adjusting.
  • KYB Monomax: Increased load control, and a firm planted feel for your light truck or SUV. These shocks have been known to offer a firmer ride, but the trade off is better control. These shocks are self adjusting. They completely transformed my Chevy Blazer back to the consistent like-new handling I missed.
  • Koni STR-T:  A cost-effective performance shock, designed to offer better handling, without a harsh ride.
  • Bilstein 5100 : Designed with the lifted truck or SUV in mind. These are ideal for your Jeep or pickup truck with mild body and suspension lifts. The articulation in off-road circumstances is superb.
Shop by vehicle to find the suspension components that work best for your vehicle.

Winter Wonder Wheel: Sport Edition A7

Thursday, September 8, 2011 by Jonas Paeplow
Many of my customers ask, "Why should I purchase an aluminum alloy wheel for use in the winter?"

Pound for pound, aluminum alloy wheels are stronger and lighter than steel in the same size. Any time you can decrease the rolling (unsprung) weight of your vehicle, you potentially increase braking effectiveness and reduce wear and tear on suspension components. Any vehicle weight reduction also goes a long way towards improving fuel economy. Both of these factors alone are a definite plus in winter weather. Aluminum alloy wheels also enhance the appearance of your vehicle and are sized to precise standards to meet exact fitment and performance needs. For a comparison of alloy and steel wheels, read "Alloy vs. Steel Wheels in Winter Tire & Wheel Packages."

Sport Edition A7A great alloy wheel for use in the winter is the Sport Edition A7. It is a gravity cast, anodized aluminum alloy wheel that is primed, powder coated silver with a clear finish coat. The simple casting process keeps cost down and the finish is very resilient against the harsh conditions that winter has to offer. The slightly angled open spoke design stays cleaner and less susceptible to ice and snow build-up.

The Sport Edition A7
comes in over 50 different fitments in 15" through 18" sizes with some sizes available in a new black finish. The Sport Edition A7 is "hub centric" for many BMW and Subaru applications. This can really simplify seasonal change-out without the need for centering rings that can get lost or damaged. BMW owners will find in many cases that they can use their O.E. center cap to add additional curb appeal.

For a sturdy, clean looking, low cost alternative to plain black steel wheels, pick the Winter Wonder Wheel, Sport Edition A7.

Suspension and Your Ride

Wednesday, August 31, 2011 by Spencer Diaz
KYB Strut-Plus AssemblyThe last time you drove over railroad tracks, how well did your car respond? If it felt like your dampers were shot, it might be time to have your suspension components switched out. Or maybe your dampers aren't shot, but you'd like to change the way your car rides. Tire Rack offers a competitive selection of suspension components tailored to your vehicle's needs.

I personally found this out the hard way. While taking my wife's car, a 2004 Pontiac Grand Am, to get the oil changed, I noticed that the vehicle had a "bouncy" feel to it. The handling was very unpredictable and I could feel every imperfection in the road. 

In looking at damper options, we had our local mechanic install KYB struts in the front and rear of the vehicle. What a difference this made in the way the vehicle rides! One quick tip: always try and change out both the mounts and boots when replacing suspension components. Nothing like new products being held to your car by worn-out mounts!

For those looking to increase their vehicle's performance, consider the options available from H&R. They offer some of the best suspension components for improving handling and performance for many vehicles, including the 09 VW Jetta TDI. In addition to struts, take your suspension upgrade to another level with the H&R Coil-Over Premium Performance Kit. And to gain a better understanding on improving your vehicle's performance, read "Minimizing & Controlling Bounce."
H&R Coil-Over Premium Performance Kit
After you've purchased suspension components and had them installed, don't forget to fill out our Suspension Component Survey. This will provide others with reviews and help them select the proper suspension products for their vehicle.

Looking to Purchase Tires, Wheels Online?

Monday, August 15, 2011 by Tire Rack Team
Wheels by BrandWhile our name suggests we're an online tire retailer, Tire Rack is also an online wheel store. With over 40 different brands to choose from, choosing rims and tires online at one retailer is simple.

And when you choose to shop by vehicle you can be sure you are getting a wheel that is an exact fitment for your car. Through research and testing, our fitment engineers match wheels to particular applications. Items we measure or verify include:
  • Bolt pattern
  • Centerbore diameter
  • Hub diameter
  • Load capacity
  • Lug hardware
  • Suspension components clearance
Read "How We Know What Fits" for detailed information on what we measure. And when you're finished, shop by vehicle to see all the wheels that will fit your car, light truck or SUV.

Coil-Over Kits for 2007-2010 BMW M3 Coupe

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 by Logan Woodworth
Suspension Products for 2008 BMW M3 CoupeThe late model BMW M3 comes equipped with a sport suspension system optimized for aggressive street driving. For drivers looking for improved track performance and the flexibility to adjust for reasonable street manners, upgrading to a fully adjustable coil-over kit is a great solution. 

A coil-over suspension kit incorporates precisely matched coil springs and dampers in a compact solution to provide maximum performance. In addition to improved handling, these coil-over suspension solutions reduce the unsprung weight of a vehicle. These improvements translate to faster lap times and improved daily driving comfort.    

Coil-overs can also be a great solution for lowering your car with upsized custom wheels (rims) and tires. The ability to fine tune the car's ride height can be a great way to overcome many challenging wheel fitments. 

There are several options including kits from KW and H&R that can adjust both the ride height and dampening:
H&R PCS Damper Adjustable Coil-Over
H&R Damper Adjustable Coil-Over
H&R Street Performance Coil-Over
H&R Street Performance Coil-Over

KW Clubsport Kit Coil-Over
KW Clubsport Kit Coil-Over
KW Variant 3 Coil-Over
KW Variant 3 Coil-Over
 
Search suspension components by vehicle to see which suspension products work best for your vehicle.

On the Level

Friday, June 24, 2011 by Jonas Paeplow
Pickup trucks are some of the most popular vehicles on the road today, but many people don't use their trucks for what they were originally intended... hauling a load.

 

On many pickups, especially 3/4 and 1 ton applications, using the vehicle as a daily driver with little or no load in the rear creates a rear end high, front end low configuration or "positive frame angle".

Positive Frame AngleSpecific vehicles like 1999-2006 Chevrolet/GMC trucks have alignment specifications that require frame angle to be added or subtracted to the caster reading. Basically this means the specifications for these vehicles are written to a zero frame angle.
 

 

Illustration courtesy of SPC Performance

Caster is the angle to which the steering pivot axis is tilted forward or rearward from vertical, as viewed from the side. If the pivot axis is tilted backward (that is, the top pivot is positioned farther rearward than the bottom pivot), then the caster is positive; if it's tilted forward, then the caster is negative.

 

Caster angleCaster is affected mostly when a vehicle has a large front to back difference in ride height. This may also be because of heavy loading in the rear of the vehicle or "negative frame angle". The frame angle will directly affect the caster in a one to one relationship. That means for each degree of frame angle change the caster will change one degree. Positive frame angle will be added to the caster reading whereas negative frame angle would be subtracted from the caster reading.
 

Illustration courtesy of Grassroots Motorsports Magazine


Caster does not affect tire wear but it can affect how well the vehicle steers. Excessive positive caster will cause an increase in steering effort, especially for low speed maneuvers, such as parking. Negative caster can cause the truck to have poor directional stability, make it tend wander and not return to center. The addition of larger than stock tires or 4WD only compounds these conditions.

If you don't carry heavy loads, a leveling kit can help with steering issues, even if you don't want to put larger tires on your truck. If you do want larger tires, installation of lift and level kits will allow for the use of up to 35" tall tires with 17"-26" wheels and near stock offset, without rubbing, depending on the application.

When shopping for a lift kit for your pickup truck, it is important to keep in mind that there are just a few ways that a lift can be performed. Some systems relocate the suspension brackets and require the removal of all suspension components to do so. Others increase spring pressure and result in a stiffer ride. Tire Rack carries lift and leveling systems by Traxda and Bilstein. Each have their own method of lifting or leveling your vehicle.

 

Traxda's method relocates the mounting point of the spring that holds the truck up without changing the location of the stock suspension arms. Install is simpler and easier and doesn't compromise the stock ride. Each application is designed to ensure stock compatibility and quality. For example, with a coil-over shock style suspension the strut length is extended while retaining the stock spring pressure. This keeps the smooth ride of a stock truck, with no increase in harshness. For a torsion bar style suspension a re-indexed torsion key and shock relocator brackets are included to change the location of the torsion spring mount without changing the spring tension.


Truxx Lift and Level KitTraxda Lift and Level Kits raise the front of the truck 1.5" to 3" (depending on the vehicle) to eliminate positive frame angle and provide the clearance necessary to run larger wheels and tires. For some applications, the rear of the truck can be raised 1"-2" as well leveling the truck and compensating for the heavy loads used in a working environment (negative frame angle).

Most kits are a direct bolt-in style, simple and easy to install with nothing more than common hand tools and require no modifications to your vehicle. The kits retain stock ride quality. All Traxda kits come complete with hardware, full instructions, alignment specs and dedicated technical support.

Bilstein's ride height adjustable 5100 Series replacement shocks for coil-over design front suspensionBilstein 5100 pickups utilize the vehicle's existing stock coil spring.

The 5100 Series (Ride Height Adjustable) shocks feature multiple snap-ring grooves on the body of the shock to accommodate different spring seat positions, allowing height adjustments from 0" to 2.5", depending on the application. By raising the spring seat position, the factory rake (positive frame angle) can be altered to achieve a level front to rear ride height while accommodating up to 33" diameter tires. Bilstein's self-adjusting valving delivers improved damping control and a smooth ride on all road surfaces at any speed.

You don't have to live with poor steering, tire binding, steering wander and rough ride, just keep it....
"on the level."

 

Matching Lowering Springs to Shocks/Struts

Friday, June 17, 2011 by Logan Woodworth
Eibach Sportline Spring SetOne way to give your vehicle an updated and sportier look is to replace your factory springs with lowering springs. Although you can expect a stiffer ride, lowering a car will improve handing and steering response. 
                                                                                     
What often gets overlooked is the shocks and struts (dampers) and how lowering springs affect their performance and fit. Each damper has a specific travel length which is matched with the spring rate of the car's O.E. springs. When you install shorter springs, the O.E. damper may "bottom out" and become daH&R Touring Cup Suspension Kitmaged. For this reason, it is recommended to match your new shorter "sport" springs with the correct "sport" dampers. To better understand dampers, take a look at our tech article titled "Damper Dynamics."

One way to ensure that your new sport springs will match the performance of your new dampers is to purchase a spring/damper kit. These kits are engineered to provide optimal spring rate and dampening stiffness for your vehicle which takes out some of the guesswork in matching your suspension components.

For more information on lowering, read "A Look at Lowering."
Porsche Cayman Lowered

Full Line of Brake Pads Available from Hawk

Monday, June 13, 2011 by Marshall Wisler

Every day I receive calls from motorsport enthusiasts keen to get back out on the track this summer season. Although wheels, tires, horsepower and suspension components are very important (and often times more fun), it is important to remember what is stopping your vehicle.

Paying close attention to your brakes will not only improve your lap times but more importantly keep you out of the grass. 

Using the one of the most sophisticated manufacturing processes available, Hawk Performance produces some of the finest brake pads on the market. In addition to their very popular line of Performance Ceramic and HPS Street Pads, Hawk carries several different ranges of race pads for every race and skill level. Considering ceramic brake pads for your vehicle? Read "Why Ceramic Brake Pads" to learn important characteristics about ceramic pads and how they can improve your vehicle's stopping power.

Hawk Products

Shop by vehicle to see which brake components are best for your vehicle.

The Necessity of Aftermarket Shocks / Struts

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 by Marshall Wisler
Since their inception into the market, the 2011 Mustang GT and the 5th Generation 2010+ Camaro have attracted much attention, and I must note I too fell prey to their new designs.

In February, I took ownership of a 2011 Mustang GT 5.0 6-speed. The only options on my car were the Brembo performance brake and wheel package and the 3.73 rear gears. I wanted the fastest base Mustang GT I could buy, but yet even that was not without room for improvement.

My first step toward correcting the lackluster steering response and turn-in feel was to replace the spring and strut / shock assemblies. My components of choice were the off-the-shelf 2011 Mustang GT Eibach Pro-Kit Spring Set and a set of 2010 Mustang GT model Bilstein struts and shocks. Although Bilstein does not yet have a 2011 Mustang GT specific fitment at this time, the use of 2005-2010 Ford Racing strut mounts and the 2010 model Bilstein struts allowed me to successfully use the components. For a more plug and play application and a user friendly guaranteed fitment, consumers can purchase the matching Eibach Pro-Damper Kit which is specifically tuned for Eibach springs on the 2011 models and bolts up without any modification to the strut mount units.

Strut Rod Diameter
Although the Eibach springs are not the stiffest available, their progressive rate is far beyond the factory rate of 150lbs/in. For that reason, it is important to increase the compression and rebound rates of the shock assemblies, not only to increase the life of the shock, but also to increase performance while cornering, and reduce unfavorable motion on transitions and rough surfaces.

At left is a picture of the factory 2011 Mustang GT front strut and its Bilstein rival. The differences in shaft size should be obvious. Upon installing this aftermarket suspension package, my 2011 GT feels like an entirely new car. It doesn't exhibit the floating feeling associated with the stock pieces, and generally feels firmer and more responsive. The steering inputs are met with crisp turn-in and the car behaves very neutral at the limit, which left me quite surprised.

For questions on suspension and more, contact one of our sales specialists.

Coil-Over Suspension: Is It Right for Me?

Friday, May 20, 2011 by Doc Horvath
Coil-over suspension kits represent the top end of the suspension market, giving the driver the most flexibility in adjusting both the ride height and "firmness" of the shock absorbers to fine tune the handling of their vehicle. Sounds like a great option to have right? Well, the answer lies in how and where you drive your vehicle.

The first thing to remember is that any component that lowers the ride height of your vehicle will affect ride comfort (see a previous blog post titled "What Should I Expect from Lowering Springs?"). Even the most modest lowering spring (1.0" of drop or less) will affect ride comfort, but any coil-over setup will have a much more aggressive spring rate which translates to a firmer ride. In my mind, the coil-over suspension is intended for a driver that wants to maximize the handling of the vehicle in "track" conditions and also have the flexibility to adjust ride height (and damping rates) to suit track conditions. If local road conditions are poor, coil-overs will make a rough ride even rougher!
Eibach Multi-Pro Coil-Over R2
Eibach Multi-Pro Coil-Over R2
KW Variant 1 Coil-Over
KW Variant 1 Coil-Over

The Eibach Multi-Pro Coil-Over R2 and the KW Variant 1 have the least "aggressive" spring rates, which will minimize the change to ride comfort but still improve handling and allow you to adjust your ride height for the perfect stance.

Bilstein PSS Coil-Over Kit
Bilstein PSS Coil-Over Kit
KW Variant 3 Coil-Over
KW Variant 3 Coil-Over

The Bilstein PSS Coil-Over Kit and KW Variant 3 represent the elite in coil-over systems and provide the greatest range of adjustability for ride and ride height.

Check out our full line of coil-over systems!

Improve Handling for your 2010 and 2011 Camaro

Thursday, May 12, 2011 by Hunter Leffel
KW Variant 1 Coil-OverNeed to improve the cornering and handling on your Chevy Camaro? Tire Rack has a number of solutions in our performance suspension product lines. Ranging from complete systems (springs, bars and dampers), or single components you can lower and firm up the suspension to dramatically improve cornering and handling while also improving the stance of the car. 

Tire Rack did some testing in various configurations. Starting with a spring swap, we found an increase in handling with a mild firming up of the ride. A very nice modification but still quite tame. From there we wShop by Vehicleent to a complete upgrade in springs, dampers and roll bars. This improved all areas of ride control and responsiveness, making us wonder why original factory set-up wasn't like this. We also tested a coil-over system for those wanting complete control of the set-up. Read Suspension Component Test Results.

Options are available for model years 2010 and 2011 in most engine and trim levels.

Shop by vehicle to see which suspension products are best for your vehicle. 

Better Handling and Looks for the 2008-2010 Dodge Challenger

Thursday, May 12, 2011 by Hunter Leffel
NeeEibach Pro-System Plus Kitd to improve the cornering and handling on your Dodge Challenger? Eibach has the perfect solution in the Eibach Pro-System Plus Kit. This is a total solution that upgrades the dampers, springs and anti-roll bars. You can also do the upgrades in steps if you prefer.

With this kit installed, you will lower the vehicle just under an inch and significantly reduce body roll when cornering. The ride quality will be a bit firmer, but most people will wonder why the car wasn't sDodge Challengeret up this way straight from Dodge in the first place.

Read our Suspension Component Test Results to see how the Eibach Pro-System Plus Kit can improve your vehicle's suspension.

The kit is available for model years 2008, 2009 and 2010 in all engine and trim levels.

To see which suspension products work best for your vehicle, shop by vehicle.

Spring Testing

Thursday, April 14, 2011 by Tire Rack Team
Eibach Pro-Kit Spring SetLooking for new springs that are right for your vehicle and the way you drive it?

Tire Rack has performed back-to-back product comparisons to help consumers with their purchasing decisions. Our Suspension Component Research page shows Eibach Springs, H&R Springs and KONI results from our Real World Road Ride route and Performance Test Track course. Our findings can help you select the springs that are right for your application.

For example, we tested spring sets from Eibach against the Original Equipment installed on a BMW E46 328i. Our tests results showed the Eibach springs enhanced the handling and feel of our test vehicle while increasing lap time speeds. To evaluate the benefits of modifying your vehicle’s suspension, read:

Spring Testing

You can also contact one of our sales specialists for more information.

Coil-Overs for the Race track and the Road

Friday, April 8, 2011 by Tire Rack Team
KW Clubsport Kit Coil-OverThe KW Clubsport Coil-Over is for customers who demand a better handling car during track day events, but also want a setup that can be used for every day driving. The set up ensures excellent handling, performance, agility and faster lap times.

Key Benefits & Features of the KW Clubsport Coil Over:

•    Height adjustable
•    Performance setup for the track
•    Linear, high performance race springs
•    Stainless steel “inox-line” damper bodies
•    Independently adjustable, low speed, compression/rebound forces

The suspension setting is adjustable to meet the requirements of your tires and the intended use of your vehicle based on the vehicle load and to better match your driving style.

For more information on improving your vehicle’s performance, read:

“Altitude and Attitude Adjustment”

Shop by vehicle to see which suspension components work best for your vehicle.

H&R Springs RSS Club Sport Coil-Over Suspenion Kit

Friday, April 1, 2011 by Tire Rack Team
RSS Club Sport Coil Over Suspension KitH&R Springs has one simple philosophy: “Build the best and the rest will follow.”

Whether it’s the Premium Performance Coil Over Kit or one of their Sport Springs Sets, H&R’s products are tested and approved by the German government’s TUV agency for quality, safety and reliability. All springs developed by H&R are precision-wound with the highest quality German spring steel available.

Engineers who develop racing suspensions also design the RSS Club Sport Coil Over Suspension Kits. These kits enhance the performance and corner-handling ability of your vehicle without harshness.

Shop by vehicle to see which suspension component works best for your vehicle.

Shopping for Wheels by Vehicle

Saturday, January 29, 2011 by Colin .
Why is it best to search for wheels by your specific vehicle? 

Our experience indicates that searching by wheel size, offset and bolt pattern alone are not specific enough criteria to ensure an exact fitment. Tire Rack uses sophisticated tools to create extremely accurate readings for proper fitment. With many wheel/vehicle combinations, each wheel is individually tested on the vehicle manually or electronically.
This attention to detail prevents vibration, interference and unbalanced handling with our wheel and tire packages.

Other items we measure or verify:
  • Bolt Pattern
  • Center-bore Diameter
  • Hub Diameter
  • Load Capacity
  • Lug Hardware
  • Suspension Components Clearance
If you have a custom fitment question, contact one of our sales specialists for assistance.

Project STR to Continue Development in 2011

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 by Tire Rack Motorsports
Tire Rack and Grassroots Motorsports are excited to announce our drivers/test team will be returning in the 2010 Mazda MX-5 for another season of SCCA Solo competition and STR vehicle development. 2010’s competition success exceeded our expectations as the car and drivers scored: Project STR turns toward victory at the CENDIV Divisional Championship
  • Three divisional championships
  • Two ProSolo class wins
  • Second place overall in the year-end ProSolo class standings
  • Two Tire Rack SCCA National Championship trophy positions (6th and 9th of 51)
  • STRL Tire Rack SCCA National Championship
The results were accomplished by resisting the temptation to throw all the go-fast parts at the car at the beginning of the season. Instead, we followed a systematic approach of installing and testing the major component changes so we could share the real world gains with readers along the way.

Plans are already in place for more car development and product testing -- a wet and dry extreme performance tire shootout, a brake pad comparison, further suspension changes and by popular demand, a heavy versus light weight wheel track test.

Do you have additional SCCA Solo-related comparisons you would like to see tested? Myths to bust or confirm? Give us your ideas below.

Considering a set of Eibach springs?

Friday, September 17, 2010 by Tire Rack Team
Aftermarket springs and performance suspension kits are worth every penny, but sometimes that penny doesn't quite equal the price you're willing to pay.

Eibach Springs is a very well respected suspension company, and their products get great reviews from our previous customers.

"[The Eibach Sport System Kit] gave my car a nice low look. Completely eliminated all wheel well gap. I felt that the car handled great with stock components—I never though that these would make it handle any better and they did. The ride quality is just as good as stock." — Tire Rack Consumer Review, Honda Civic, PA

"Installed the
Eibach Pro-Kit Spring Set along with the Eibach Sway Bar set in January...car feels like its on rails, particularly due to the setting on the sway bars (track setting). Great product and highly recommend to anyone who wants a more aggressive ride." — Tire Rack Consumer Review, Hyundai Genesis, TX

Shop by vehicle to find Eibach suspension products for yours.

Looking for a Lift?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 by Porter Pryde

Thinking about a suspension lift for your truck, but you don't want an overly stiff ride?

Consider the Traxda Lift and Level Kits.


Traxda kits lift your ride by relocating the mounting point of the spring that holds the truck up without changing the location of the stock suspension arms. Installation is simple and does not require the removal of all suspension components like many kits. Because spring pressure is not increased, it doesn't compromise the stock ride.
 
Each Traxda kit is fine-tuned to your vehicle to ensure stock compatibility and quality. 

With a coil-over style suspension, the strut length is extended while retaining the stock spring pressure. This keeps the smooth ride of a stock truck, with no increase in harshness. For a torsion bar style suspension, a re-indexed torsion key and shock relocator brackets are included to change the location of the torsion spring mount without changing the spring tension. 

All Traxda kits come complete with hardware, full instructions, alignment specs and dedicated technical support. Most kits are a direct bolt-in style, simple and easy to install with nothing more than common hand tools and require no modifications to your vehicle.

Too Many Tire Choices, Not Enough Time

Friday, August 13, 2010 by Larry Shead
If you are as busy as I am, it is hard enough to sit down to eat dinner with your family once a month, let alone try to research what product best suits my needs when shopping for the best value.

At Tire Rack, we do the product research to shorten your time spent selecting tires, wheels, suspension or brake components. You are just a click away from enough information, consumer reviews and test results to make choosing products simpler.

Please take the time to visit our website. You can specify your vehicle and the kind of product you are looking for and we pretty much do the rest by just showing you only the products that will fit your vehicle.

As always, you can call and speak to a sales specialist and get good old fashioned recommendations.

Enjoy the ride.