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Breaking Down A Coilover

Fitment Industries Author | | July 18th, 2018 |




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    - Hey guys, what's going on? It's Alex from Fitment Industries, and today we're going to be talking to you about something that is gonna sound really fundamental and almost boring, but we promise you that it's not. Now, we have a bunch of different coilovers and suspension on our site, which in case you didn't know, it's fitmentindustries.com. We have literally thousands of questions and comments regarding how and what this is. Now, a coilover is pretty simple because a lot of people just buy it to lower their car, and then there's a probably, I'd say, a marginal group of people that also buy coilovers for the increased performance for actual driving, whether that's autocross, HPD, or anything in between. And finally, you have the people that are probably around the last one or two percent that actually dive into damping and rebound and compression and spring rates and preload and all of that stuff, and what happens is, is that there's a lot of confusion as to what makes this whole thing work. So, we decided we were gonna talk about it because obviously we do a lot with suspension, we see a lot of people ask us questions about suspension before they make their purchase, so we are going to dive into this a little bit. So in front of me, I have a Silver's coilover, this is for our own 1995 Mazda Miata, and this is just your standard coilover, so we're gonna get just into the basics. So, a coilover is an abbreviated term for a coil over shock absorber. So, starting off with just the basics, you have the ability to adjust within a coilover. You're gonna have threads that allow you to thread up or thread down your actual coilover. And what this is gonna allow you to do, just from the basic fundamental levels of what a coilover does, is that it's gonna lower your vehicle. Because you're shortening up the size of the actual coilover for the mounting point to the actual wheel, and where everything is connecting, it shortens up that travel, and then, of course, you have a lowered car. Now, the first and most common mistake that a lot of people make when they install their coilovers, is they take it right out of the box, they throw it in their car, they kinda eye up the suspension, and then if they need to make some changes, or they figure that they gotta lower it, you know, two inches, they grab their spanner wrench, and then they take their spanner wrench on the locking collar, they bring it down two inches, they loosen this bad boy up, and then there you go. The car is lowered. And that is not the way you wanna do it.

    Before you even get started with installing your coilovers, you're gonna wanna determine how much you want to lower your vehicle. That's the whole purpose of having these threads here is to legitimately lower your vehicle. It's gonna shorten up the overall coilover. It's not gonna mess with preload or anything like that. It's not gonna mess with any of the actual geometry of what the coilover is attempting to do. This is just essentially going to make it shorter. A lot of people, myself included when I was young and ambitious and didn't know anything about Google or researching or anything like that, decided it would just be a really cool idea just to bring this locking collar down, bring this down, and then I couldn't figure out why my car rode terribly. Well, what you're gonna wanna remember is that there is a purpose and an intention with having the spring setup the way that it does. You have something that's called preload. Now, what you're gonna wanna remember is when you're talking about preload and all that sort of stuff, what it really comes down to is how much the spring is setup to absorb your bumps and all that sort of good stuff in the road. So, what happens is, is when people mess with the actual location of this collar, you ultimately mess up your preload, which can mess up your compression, which can mess up pretty much everything that the coilover is attempting to do. So, when you're breaking it in and you wanna figure out how you wanna star with the adjustment, you're gonna wanna start with the most basic, which is just the bottom mount of your coilover to get that major, major lowering for what you want for your coilover. Now, if you wanna get into some minor adjustment, you definitely can still use this, but you're just gonna wanna be careful on how you go about using it and making sure that you're not doing anything too drastic. Besides the fact that the spring is going to be one of the major players in what makes you feel your car when you're going down the road, your actual strut is also going to do that as well. You're gonna wanna make sure that when you go in for install that you're doing everything correctly, that you're installing a torque to spec, and that you're doing anything that's overall going to damage your vehicle because, again, when we go into people installing coilovers, a lot of times they just think it's their wheels and they can just throw them on, they put their wheels back on, and they're right as rain.

    That might work for 80 percent of vehicles, but you're never gonna get the actual purpose of the coilovers if you do that because every vehicle is different. Suspension companies are gonna try their best to make kits specific to your vehicle, whether that's with height, whether that's with preload, or spring rates that you have going on, but ultimately you are always going to have to make some minor adjustments when it comes down to actually installing the coilovers into your car. So, measure it in kilograms per milimeter, usually, that is gonna be your spring rate. That's gonna be the distance travel needed. So, spring rates, the higher the spring rate, the stiffer the overall coilover is going to feel. There are a couple other variables that play into that, but for just the general purpose of YouTube, that's what we're gonna say. So if you have a higher spring rate, you're gonna have a tougher ride. If you have a smaller spring rate, you're gonna have a much smoother ride, but then, of course, with that, you're gonna have more body roll, you're gonna have less responsiveness around the corners, all that sort of stuff. So, with this specific one, everything is already ready to go. Silver's already preloads it for you. You're pretty much set. You have your major adjustment that you can do right here. And then obviously you have these locking collars, and these locking collars are super important because you're gonna wanna make sure that when you're actually threading and once you decide where you're gonna go, that these are set and locked, and that's just gonna make sure that that keeps everything in place, that you're not gonna have to worry about anything getting loose on you, or anything like that. And then, of course, you have your knuckle breaker, also known as your spanner wrench, which is gonna help actually get those locktighted. When you're messing with preload, and this is where it gets a little bit confusing, your preload is going to be right here. So, if you loosen this up too far, you're gonna notice that your spring is actually going to get loose. And what happens is when you loosen this up to a point, you're gonna lose your preload. And your preload is essentially what it sounds like. It's the load that the spring faces prior to compression.

    There's a bunch more math involved than that, we're keeping it simple for you guys. What's gonna end up happening is you're gonna mess with your ride quality. So, our recommendation is, and kinda the word of mouth, is that when you tighten this, you're gonna wanna hand-tighten it first. And once you get it to hand-tightened capacity, you are going to want to then tighten it five millimeters, or there abouts. Usually what people will say is a spanner wrench width further to set your preload. And what that's gonna do is that's just gonna help establish that preload. Now, it's not an exact science. Each application may be a little bit different. But, for the sake of the YouTube, and for the sake of keeping everything as generic but as simple as possible, you're gonna wanna think about at least five millimeters to set your preload if, for some reason, you knock it loose and you get the spring all wonky. So, the important thing is that when you're looking at the actual coilover, the spring is gonna be about, I'd say, 60 percent of what makes your coilover the coilover and how you're gonna feel that on the road. The rest is actually going to be your shock. Now, the shock controls the unwanted spring oscillations and it reduces the vibration, and it also handles all those sort of things like rocking and dipping, wheel-spinning, traction pass, and all that other good stuff. So, when you hit a bump, that energy, it actually hits your springs. What happens is, is the spring compresses, it absorbs it, and then it transfers that energy to the shock through its mounts and into the piston. Now, you have a piston inside your shock. That's just how shocks work. And what happens is, is the shock is gonna dampen the vibrations. So remember, the softer springs has faster movement. What results with that is a softer ride, while harsher springs do the opposite. So, softer springs are better if you're looking for a more comfortable ride, but, of course, you're gonna have cons with that like we talked about before in terms of just body movement, body roll, and all that sort of good stuff. Where the harsher springs are gonna be a little tougher on the old back, but at the same time, they're gonna react a lot faster and handle those bumps a lot better than something with a softer spring. On some coilovers, you're gonna have the ability to change the dampen. Now, the dampen in all similar and simple ways to call it, what that essentially is gonna do is it's gonna change the amount of pressure allowed for the oil inside the shock absorber for the piston to go back and forward, to dampen the vibrations and o