Three car suspension modifications that make sense

Advance Auto PartsYou may have heard that engineers spend years tuning a car suspension, crunching those numbers to get the best possible ride and handling. Now hear this, my fellow Gearheads: that’s a bunch of hogwash. Why? Because those factory engineers have to think about both cost limitations and what the average driver expects, so there’s a limit to how extreme they can get–and if you’re like me, extreme is the only way to go. If you want your car to corner as well as possible, you’re going to have to modify that suspension.

But the problem is, it’s real easy to go overboard with these modifications. Think about those slammed Hondas out there that are so low, you can’t even see the tops of the tires. Now, if those guys are just going for a certain look, hey, more power to ’em. But they’re not building better-handling cars, that’s for sure. If you’re looking for real driving improvements, you’ll have to find a sweet spot between the factory settings and whatever those Honda guys are doing.

So let’s get right down to it, shall we? Here are my top three car suspension modifications that actually make some sense. And listen, I want to hear what you think, so feel free to chime in afterward and give me a piece of your mind.

1. Performance Coilovers

The term “coilover” just refers to a shock absorber wrapped in a coil spring, and coilovers are common car suspension parts in factory setups. But the ones you get from the factory are typically tuned more for comfort and cost-saving than performance. So one of the best things you can do for your car’s handling is upgrade to performance coilovers, and by that I mean full coilovers–the ones that include both the shock and the spring, so that they’re designed to work together. The great thing about aftermarket coilovers is that they preserve and can even improve your factory ride quality, yet they also dramatically improve handling. And most of ’em are adjustable via a little twisty thing on top, so it’s easy to dial in the setting that works best for you.

2. Strut Tower Brace

It has always amazed me that more cars don’t come standard with a strut tower brace. It’s just a metal bar, more or less, that stretches from the top of one front strut to the other, suspended right over the front of the engine in most cases. What it does is increase rigidity, which makes the car tighter and more responsive when you’re driving hard. Tell you what, if I buy a car and it doesn’t have a strut tower brace, I go right out and have one installed. Big difference for a small price.

3. Wheels and Tires

Last but definitely not least, you gotta have the right wheels and tires, and here’s what I mean by that. The right wheels are big enough to fill out the wheel wells, but not too big–you want sufficient clearance so there won’t be any rubbing against the lip. And the right tires are basically as wide and low-profile as you can go within the limits of the wheels you’ve got. Just swapping the wheels and tires alone can give you a huge improvement in handling; throw in the coilovers and a strut tower brace, and it’ll be like you bought a whole new car.

Oh, and how much does all this cost? Shop smart and I bet you could get out the door for about a thousand bucks all told. That’s for everything on the list. Shoot, they’re charging more at the dealership for a navigation system these days.


Editor’s note: check out Advance Auto Parts for suspension mods and more. Buy online, pick up in store.

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  1. I have a 2006 chevy trailblazer SS which is one of the best rides i’ve ever driven. It has air suspension in the back with shocks and struts in the front of course. the rear is slightly lifted due to the air ride and it looks great I need to replace the shocks in the rear and would love to get the one piece coil over and strut tower brace. lets get to the real reason i’m writing I had my bushings replaced on my upper control arms? but ever since the alignment i’ve had a shimmy in the steering wheel and it used to be perfect can they adjust it better to get it back to perfect?

  2. I think the reason few, if any production cars do not include strut tower brace is to keep costs down. A strut tower brace may be little more than a metal bar but it would have only cost only $11 per vehicle to make the Pinto incapable of blowing up when rear ended. It was deemed that the number or collisions, and the ensuing lawsuits would total only a couple of million, so it was cheaper to not add the safety feature. So, based on such cold hearted calculations, adding something to merely improve driving is unlikely. Suspension upgrades will always be aftermarket upgrades in economy or mid priced cars I think.

  3. I just bought some adustable springs to I stall on my 2001 ford focus and it didn’t come with instructions. I have tried to look for the company online and am running into no answers. Can u recommend a website or video that would help me out please.

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