Suspension 101 - help please
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This is a discussion on Suspension 101 - help please within the Suspension & Wheels forums, part of the Tech & Modifying & General Repairs category; Can someone please clear up some basics of suspension components for me? I already searched on howtuffworks.com and there was ...

  1. #1
    Registered User 03WRX's Avatar
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    Suspension 101 - help please

    Can someone please clear up some basics of suspension components for me? I already searched on howtuffworks.com and there was nothing there. I already understand that our WRX's have struts and springs. Here's my questions

    1) I noticed Tire Rack sells aftermarket shocks for our cars. Would these replace the struts? If so, what advantage (if any) do they offer over struts (or what exactly is the difference between struts and shocks).

    2) What are coil over spring sets? What I can infer is that they replace the strut/springs in our WRX's but you have the advantage of being able to adjust the ride height.

    Any help would be great
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    Moderator GV27's Avatar
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    1) Well, Shocks and Struts are almost the same thing. A shock works to control the spring and thus suspension movement. A shock is a non-structural component of the suspension that is just there to control movement. You could remove the shocks from a vehicle that has them and still drive. You'd bounce all over, but the suspension would still hold up the car. A strut is a shock that is a structural part of the suspension. Remove the strut and the suspension collapses. The Koni "shocks" TireRack sells are inserts. You disassemble the stock struts and use some of the parts to build new struts around the Koni inserts. The Konis are stiffer for a more high-performance ride and they need to be paired with a stiffer set of springs. They are also adjustable, so you can not only adjust the ride of the car but also the understeer/oversteer balance as well.

    2. Yeah, you pretty much hit in on the head. A lot of coilovers also tend to have a racing-style damper that offers a lot more adjustability than the Koni inserts.

    Chris
    Last edited by GV27; 12-15-2002 at 11:14 AM.
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    Registered User 03WRX's Avatar
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    Chris,

    Thanks for the explanation - excellent. I can tell you really know your stuff by reading some of your posts! I just want to make sure I understand this right

    1) The shock absorber simply replaces the part of the strut that controls the springs? Result is better handling , ride and ability to adjust suspension?

    2) So, shocks are NOT standard on most cars including the WRX? They are usually aftermarket parts?

    3) So the strut alone has a spring control in there but not as good as having an adjustable shock absorber (like the Konis).

    Thanks for your help and clearing up my ignorance!
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    Moderator GV27's Avatar
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    LOL. I like the numbering for multi-part questions.

    1) Yeah, the inserts just replace the part that controls the springs (see answer 2!). The result is better handling and adjustability BUT a firmer ride that will probably be a bit harsher over bumps. This is just a result of how they are valved. They COULD valve them for a plusher ride, but the market is for performance, so the valve them that way.

    2) All suspension systems have some sort of damper to control the springs, otherwise you'd bounce up and down like crazy. For example, take a look at one of those horses mounted to a spring at a playground, or that episode of Leave It to Beaver where Eddy convinces Wally to take The Warden's car down a dirt road, where the shocks go out and they bounce all the way home to fess up to Ward.

    "Damper" is the generic name for shocks or struts or whatever is controlling the springs. Their job is to control the springs to keep the car from bottoming out (compression) and from springing back so hard the car leaps off the road or continues to bounce (rebound). The damper is what gives the car that steady look on the road. With just springs it'd just bounce all the time.

    The Konis have one knob that adjusts compression and rebound simultaneously. On some coilovers you might have two knobs that control them separately. That means that those coilovers have more flexibility and tuneability but can be more complicated than a lot of people want to deal with.

    Some suspensions have shocks - I guess the back end of a pickup with leaf springs is the best example, and some have struts. So aftermarket parts usually just replace whatever is already there with similar but higher-performing parts. In the case of the WRX, whether you go for inserts, full struts (like KYB, others hopefully coming soon) or coilovers, what you end up with is a spring-over-strut design, essentially identical to stock but higher performance. The parts still do the same things in the same ways and sit in the same place and bolt in the same way, they just do it a bit better.

    3) So yeah. The stock struts are dampers that control the springs. The Konis are really struts too - they may be inserts when they come out of the box, but they're struts by the time they are on the car. I think Tirerack just uses the term "shocks" generically to indicate shocks or struts or, in this case, strut inserts. "Damper" would be the proper term. The stock struts are fairly firm. I'm not sure where the Konis fall in relation. I'd guess the softest is about stock with 3 or 4 (I forget) settings stiffer. Mister X has some, we can ask him. The adjustability is really important to me, but not for everyone. A lot of people just like to put them on and forget them. But even if you do that, you can tune them initially instead of being stuck with what someone else thought was best. I like to continually mess with them (I've had them on other cars - just haven't had the cash available for this car yet) to change the balance of the car and firmness of the ride according to conditions.
    Last edited by GV27; 12-15-2002 at 02:09 PM.
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    Registered User 03WRX's Avatar
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    Thanks, you've been a ton of help.

    I see now. I looked at the Tirerack website again and it mentions that the Konis must use the WRX strut housing. So, like you said it is an insert but it's pretty much the "meat" of the strut one you install it. It's simply needs the WRX strut housing to mount to the car.
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    Registered User caffeineOasis's Avatar
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    I know a lot has been asked n answered and have a pretty good understanding of what shocks & struts do, but was wondering if I end up lowering my car, would it be necessary to get struts or would my car be just fine without them?
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    Moderating on the run! Big Sky WRX's Avatar
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    Depends on the springs- the milder ones are made to work w/ oe struts- so you'fd be fine w/ them- Eibach/Prodrive/others. If you start to bump the spring rate up too much- you'll need to look at replacing the strut as well.

    Struts are a wear item- so if they are old, sometimes it's worth replacing them (spring and strut) at the same time.
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