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Suspension guide

Why Choose Aftermarket Suspension?
Car manufacturers spend vast amounts of time, effort and money developing suspension systems for their range of vehicles.  Each application will be tested in a lab then to the test track and finally on real world roads.  In extreme cases performance cars are tested on some of the worlds best know race track such as Nürburgring in Germany, these sessions can fine tune a performance cars suspension and offer a high level of kudos with low lap times.

Then why choose to fit aftermarket upgraded components? The car manufacturers engineering teams develop suspension systems that are a compromise between ride comfort, handling and road holding.  They will have to also please the marketing department with a product that fits the overall concept of the particular model.  Another constraint is the cost of equipment they choose to fit, Bilstein dampers may give the best results but you’re unlikely to find them on lesser models in a range, you might find them on an option list or fitted to range topping vehicles.

With none of the constraints that apply to the original equipment engineer aftermarket suspension companies can provide suspension systems that are fine tuned for performance.  Aftermarket suspension brands we offer include Apex, Bilstein, Eibach, G Max, H&R, Inter Alloy, Koni, KW, Maxton, Pro Sport, Spax, Supersport, Tein, and Weitec.  This can mean for road use the ride height is lowered and spring and damper rates increased to improve handling while ride comfort is only slightly affected but not enough to stop the car being used in daily driving conditions.  For ultimate road car use coil over suspension kits allow the owner to adjust height, bump and rebound settings

What Does Cars Suspension Do?
The suspension on your car is designed to allow the car to be driven at speed offering a balance between road holding, handling and ride comfort for the cars occupants.  A car with no suspension would be virtually undrivable at even modest speeds.  The basic components on a typical modern car are coil spings and dampers. The coil springs role is absorbing energy from the road surface and these springs in turn are controlled by an oil filled damper.
Car manufacturers equip their cars with a suspension set up to suit most drivers in most circumstances.  As already mentioned much time, money and effort will be spent fine tuning a cars suspension settings for different countries the car will be sold in. Results are as expected a compromise between ride comfort, handling and road holding. They may develop settings that are more sporting and apply them to a range topping "Sport model" or more comfort based for a luxury model were ride comfort is a more important factor.  At the very top end of modern executive cars air suspension is used with varying levels of success some road testers believing steel sprung cars are still more compliant over various surfaces.

A Brief History
Early cars were derived from horse drawn carriages and were sometimes known as horseless carriages, or motor carriages.  This was a bit of a mouthful and later became shortened to car from carriages.  The horse carriage suspension was carried over for the new fangled motor car and usually was in the form of leaf springs or cart springs.  These were made from differing materials such as steel or wood but were the same design using multi laminate leaves held together by clamps.  Car Leaf springs usually comprise of multiple sprung steel leaves held together by clamps.  Single leaf springs are just that, a single steel sprung length

Although leaf springs have now outdated since the 1970's, modified versions can still be found on some American cars and some 4x4 applications were they are used for their heavy duty properties.  We can still supply Escort leaf springs and Capri leaf springs for early classic Fords.  Other suspension springs such as torsion bars which are basically a sprung steel bar have been used in car design over the years.  The most popular form is the coil spring which can be found on most modern cars.  Over the past decade air springs have replaced steel coil springs on some high end luxury cars.

As car speeds increased a need was found to control the road springs and dampers were introduced.  Early examples use two friction pads that simply rub against each other to contain the energy of the spring.  Later came the lever arm damper before the industry has settled on the best compromise the oil filled damper which is found on almost all modern cars.
Sports Suspension

For most car drivers their suspension standard set up is adequate for their needs however it is possible to tailor your car suspension to suit your requirements.  We specialise in providing sports suspension which is designed to improve road holding and handling while still maintaining ride quality.  Most modern car suspension uses a combination of coil springs, shock absorbers and anti roll bars.  In general terms to provide a more sporting feel the spring rates and anti roll bar rates (stiffness) are increased.  In addition your cars ride height is reduced using shorter coil springs with shocker damping settings modified to suit.

Lowering springs
Lowering springs are coil springs and are the most common type of road spring and can be found under almost all modern cars.  A lowering spring kit is designed to improve a cars road holding and handling, this is achieved by stiffening or increasing spring rates.  An additional benefit of a lowering spring kit is a lowered sporting stance as the car ride height is lowered typically between -25mm to -80mm. 

To produce a spring kit that lowers the cars ride height, improves handling, road holding and maintains ride quality first research must carried out to find out what is possible.  Lowering the cars centre of gravity is beneficial to the handling but the increase in stiffness might make the car uncomfortable and not practical for today’s speed bump strewn roads.  Manufacturers will try many set ups before deciding on the best compromise.  On better quality kits a prototype kit is fitted to an actual car and then road tested.  Once a compromise is found the kit is ready for production. 

Lowering springs are formed from high quality blends of steel that may include combinations other materials such as Nichol, chrome or silicon.  Coil springs can be either hot formed or ideally cold formed from a large roll; stress in the steel is relived by a process called tempering.  During tempering the now formed springs are heated to controlled levels then left to cool before quenching usually in a bath of oil.  The ends are ground or shaped to ensure they sit correctly in the spring pan on the car or shock absorber.  Further processes include shot peening to induce beneficial surface stresses in the material this is to increase the life of the spring.  To prevent corrosion the lowering springs are coated before the finish is baked on.

One thing to consider when deciding on the amount you would like the ride height on your car lowering is how old the car is and how many miles has it covered?  You will find on a car ten years old that the original springs may have sagged and the lowering effect of a sports spring kit will be less than specified.  All lowering figures stated are based on original ride height of the car when it was new.
Look out for TUV quality approval as this means your kit has been tested to ensure the fitment and suitability for each model of car and although not required in the UK it is a requirement in many European countries.  In addition to lowering springs from Apex, Eibach, G Max, Inter Alloy, Jamex, KW, Maxton, Spax, Supersport, Tein, and Weitec we have our in house brand Aktiv which includes Mitsubishi FTO lowering springs and MR2 lowering springs.

Torsion Bars
Some earlier French cars such as the Citroen AX, Saxo, Peugeot 205, 306 and Renault 5, Clio mk1 use a torsion bar in place of the rear coil springs.  The torsion bar is a length of sprung steel that runs across the rear of the car.  Although not an easy task to perform it is possible to lower the rear of a torsion bar equipped car by removing the bars and replacing them in a different position in their housing.  The main difficulty with torsion bar lowering is that the bars themselves and end cover bolts can be corroded and difficult to remove.  In extreme cases we have had to remove the rear axle to have the bars taken from their housing.

Shock Absorbers
Shock absorbers are sometimes known as dampers, shockers or shocks but they are in fact all the same item.  Shock absorbers are the suspension component that controls the road spring once it has been compressed by moving over undulations in the road, this is referred to as their high speed action.  They also offer resistance when the car leans during cornering this is referred to as their low speed action.  The body shapes of shock absorbers vary the most common are the insert which is slid into the original housing, bolt on damper with eye holes top bottom or both and semi struts which are a damper with the spring pan welded onto its body.

Most of the sports shock absorbers we sell, either as separate items or in our suspension kits use oil as the main damping medium and this is usually assisted by gas pockets which maintain damping action during heavy usage.  These are commonly known as gas dampers.  True gas dampers are found on high end competition cars only and do use gas as the damping medium but these are not for road use. To achieve the damping force in a sports shock absorber the oil is forced through small holes in the damper internals producing resistance. 

One important factor to consider if you are buying dampers to match with sports lowering springs is, are they compatible?  Lowering springs with ride height drops of more than -35mm generally require a damper with a shortened piston rod stroke.  Although shortened piston rod dampers used to be expensive to buy we offer a range of TUV approved dampers at affordable prices.  We think you will find it difficult to find BMW shock absorbers or Audi shock absorbers at prices cheaper than those offered by Aktiv performance  

Sports Suspension kits
Entry level Sports Suspension Kits use uprated lowering springs and sports gas shock absorbers with shortened piston rods and uprated internals.  These kits are the most popular and use the same format as standard equipment.  For most customers this is an excellent upgrade with improvements in both handling and road holding with little if any loss of ride comfort.  Your car will not only feel more under your control but braking distances are reduced and cornering speeds safely increased.

For customers wanting more extreme ride height lowering and additional control over the cars suspension characteristics a coilover suspension kit is the answer.  The coil over suspension kit is derived from motorsport applications were ultimate suspension control is required. The coil over suspension kit utilises compact diameter coil springs which are matched to dampers that have a threaded steel or aluminium sleeves manufactured on to the shock absorber body.  These threaded inserts have adjustable lockable spring seats that can be spun on the centre section.

The cars ride height is adjusted by moving the spring seat up and down the body of the shock absorber and locking the seat in the preferred position.  Many coilover kits come with integral top mounts.  In addition to ride height adjustment top end coilover kits are adjustable for rate (stiffness) to allow the driver to set how stiff or soft the car drives.To further fine tune the cars driving characteristics the next step is allowing the driver to adjust ride height and spring pre-load with these options a perfect set up can be achieved to further enhance the driving experience.

Suppliers KW and Tein have taken further steps to offer customers a perfect set up.  With products such as Tein Euro damper and KW Street Comfort being optimised for fast road use but still incorporate full adjustability.  For ultimate fast road and track day use KW offer their Clubsport range and Tein the Mono Flex kits.  Coilover suspension kits for use in various competition disciplines are available from Tein and Bilstein.  Drift fans are catered for with Tein Super Drift which is developed directly from competition drifting.  Tein Super Racing, Tein N1 and Type HT are again developed with experience gained from the track and WRC.

Anti roll bar kits
The anti roll bar is a shaped length of sprung steel attached to the suspension or chassis at both ends.  The anti roll bar works by resisting the roll when the car corners.  Our uprated anti roll bars from Eibach, Whiteline and KW further resist body roll compared to standard.  Our uprated (stiffer) anti roll bar kits are designed to compliment sports suspension and usually come with uprated bushes to stop flex.

Suspension Tuning
Further gains in performance can be achieved by fine tuning the suspension settings.  Once the standard setting have been used as a starting point additional adjustment is possible using a range of product designed especially to perform this task.  These specialised suspension tuning products include camber adjusting bolts, pillow ball top mounts with camber adjustment, adjustable ball joints and tie bars.  Fitting strut braces to connect suspension mountings reduces body flex and helps keep the tyre in contact with the road.

With our suppliers Apex, Bilstein, Eibach, G Max, H&R, Inter Alloy, Koni, KW, Maxton, Pro Sport, Spax, Streetline, Supersport, Tein, Weitec and Whiteline we believe we can offer a car suspension solution for almost any customer.  So if you are looking for a full coil over suspension kit or a set of lowering springs please contact Aktiv Performance.

of the week
Pro sport VW Golf mk4 lowering springs -35mm 11/1997-
Pro sport VW Golf mk4 lowering springs -35mm 11/1997-
Pro sport lowering springs VW Golf mk4 1.8, 1.8 Turbo, 2.3-V5, 1.9SDi, 1.9TDi -35mm 11/1997-
Price:  £59.99
Special offer price:  £35.99
(40% Off)

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