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Making It Stick Part 1

The Comprehensive Suspension Tuning Guide


From the April, 2009 issue of Modified Mag
By Mike Kojima
Illustrator: Ti Tong
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1 - Index

Suspension tuning is the black art of compact performance. With the majority of the world concerned about
making horsepower, handling has traditionally taken a back seat. However, as all serious geeks know, every fast,
well-rounded street car has as much suspension tuning as it does power tuning.
With the popularity of drifting, time attack contests and racetrack hot lapping on the rise, suspension tuning and
handling are becoming popular with enthusiasts who previously spent all their efforts making power.
Finding straight-line horsepower gurus to help you is relatively easy, but it's much harder to find an expert who
can make your car corner well. The solution? Make yourself the guru. If your automotive interests are greater than
a one-dimensional urge to blast straight down the 1320, then it's time to get to work.
In this series, we'll uncover the mysteries of car handling one at a time. This month, we begin with the four
fundamental first steps.

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Step one: Sticky tires


Tires by far are the biggest contributor to finding more cornering force. By bolting on a set of stickies, you-in
minutes-make the biggest possible gain in cornering power. Generally, putting the biggest tires that will fit inside
your wheel wells without rubbing is the way to go. Choosing an ultrahigh-performance tire is also important.
The list of sticky street tires is miles long. Below are a few of our favorites organized by cost. The cost-no-object
tires will ultimately yield more grip than the value-priced tires, but in most cases, the value-priced choices offer 90
percent of the performance of the more expensive tires at 60 or 70 percent of their cost.
Some of our favorite ultrahigh-performance street tires
Cost No Object
Michelin Pilot Sport and Pilot Sport2
BFGoodrich g-Force KD
Bridgestone Potenza S-03
Value Priced
Falken Azenis
Kumho ECSTA MX
If you're attending track events, autocrossing or simply wanting the most grip possible, try a set of DOT-approved
racing tires. Some can be used for everyday driving, while others grip almost like racing slicks and last only
slightly longer. These tires produce more road-sucking grip than any suspension mod you can make.
The drawbacks are many. First, these tires can be expensive; second, they wear quickly; and third, the number of
heat cycles their rubber formulations can withstand before losing significant grip is limited. Many of them don't do
well in the wet and none work in the snow or ice. It's possible to end up with expensive, fast-wearing and not-so-
grippy tires by using them on the street and by subjecting them to too many heat cycles. Most users of these race
tires use them only on the track.
DOT-Approved Street-Legal Race Tires
Durable enough for street use
Yokohama A032R, Yokohama A048
Toyo RA-1
Nitto NT 555 RII
Hankook Z211
Pirelli P Zero Corsa
Michelin Pilot Sport Cup
Avon Tech R
Kumho Victoracer V700
Track only
Hoosier A3S04, Hoosier R3S04, Hoosier Radial Wet
Kumho ECSTA 710, Kumho ECSTA V700

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Step three: Balance the chassis


Now that you've reduced body motion and improved steering response, we can work on the next major area of
improvement. The goal for most of us is to have neutral handling. Neutral balance, where all four tires slide the
same amount, is the fastest way around a corner most of the time. This way you use each tire's maximum grip. It
might seem odd, but many experienced drifters prefer a neutral car because it allows them to have many control
options for getting sideways.
Unfortunately for the enthusiast, most cars are factory tuned to understeer. Understeer occurs when the front tires
slide first when at the limit. Manufacturers do this because it's the easiest handling mode for the average driver to
control. Understeer isn't efficient for extracting maximum lateral acceleration because the car will use the front
tires excessively, while the traction contribution of the rear tires is wasted. It's also the slowest and most boring
way around a corner. Bottom line? Understeer sucks.
If we go too far in the quest to eliminate understeer, we'll inevitably create oversteer. Oversteer occurs when, at
the limit, the rear tires slide before the fronts. Drifters work at controlling and driving in a state of continuous
oversteer, raising it to an art form. Oversteer can make you a hero or a douche bag. Do it well and everyone will
love you. Do it poorly and they'll laugh when you're riding home in the flatbed.

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How do we tune a car's handling balance? By manipulating the tire's slip angle. Slip angle is defined as the
difference between the direction the tire is moving and the direction the contact patch of the tire is pointing. At
extreme slip angles, the contact patch actually slides across the pavement.
The primary dynamic contribution to slip angle is the load placed on each individual wheel while cornering. A
greater load on a given wheel/tire results in a greater slip angle of that wheel/tire when subjected to a sideways
cornering force. A nose-heavy front-wheel-drive car has more weight and thus cornering load on the front tires,
which causes them to run a larger slip angle than the rear tires. The front tires start to slide first, causing
understeer. A rear-engine car has a larger proportion of its weight on the rear tires. The rear tires run a larger slip
angle so the natural tendency is to oversteer. A mid-engine car usually has the most even weight distribution with
near-equal slip angles from the front and rear tires. This creates more neutral handling.
Properly manipulating tire load and slip angle by controlling weight transfer is key to balancing the chassis. By
altering weight transfer and tire loading during cornering, much can be done to change a car's natural handling
tendencies. Can you make a nose-heavy front-wheel-drive car oversteer? Sure. Look at most successful front-
drive racecars; they oversteer like crazy.
How does a tuner manipulate tire loading and slip angle? By tweaking the spring rates, anti-roll bar rates, tire
sizing and pressure, and to a lesser degree, the shock damping. The first option a tuner has is to increase the tire
pressure. The harder a tire is inflated, within reason, the smaller slip angle it develops. In the case of a nose-
heavy front-wheel-drive car, if you add several psi to the front tires and take some pressure out of the rear, the
front tires will run a smaller slip angle while the rear tires' slip angle will increase. This alone can do quite a bit to
reduce understeer.
Changing the spring and anti-roll bar rates has a large impact on slip angle. Running a stiffer spring or anti-roll bar
on one end will cause more weight to be transferred onto the outside tire as the car tries to roll in a corner. The
softer end will compress and the more stiffly sprung end will resist compression, putting more weight into the tire
and causing it to run at a bigger slip angle.
The best thing to do for your understeering, front-wheel-drive car is run a bigger rear anti-roll bar to tune out
understeer. Conversely, stiffening the front suspension and increasing the rear tire pressures can tame oversteer.

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Shocks can improve response and help balance the car right after the initiation of a turn; soft shocks get the car
to a steady point of weight transfer faster. When stiff, they can delay weight transfer. Thus, shocks affect how the
car feels at turn-in and also how it feels past mid-turn. A car with the shocks set fairly hard will turn in sharply. If
the shocks are set too hard, the balance might change later in the turn in an unpredictable way as the heavy
damping slows the body roll and weight transfer.
Tire sizing can also affect chassis balance. Installing a wider tire on the end that needs traction most is obvious.
Rear-engine Porsches have wider rear tires to help prevent oversteer. Powerful rear-wheel-drive cars tend to have
wider tires in the rear than in the front. Many front-wheel-drive autocrossers and road racers install a wider front
tire to get more front grip.
At the limit of adhesion, a car that slides all four wheels without brake or throttle input is considered ideal; it also
doesn't exist. Being able to provoke slight oversteer by lifting the throttle and more aggressive oversteer with
slight braking while cornering at the limit is useful as well. Being able to slow rotation with slight throttle
application makes front-wheel-drive cars easier to control.
Rear-wheel-drive cars should also be able to invoke oversteer with large applications of throttle. This kind of
balance gives the skilled driver the most options.
Step four: Reduce weight transfer
Weight transfer is the movement of weight from the inside to the outside wheels during cornering. Excessive
lateral weight transfer hurts handling. It's caused by centrifugal force working on the chassis' center of gravity,
which loads the outside wheels and unloads the inside wheels.
Contrary to popular belief, very little weight transfer can be attributed to lean in a corner. Even at large roll
angles, weight transfer due to roll is quite small. So lowering a car's center of gravity and widening its track width
will reduce weight transfer more effectively than reducing roll angle.
Lowering is best accomplished with shorter springs. The smartest approach is to use shorter springs and shorter-
bodied shock absorbers or struts that maintain stock compression travel at a lower ride height. Excessive lowering
can change suspension geometry, causing positive camber during roll and contributing to increased bump steer.
The easiest way to increase track width is to use wider wheels and tires that fill out the wheel wells. This also
increases the amount of rubber on the road. Using wheel spacers and wheels with a more positive offset can also
increase track width. Any positive change in track width, and therefore offset, increases the scrub radius. Scrub
radius (see diagram on page 128) is the distance from the centerline of the tire's contact patch to the point where
the steering axis intersects the ground, also known to regular readers as "The Dave Point." Increasing the scrub
radius allows forces generated by the tire more leverage to act on the steering. To the driver, this translates as
torque steer under acceleration and braking.
To minimize the change in scrub radius, it's important to try to increase wheel width to the inside as well as the
outside by paying close attention to the wheel offset. This puts more rubber on the road and increases the track
width while maintaining the same scrub radius.
Increasing track width also changes the motion ratio of the suspension, which effectively reduces spring and anti-
roll bar rates. Lastly, a very positive offset wheel puts a large strain on wheel bearings, ball joints and steering
linkage, making them wear much faster. All of these are good reasons not to go overboard with this method of
increasing track width. A good rule of thumb is it's safe to use the largest wheels and tires you can stuff in your
stock wheel wells by rolling the inner fender flange.
A good guideline is to increase the track width and lower the car more on the end that slides first in a corner. An
understeering, nose-heavy, front-wheel-drive car can use more track width and a lower ride height in the front. A
powerful rear-engine car can be lower and have more track width in the rear. This play on physics will help reduce
weight transfer in both cases.
In the next installment, we'll discuss more basic mods you can do to improve handling, some of the common
deadly sins of modifying your suspension and basic tips on suspension geometry.

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A Simplistic View of What a Damper DoesWhen a car hits a bump, the suspension's springs compress to absorb
the force of the bump. This is good, as the absorption of the bump helps ride comfort, keeps parts from breaking
off of the car and most importantly, helps the tires stay on the road so they can do their job. The force of the
bump is momentarily stored in the compressed spring as potential energy. As the bump passes, the spring
rebounds and returns most of this energy to the suspension. If this compression and rebound is not controlled, a
car would simply continue to bounce up and down like a pogo stick for many cycles after hitting a bump-much like
your grandma's Oldsmobile. This isn't the best thing for comfort or traction, as tires like steady downward force on
them so they can stay in contact with the ground and provide grip. If the bouncing is severe enough, the tire could
even hop off the road surface-and tires in the air provide zero grip.

A damper helps dissipate spring rebound energy by resisting suspension movement. When properly damped, the
spring and the car natural oscillations are attenuated (subdued) within one up and down cycle. This greatly
improves ride comfort, the tire's ability to maintain traction and the driver's control of the car. This is a rather
simplistic explanation of what a damper does. For all of the simplicity of its function, a damper has a huge effect
on a cars handling-perhaps more than any other single suspension component. We'll get more in-depth into how a
damper affects handling in future editions of this series.
How Does a Damper Work?

A modern damper is basically an oil-filled cylinder with a piston attached to a rod in it. One end of the damper
attaches to the body of the car and the other end attaches to the suspension. Simply put, a damper is a hydraulic
device that resists motion. The damper contains many valves and orifices to meter the flow of oil through the
piston and the body of the damper to control the motion with a resisting force otherwise known as damping. As
the piston and rod go up and down in the body of the damper when the suspension moves, the oil being displaced
has to move from one side of the piston to the other. The only way for the oil to get to the other side of the piston
is by forcing it through the orifices, which results in resistance in both compression and rebound movement of the
suspension.

This resistance damps out a suspension's natural oscillations caused by the springs. The damper converts boinging
energy into heat energy, which is dissipated into the air.
Generally, a damper has more resistance in rebound than compression, as its primary job is to reduce rebound
oscillations in the suspension, or more simply, prevent the suspension from springing back with as much force as
when it compressed.

The resistance in compression, or compression damping, helps assist the spring to prevent the car from harshly
bottoming out if a large bump is hit. The ratio of compression to rebound damping force for a car is usually about
70-percent rebound and 30-percent compression, although it can range from 50/50 to 90/10, depending on the
application.
To understand dampers fully, it's important to know about the different sorts of dampers and damper terminology.
Lets start with perhaps the most common term thrown around in the performance suspension world, the gas
shock.

Read more: http://www.modified.com/tech/0605_sccp_making_it_stick_part_5/index.html#ixzz1O0D44D2p


Understanding Coil Springs:

TECH ARTICLES: Drag Shock Tech | Understanding Coil Springs | Shocks: Solving the Mystery | Leaf
Spring Tech | Oval Track Four Link Rear Suspension | Panhard Bars: The Rest Of the Story

BRAKE TECH ARTICLES: Things to think about when you are having braking problems | Understanding
brake fluid | Brake pad and rotor break In procedure | Rotor bedding- In | Brake pad terms | Troubleshooting

Of all the parts on a race car, springs probably have the most influence on handling. Understanding springs can
help you to better tune and trouble shoot your car.

What is Spring Rate?


Dynamics of Coil Spring:
What is Spring Stress?
Stress Consideration in Spring Design:
What if a Spring "Sets"?
Monitoring your Springs:
What is Coil Bind?
Why Springs Bow:
Spring Checkers:

What is Spring Rate?


Spring rate refers to the amount of weight needed to compress a spring an inch (Example:500# per inch) To
understand and properly check a spring for rate you need to know the factors that determine the rate of the
spring. Fortunately, there are only three things that affect spring rate, so there's not that much to remember!

1. Wire diameter. This affects rate since greater diameter wire is


stronger than lesser diameter wire. So, when wire diameter is
increased, spring rate increases.

2. Mean diameter of spring. Mean diameter is the overall outside


diameter of the spring less one wire diameter. When mean
diameter increases, the spring rate decreases.

3. Active coils. Determination of the number of active coils varies


according to spring design. Count the total coils minus two for
springs with both ends closed (includes all AFCOILS). Count the
total coils minus one for springs with one end closed and one
end open. As the number of active coils increases, the spring
rate decreases.

If a spring's rate is linear (most racing springs have linear rates) its rate is not affected by the load put onto the
spring. For example, a linear rate spring rated at 500#/inch will compress 1" when a 500# weight is placed onto
the spring. If another 500 pound weight is put onto the spring the spring will compress another inch. At this point
the load on the spring has increased to 1000 pounds. The rate of the spring, however, remains constant at
500#/inch.
If the load put onto a spring increases the rate of the spring, the spring is said to have a progressive rate.
Progressive rate springs are sometimes used on torque arms to absorb engine torque. Keep in mind that the load
(or preload) put onto a progressive rate spring can greatly increase the rate of the spring.
Typically, progressive rate springs are made by varying the spacing between the springs' active coils. During
compression the close coils bottom out and deaden. This reduces the amount of active coils and spring rate
increases as a result.
Springs that are designed to include coils of different diameter or are wound using a tapered wire will also
produce a progressive rate.
Most coil springs are actually progressive to some degree -- as we will learn later!

Dynamics of Coil Springs:


There are basically three different spring designs presently used in race cars. They are:
TYPE I: Closed and ground on both ends (Coil-overs and rear conventional
springs are this type).

TYPE II: Closed both ends but ground one end only (Conventional front
springs are normally this type).

TYPE III: Closed and ground on one end and open on the other end (Similar
to a conventional spring that has been cut).
The 3 springs types are used in different situations and provide different effects to rate. Since the designs are so
varied, it only follows that the dynamics of each design are also varied (more later). You must remember,
however, the only factors that affect spring rate are wire diameter, mean diameter, number of active coils.

How Spring Rates Change Dynamically:


Keep in mind that as a coil spring compresses, the inactive (dead) end coils gradually contact adjacent, active
coils. The contact causes the active coils to deaden which increases the rate of the spring. The rate creep that
results usually stops after the first inch of spring travel and does not appear again until spring travel approaches
coil bind. Generally speaking, this type of rate creep is of little consequence with springs softer than
approximately 500#/inch. When you use springs stiffer than 500#/inch rate creep becomes more pronounced.
It is important for you to realize that springs will pick up rate during compression. Consequently, the rate marked
on a spring can differ from the rate as seen by the chassis. This is especially true whenever a spring
manufacturer rates springs based on the first inch of compression.
Example: A racer replaced a 720# coil-over spring with a 750# Afcoil. The racer believed he had stiffened his
right front spring, however, the chassis behaved as though he had gone to a softer spring. Upon rating both
springs, he found that the 720# spring was rated for its first inch of travel (720# in.) and produced a much higher
(780# in.) rate for its second inch where it actually operated on the race car. Because Afcoils are designed to give
their nominal rate closest to their actual working range of travel (this particular 750 spring rated 735# in. for its
first inch of travel and 755# in. for its second inch), this racer actually softened up his race car even though the
spring rate markings indicated the opposite! Rate creep can become even more complex and more difficult to
monitor for racers using conventional type front coil springs designed with an open end coil(type 3). The lower
control arms used with conventional springs typically incorporate a stepped helix spring seat built to an SAE
specification (.720" of step). The helix seat was designed into lower control arms to insure consistent installation
of the spring. Keep in mind that any rotation of the spring affects the actual installed rate of the spring.
Unless racing springs used for this type of application are designed with one end coil that closely matches the
lower arm helix spring seat, a serious amount of rate creep can result. To minimize this type of rate creep, a
conventional front spring should be wound with its bottom end closed so that it sits squarely in the helix seat. No
active coil should touch the seat (just like the original production spring for which the control arm was designed
-Type 2 spring).
When built in this manner, a coil springÂs only contact with the lower control arm is through an inactive (dead)
coil (just like the spring's contact with the weight jack). Consequently, as the spring compresses, the number of
active coils in the spring is not affected by the lower control arm. Therefore the spring's rate remains constant
throughout normal suspension travel. Some rate creep still occurs due to contact between the dead end coils and
the adjacent active coils as was explained earlier, but the amount of rate creep is miniscule compared to the rate
creep produced by an open end coil spring. All AFCOILS, designed for use with stock lower control arms, are
built in this manner.
If a spring has an open end coil(type #3), the open end coil is active but gradually deadens as the lower control
arm moves against the spring. A considerable increase in spring rate occurs until the open end coil is completely
seated in the helix.
For example, during a test a 1500# open end coil spring gained 464 lbs. of rate after 2 inches of spring travel. By
comparison, a 1300# Afcoil (closed end coil spring) gained only 48 lbs. of rate after the same travel.
Further testing of a series of open end coil springs produced rate creep so inconsistent that at some points of
spring travel the springs did not remain in the same rate order of softest to stiffest! It would be very difficult to
make predictable handling adjustments using springs that exhibit such inconsistencies!
Keep in mind that any load change to an open end coil spring (via static weight, wedge, chassis roll, bumps, etc.)
usually causes the spring's rate to change and, consequently, handling to change. If you are using open end coil
springs you should chart their rates from static loaded height to fully loaded height weight(in one inch
increments). You should compare this information before making spring changes. By now you should realize the
importance of using springs that are designed to keep rate creep to a minimum.

What is Spring Stress?


As was pointed out earlier, the rate of a spring is determined by its diameter, the number of its active coils, and
the diameter of its wire. Since most racing springs are built to a fixed diameter, a spring designer must decide on
the diameter of wire and the correct number of active coils needed to produce the desired rate.
If the designer chooses a smaller than normal diameter of wire (which tends to soften rate), he will have to
compensate by using fewer active coils (which tends to stiffen rate) to achieve the desired rate. There are two
possible reasons for a spring designer to use a smaller than normal wire diameter for a specific rate spring:
1. The ideal diameter wire may not be made and using the next larger wire
(which requires more active coils) would produce a spring with insufficient
spacing between its coils. This could cause the spring to bind during normal
operation.

2. Cost could be the prime consideration and by using a smaller diameter wire
and fewer coils (shortening the length of wire used) material cost is reduced.
Unfortunately, many racing springs are built this way and these springs can
cause a multitude of problems for the chassis tuner that we will cover.

Many racers mistakenly believe extra spacing between the coils of a spring indicates a preferable spring. While a
spring must have sufficient stroke capacity it also must have sufficient material to absorb the load put onto it. If
the spring's material is not sufficient for the load put onto the spring, the material will become over-stressed and
the spring will take a set (lose height). Handling, of course, is affected and the reason is not always apparent to
the racer unless he pays close attention to his springs.
Example: A typical asphalt late model set-up calls for a tremendous amount of load on the left rear spring
(upwards to 600 pounds more weight than on the right rear spring). When the chassis sees normal spring travel,
the cumulative load on the left rear spring produces a tremendous amount of stress in the spring. If the spring
does not have sufficient material to handle the stress (as many don't), it will take a set (as many do) and the car
will lose crossweight and tend to become loose off the corner. Excessive spacing between the coils of a spring is
usually an indicator of a potential problem with spring stress.

Stress Consideration in Spring Design


Many times, because of the long stroke requirements for certain rates of racing springs, material strength must
be sacrificed to achieve significant stroke. Couple this with the fact that the ideal wire diameter is not always
made and you can see why some springs have a real potential to take a set. We have seen some brands of
springs lose as much as 15/16" of free height during normal operation. To eliminate any set from occurring at the
race track, it is good manufacturing policy to pre-set (press to solid height) all racing springs during their
manufacture.
If done correctly, pre-setting will generally eliminate any potential for additional set, even when springs are
designed with smaller than ideal wire. Shot-peening will further enhance a spring's durability. It should be pointed
out that all Afcoils are pre-set and shot-peened during manufacture.

What if a Spring "Sets"?


When a spring takes a set it will normally stabilize at its new height. The rate effectively remains the same since
no appreciable changes have been made to any of the three factors that determine the spring's rate. Other than
creating a need to readjust the chassis (to restore the original set-up and ride heights) the spring should provide
satisfactory performance. It is not uncommon for even well designed and properly manufactured springs to settle
up to 1% of their free height. It needs to be pointed out, however, that in cases where a poorly designed spring is
subject to extreme over-stressing, the spring's height may not stabilize. The spring may continue to change
height (both shortening and lengthening) as the spring is worked. As a result, the set-up on the race car changes
every time the spring's height changes. This can cause major chassis tuning headaches!
Monitor your Springs:
We recommend that you monitor the free heights of your springs on a regular basis. This is so important that
some Indycar teams measure their springs' heights to the thousandth of an inch. Be sure to always measure
height at the same point on the end coils(mark your springs to indicate the measuring point). You should suspect
that a spring is setting whenever wheel weights continually change. Under no circumstances should springs be
used that change more than 2% in height or do not stabilize in height. AFCOILS are guaranteed to maintain their
free heights to within 2% forever!
At the least you should inspect all springs for free height changes after racing on a very rough track or if your
race car was involved in a wreck. By now, you should realize there is much more chance for a spring to change
its height than its rate. Consequently, you should spend your time monitoring your springs' free heights and not
their rates!

What is Coil Bind?


Coil bind occurs whenever a spring is compressed and one or more of the springs active coils contacts another
coil. The rate of the spring increases whenever a coil binds since the bound coil or coils are no longer active(this
changes one of the three rate-determining factors). Of course, handling is affected whenever a coil binds. If the
spring is compressed to solid height (all coils touching) during suspension movement, the suspension will cease
to work. You can, and should, check for evidence of coil bind by examining the finish between the active coils. If
any coils have bound the finish between them will show contact marks that appear as though they were drawn
with a lead pencil. Normally any spring that is binding should be replaced with a taller spring. Be aware, however,
there are racing springs on the market that are built with wire that is heavier than what's needed. These springs
will coil bind before others that are built with the proper size wire.
Under very extreme conditions, coil binding can cause a spring to unwind slightly. This can cause the mean
diameter of the spring to increase and reduce rate of the spring. You should realize that the potential for coil bind
is increased whenever short springs are used. Always match the spring to the job.

Why Springs Bow:


Springs that have lengths greater than 4 times their diameter will have a natural tendency to bow when loaded.
Consequently, tall springs tend to bow more than short springs, and small diameter springs tend to bow more
than large diameter springs. Generally, the more a spring is compressed the more it will tend to bow. Keep in
mind the rate of a spring will increase if an active coil rubs another part of the race car. Here are some tips to
minimize bowing:
• Use correctly fitting coil-over hardware or install weight jack assemblies so
that the spring mounting surfaces are kept as parallel as possible during
suspension travel..

• Use springs that do not lean excessively (when positioned on a flat surface).
This indicates that the ends are ground parallel to each other. This reduces
the tendency for a spring to bow. You should check both ends.

• If a coil-over spring is rubbing the shock, try reversing the spring so the
bowed part of the spring is around the shaft where there's more clearance.

• Use coil-over springs that have straight sides rather than an hour glass
shape. This maximizes the clearance between the shock and spring.

• Use springs that are wound straight. You can roll the spring on a flat surface
to check for straightness.

• The new AFCO XCS coil-over springs were developed specifically to


eliminate bowing and shock hardware interference problems.

There are special manufacturing techniques that help to keep bow to a minimum. AFCOILS are built for minimum
bow under all racing conditions.

Spring Checkers:
Unfortunately, we know of no reasonably priced spring checker that will accurately measure a spring for rate. We
have tested most brands of checkers and cannot give recommendation to any. However, there are steps and
procedures that can increase the reliability of the spring rate checkers commonly sold to racers. The accuracy of
a spring checker should be monitored. This can be done through the use of a checking spring. A checking spring
can be any spring that has been accurately rated at one inch (or smaller) increments up to a load close to the
total capacity of the checker. It is important that the free length of the checking spring remain constant. The rates
given by the checker can be compared to the known rates of the checking spring (at each increment of
compression). Any rate discrepancies between the checker and the checking spring should be noted and taken
into consideration when checking for rates of other springs.
AFCO can provide checking springs for this purpose. The repeatability of a spring rate checker should also be
monitored. Simply put an old spring in your checker and preload it to at least 20 lbs. Then compress the spring
and note gauge readings at 1" increments (or less) for the next three or four inches of spring travel. Tag the
spring with this information and use it occasionally to check for repeatability. Make sure the free height of the
spring remains constant. Do not use the spring if any change in free height occurs. A checking spring can also be
used to check for repeatability. A rate checker should consistently repeat rates to within 2.5%.

Some Final Points on the use of Spring Rate Checkers:


• Preload Afcoil closed end conventional front springs 1/2". Coil-over and
conventional rear springs should be preloaded 1".

• Always use similar preloads when checking different brands of springs. It's
best to preload springs to a height equal to their loaded height (as installed
in the race car) before checking for rate. This simulates what the race car
sees for spring rate.

• Use a dial indicator to measure travel.

• Take dial indicator readings as close to the spring's center line as possible.
Readings taken very far from the springs center may not allow for any
rocking of the spring seat which distorts the actual amount of spring travel.

• Realize travel indicated stiff springs can flex the framework and fixtures of
portable checkers. Consequently, the spring compresses less than its
indicated & the rate shows softer than actual.

• The dial indicator should hold steady whenever rate readings are being
taken. If the indicator moves, suspect the units framework is flexing or there
is a problem with the units jacking device.

• Checkers equipped with load cells tend to be much more accurate than
checkers equipped with hydraulic gauges.

• Avoid checkers that allow the spring seats to rock in any manner or amount.

• Always use the proper spring seats.

• When using a helix type spring seat make sure the spring is positioned
against the stop in the helix.

We have pointed out the more important features you need to consider when choosing and using coil springs.
You should now have some basic understanding of the differences between springs and how those differences
affect handling.
By knowing more about springs you will be able to confidently select springs that suit your application and expect
that they will give consistent and trouble free performance.