Buying Guide: Aftermarket Car Suspensions

Educational

Nov 22nd, 2019

Buying Guide: Aftermarket Car Suspensions

The car suspension is a critical system in your car. It comprises of the tyres, shock absorbers, springs, as well as the car’s linkages to the wheels which enable motion between them.

Role of the Suspension System

It is the role of the suspension system to keep the car from wear or damage and ensure that the wheel and road surface are in maximum contact. The contact patches of the tyres provide the area where forces from the ground act on the car. 

Most car owners overlook tuning the suspension system. Sorry to break it to most of you, but getting coilovers and new tyres don’t mean your suspension is in proper working condition. It needs tuning for optimal performance.

Aftermarket Suspensions

Now let’s delve into aftermarket suspensions. Aftermarket parts, including suspensions, are made by companies different from the original manufacturers and designed to replace OEMs and OEs.

During car assembly, manufacturers typically tune the suspension for maximum comfort. However, this practice compromises performance. For this reason, the manufacturers may leave room for upgrades or replacements should you want to change them.

Today, suspensions parts are among the commonly replaced parts. With improved suspensions, you get not only better performance but also safety. 

The suspension is a complex system with numerous parts. It is no surprise that even car owners and mechanics don't fully understand it. Therefore, when choosing to get aftermarket suspensions, exercise due diligence and only acquire them from a trusted dealer.

Some aftermarket dealers usually sell the suspension parts as kits, which saves you the need to buy individual components.

Guide to Aftermarket Car Suspension

OE manufacturers consider several factors when developing suspensions for factory autos. Among these factors are ride quality, performance, and cost. Suspension, just like any other car parts, wears out and requires replacement. They may sometimes need an upgrade if they don't offer the performance or comfort that suits you.

Replacing suspensions or getting an upgrade is expensive. For this reason, aftermarket parts are a viable option, more so when you can’t afford the OEMs.

Car owners have a wide range of options when it comes to getting car suspensions because many companies deal with suspensions. Consider the following when planning a suspension replacement.

1. Suspension Parts That May Need an Upgrade/Replacement

Modern vehicles come with sophisticated suspension systems and disassembling the parts is an uphill task. For this reason, suspension upgrades focus on specific components.

Some of the parts that need the most attention include:

  • Suspensions coilovers - nifty and dependable coil-overs not only offer better handling at high speeds but also adjustable ride height. 
  • Tyres - changing tyres will improve handling as well as road holding. Some aftermarket tyres have better grip, fuel economy, and comfort than OEM. More often than not, the tradeoff is that the best tyres wear out quickly.
  • Wheels - the wheel choice is more inclined to aesthetics, but you can find aftermarket wheels that offer weight improvement.
  • Camber kits - if you get aftermarket wheels with increased offset (i.e., the tyre projects away from the car), the camber will be consequently affected. Therefore, you may need to get a camber kit to achieve the right realignment. 
  • Shock absorbers - aftermarket shocks have better high-speed handling. Besides, you can get adjustable ones that allow for further tuning. Although it has no substantial upshot in many cars, quality aftermarket shocks are robust compared to stock.
  • Springs - a complete suspension kit has to involve springs. Your aftermarket spring choice depends on what you want to do with your car. For better handling, stiffer springs are your choice, although they will affect comfort. On the other hand, if you aim to make the vehicle able to cope up with rugged terrains, soft springs are your choice.

2. Reasons for Upgrading/Replacing Suspensions

Various reasons could make you decide to change your suspensions or get an upgrade.

  • The most obvious reasons are to improve your car's performance and driving experience. The quality of both aspects may start to decline when suspension components wear out and don’t work as efficiently.
  • In some instances, you may want to drive your car off-road, thereby requiring a change in the suspensions system.
  • You will need to get a replacement if parts of your suspensions system, such as the shocks, become faulty or damaged.
  • You may need to change your suspensions if you want better handling. 

Replacing the suspensions entails finding a balance. It is advisable to purchase all the parts you need and do it in one go.

3. Factors to Consider Before Doing a Suspension Replacement

  • Discipline or field – it could be street driving, drift racing, or rally. The point is, each of these requires different suspension adjustments because they have different strains on the car dynamics. No single setup cuts across all of them. 
  • Tyre wear and grip – tyres affect how the suspension system works because they are the parts that make direct contact with the ground. Different tyres handle grip differently, which explains why manufacturers have different suspension grades. Underdoing your suspension will hinder you from attaining peak tyre performance. Conversely, overdoing the suspension will bring quick wear to your tyre.
  • Quality – all the components in your car suspension are essential. Their contribution ensures that the suspension system works perfectly. For this reason, you need to get equally high-quality parts when replacing them or when seeking an upgrade. The last thing you want is compromising the working of the suspension. Even though you’re going for aftermarket parts, ensure that the quality is not subpar. 
  • Price - the cost it entails is another consideration when changing or upgrading your system. They say you get what you pay. Compare the prices of the parts you are looking for and settle for the high-quality parts that are reasonably priced. Aftermarkets are known to be cheap compared to OEs and OEMs, so chances are you'll get a reasonable price for the parts you want.
  • Driving needs – aftermarket suspension components are designed for particular driving needs. Before buying suspension parts, you should consider your typical driving terrain and load weight. Ask this question: What performance am I targeting - cornering or high-speed handling? 

Wrap Up 

In reiteration, different cars require specific suspension parts. To have a handle on which parts suit your vehicle, you should refer to a suspension expert as well as the owner's manual.

Just like with other parts of a car, there are misconceptions when it comes to suspensions systems, so you have to inform yourself and separate facts from myths.

The suspension system is susceptible to dirt, debris, and engine oil, which can collect on the bushings. As such, it needs regular checking and maintenance.

Author:

Sam O.