A Comprehensive Guide to Adjusting Coilovers

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When it comes to enhancing a vehicle’s performance and handling, coilovers are often the preferred choice for automotive enthusiasts. These adjustable suspension units offer unparalleled control over ride height, damping, and spring rates, allowing drivers to fine-tune their car’s behavior to suit their needs and preferences. 

However, achieving optimal results requires more than simply installing coilovers. Whether aiming for improved cornering abilities on the track or to enhance your vehicle’s appearance and comfort on the road, understanding how to adjust coilovers is crucial.

With this in mind, we have come up with the intricacies of adjusting coilovers, providing a comprehensive guide that empowers both seasoned gearheads and novice car owners alike to optimize their suspension setup.

How to Adjust Coilovers for Improved Performance

Having a decent understanding of coilovers is essential when it comes to adjustment. Two types of coilovers are available, each with unique characteristics and configurations. It is crucial to comprehend the specific design and features of your coilovers to make appropriate adjustments.

Besides, you must first familiarize yourself with the different points of adjustments available to adjust coilovers effectively. These include things like ride height, damping force, rebound, and compression settings. 

Each adjustment point influences specific aspects of the vehicle’s suspension behavior, such as how it responds to bumps or feels stable during cornering. So, we’ll learn about them separately. 

How To Adjust Coilover Ride Height

One of the primary reasons why many individuals opt for coilovers is the ability to customize the ride height according to their preferences. It is crucial to understand that coilovers come in two distinct types when it comes to adjusting ride height.

  • Ride height Adjustment in Fully threaded Coilovers

Fully threaded coilovers provide individual adjustments for ride height and spring pre-load. To modify the ride height of a fully threaded kit, utilize the provided adjustment wrench to unlock the bottom collar by turning it in a counter-clockwise direction. 

Once the bottom collar is loosened, adjust the lower spindle mount along the coilover by either extending or retracting it. To elevate the vehicle, extend the coilover’s length, whereas to decrease the car’s height, shorten the coilover’s length.

In addition, the ride height can be modified without the need to remove the lower spindle mount by simply rotating either the upper or middle collar. However, it is essential to ensure that these collars are securely tightened together before proceeding. 

When the bottom collar is loosened, the middle collar should be turned counterclockwise to elevate the vehicle, or the upper collar should be turned clockwise to decrease its height. Once the desired ride height is achieved, the bottom collar must be firmly fastened against the lower spindle mount.

  • Ride height Adjustment in Partially threaded Coilovers

Partially threaded coilovers enable the adjustment of a vehicle’s height by raising or lowering the spring position on the coilovers. When using partially threaded coilovers, increasing the car’s height involves turning the collars upwards along the shock body, while decreasing it requires turning the collars downwards along the shock body.

To make adjustments to the coilovers, start by unlocking the bottom collar using the adjustment wrench and turning it in a clockwise direction. Once it is loose, manually rotate the bottom collar along the length of the coilover. Next, use the adjustment wrench to lower the car by turning the upper collar clockwise or raise it by turning it counterclockwise. 

Once you have adjusted the perches to your desired position, bring the bottom collar back up against the upper collar and secure them together using both provided adjustment wrenches. Turn the bottom collar counter-clockwise and the upper collar clockwise to lock them in place.

How to Adjust Camber Plate

A camber plate serves as a modifiable attachment for your shocks. Typically mounted on top of the strut, it enables precise adjustments to the camber angle. Camber plates are compatible with various car suspension configurations. 

In cases where the suspension design permits, adjustable camber strut mounts are often included with coilovers, primarily for the front. Nevertheless, there is an alternative method to adjust the camber at the lower mount in many vehicles. We’ll explain both here. 

  • Camber Adjustment Using the Bottom Mount

If your car is equipped with a lower shock mount, you can probably make slight adjustments to the camber. Occasionally, the holes in the shock for the bolts are designed with slots, providing some leeway for camber adjustment. 

Alternatively, if this is not the case, you can purchase camber bolts (also known as eccentric bolts), enabling you to set the camber using this mount. Therefore, if your coilovers did not come with camber adjustable strut mounts, this is an alternative method for adjusting the camber.

  • Camber Adjustment Using the Adjustable Strut Mount

In case your vehicle and its coilovers are equipped with camber adjustable strut mounts, you can make adjustments to the camber in that area. To modify the camber, it is necessary to lift the car using a jack and loosen either two or four Allen head screws. 

This will allow you to slide the top of the Coilover within the designated slot to establish the desired camber setting. It is advisable to ensure that both sides are set identically by referring to the markings on the strut mount.

How To Adjust Coilover Spring Preload

Coilover spring preload is a critical aspect of suspension tuning that often goes overlooked by car enthusiasts. It refers to the initial compression applied to the coil spring when it is installed on a coilover shock absorber. 

Simply put, spring preload refers to the amount of tension applied to a coil spring when it is compressed before installing it in a vehicle’s suspension system. By adjusting the preload, you can effectively alter the ride height and overall balance of your vehicle’s suspension system. Here is how to adjust coilover preload:

  1. First, loosen both lock rings (spring seat ring on top and spring lock ring on bottom) to allow the spring to move up and down slightly. 
  2. Tighten the spring seat ring enough to make the spring snug but not excessively tight. This will ensure zero preload. 
  3. Next, bring the bottom lock ring up until it lightly touches the spring seat ring without fully tightening it to lock. 
  4. Now, tighten the spring seat ring to apply preload (compression) to the spring. While tightening, measure the distance between the bottom and top rings. 
  5. Once there is a 3-5mm gap between the two rings, you have achieved 3-5mm of preload on the spring. Note that the lock ring wrench has a thickness of 4mm, so you can slip it when there is enough preload.

How To Adjust Coilover Dampening

Coilovers are a popular suspension upgrade among automotive enthusiasts, as they allow for precise adjustments to the vehicle’s handling characteristics. Dampening controls how quickly or slowly the shock absorbers react to bumps and uneven surfaces. 

A softer setting allows for more suspension travel and absorbs bumps with ease, resulting in smoother ride quality but potentially sacrificing some stability during high-speed maneuvers. 

On the other hand, stiffer dampening results in reduced suspension travel but enhances stability during high-speed riding.

To adjust coilover dampening, start by locating the dampening adjustment knobs or screws on each coilover assembly. These are typically found at either the top or bottom of the shock body. 

It’s important to consult your specific coilover manufacturer’s instructions for guidance on how many clicks correspond to which setting. 

Begin by turning all four dampening knobs or screws clockwise until they stop. Stay careful not to over-tighten them. Next, it’s time to make gradual adjustments based on your desired outcome.

How to Adjust Coilovers Without Tool

Adjusting coilovers without tools refers to the act of modifying the shocks using alternative methods, excluding conventional tools like a spanner wrench or a coilover adjustment knob. This may involve utilizing household objects as substitutes. 

Although it is not advisable, as it can result in detrimental consequences or malfunction of the component, it might be the sole recourse when no other alternatives are available. Here are a few ways to adjust coilovers without tools

Using Bare Hands

Although adjusting coilovers manually may appear daunting, it is indeed achievable with some effort. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it: 

Step 1: Ensure that you find a secure and stable location to carry out the task on your vehicle. 

Step 2: Identify the collars on the coilover, as they are responsible for modifying various settings. 

Step 3: Firmly grasp the collar with your hand and rotate it in the desired direction. Consider using a cloth or gloves to protect your hand to prevent friction-related discomfort. 

Step 4: Apply force and rotate the collar to the maximum extent possible. In case the collar is excessively tight, you can utilize an adjustable wrench or a pair of pliers to loosen it slightly.

Using A Wrench

The utilization of a wrench proves to be a highly efficient method for swiftly modifying your coilovers. The following steps outline the procedure: 

Step 1: Identify the specific collar requiring adjustment and ascertain the appropriate size of the locking plier or wrench. 

Step 2: Position the plier or wrench onto the collar and proceed to adjust it in the intended direction. 

Step 3: Continue adjusting until the desired height is achieved. 

Step 4: After achieving satisfaction with the adjustment, remove the plier or wrench and ensure that all components are securely in place.

Adjusting Coilovers for A Smooth Ride

As a driver, you may become accustomed to the sensation of every small pothole and road imperfection due to the improved handling provided by your installed coilovers. However, your passengers, including your parents, girlfriends, and crushes, will likely have a negative experience in your car. 

Constant complaints can be quite unpleasant. Therefore, it is crucial to find ways to adjust the coilovers for a smoother ride. Let us now explore all possible methods to achieve this.

Be Cautious of the Spring Rate

The primary factor that significantly affects the quality of the ride is the spring rates. To ensure a satisfactory ride, it is advisable to avoid excessively high spring rates. 

Generally, the recommended spring rates for achieving balanced handling and ride quality are approximately 280 in the front and 160 in the rear. While it is not necessary to have these exact numbers, it is essential to select coilovers with spring rates that are nearby. 

It is important to note that spring rates cannot be adjusted, so ensuring that the chosen coilovers have the appropriate spring rates is crucial. If you have already purchased coilovers with overly stiff spring rates, unfortunately, there is no remedy except to proceed to the next point.

Set An Increased Ride Height

To ensure a comfortable ride, it is important to avoid lowering your car too much. This reduces the distance available for the spring to compress, resulting in a stiff ride. 

Additionally, driving a lower car can make maneuvering on streets more challenging. We suggest maintaining a ride height of approximately 13.5 all around. 

This will give your car an aggressive appearance and minimize the likelihood of scraping speed bumps and driveways. However, please note that the height of speed bumps in your area may vary, so it is difficult to guarantee complete avoidance. Nonetheless, a ride height of 13.5 should generally suffice.

Maintain Soft Compression & Rebound

It is essential to make adjustments to both the compression and rebound of your coilovers for a comfortable ride. Luckily, this task isn’t overly challenging. Coilovers equipped with these adjustable features typically come with a knob that allows for easy modification. 

However, it is important to note that not all coilovers offer the option to adjust compression and rebound. Those that do tend to be more costly. If your coilovers lack this adjustability, unfortunately, you can do nothing to address the issue.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Adjusting Coilovers

If you proudly own an adjustable Coilover unit, you undoubtedly desire to utilize it effectively. However, before embarking on the adjustment process, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the following commonly made mistakes by car enthusiasts when adjusting coilovers.

Avoiding Coilover Removal

The initial step in adjusting your suspension, particularly when attempting to lower it, does not involve removing the Coilover from the vehicle. This is a common mistake when adjusting ride height, as it can be time-consuming and requires proper techniques and processes. 

However, it is recommended to remove the Coilover and utilize the lower threaded body to accurately adjust the car’s height. It is generally not advisable to use alternative methods for this purpose.

Relying on Locking Collar for Adjustment

One common mistake made by inexperienced individuals when adjusting their coilovers is utilizing the locking collar as a means of adjusting the height. However, it is important to note that this practice is not recommended unless you possess a unique Coilover with a lower threaded body. 

We will discuss linear and progressive rate springs shortly. For those with progressive springs and lower threaded bodies, avoiding using the collar for height adjustments is advisable.

Ignoring Adjustment Features

A common mistake when adjusting coilovers is failing to utilize the adjustment features that are specifically designed to help fine-tune their performance. Coilovers have various useful features, such as knobs, turntables, dials, and twist controls. 

However, if these features are not utilized to optimize your fitment, it is akin to disrespecting the purpose of coilovers. To fully grasp the benefits of coilovers, it is important to understand their components.

Final Words

Coilovers consist of a shock absorber with a spring around it, allowing for adjustment to achieve the desired level of suspension control and a comfortable ride. It’s essential to note that not all coilovers have adjustable features, but options are available with either single or dual adjustability. 

The manufacturer typically sets front and rear coilovers to stiffer settings at the factory, considering your vehicle’s size and weight. Fully threaded coilovers provide ample choices for adjusting ride height and preload, making them suitable for any type of vehicle. Overall, they are a highly recommended choice.