March 23, 2023 3 min read
Let’s face it, height-adjustable coilovers earn you street cred. Any serious car enthusiast has a set they’ve fine-tuned for a perfect ride height and adjusts the dampers to and from the grocery store. Or maybe...they’re overhyped, over-complicated, and unnecessary for most drivers. Which is it?
Lots of bells and whistles means lots of tuning potential if you know what you’re doing. But while adjustable coilovers do have some advantages, they’re not always an upgrade. In this article, we’ll go through the advantages a height-adjustable coilover can offer.
1. Height adjustability
The big selling point for most people is the ability to set your own ride height. Coilovers use a threaded body to allow you to raise or lower the spring perch. The lower mount of the coilover is sometimes threaded as well.
Height adjustability is also useful for a racecar to lower the center of gravity, adjust the rake (nose up/down) of the car, and corner balance the chassis. Keep in mind that coilovers have limits and proper set up is crucial. The car may not handle better if you lower too far without looking at the full system.
If you want to lower your car significantly, either for looks or performance, coilovers are a better choice than lowering springs.
2. Suspension travel at low ride heights
Factory suspensions are limited in how much you can lower the car with springs while still being functional.
Coilover bodies are usually designed to sit lower with a different operating range than factory suspensions. Again, proper set up is crucial to ensure adequate bump and droop travel.
Some coilovers do not have much total suspension travel. This can be due to poor or lazy design, or sometimes they're designed for stiff springs and a smooth racetrack. Be advised.
3. Standardized coilover springs
The ability to use easily available and standardized coilover springs opens up lots of tuning potential. Conventional fixed perch dampers require springs that are specially designed for your car. Options are limited.
Coilover springs come in a huge variety of spring rates and lengths. In some ways, a coilover provides a platform for a user to build on. Switching to stickier tires? Swap in stiffer springs. Adding serious aerodynamics? Ditto. However, it does take work to ensure they’ll fit and match your set up.
Functional lowering springs and coilovers can both perform well on track. A more focused track car will benefit from the adjustability of coilovers, but requires careful set up.
There’s actually no inherent damping advantage to coilovers. The dampers in some aftermarket coilovers are worse than your factory shocks. Fancy colors, catchy marketing, and the perfect ride height doesn’t do you much good if the dampers are garbage.
Also, any damper can be adjustable, but as we’ve talked about before, shock valving is more complicated than “soft” or “stiff.” Height-adjustable coilovers can have excellent valving. But when it’s bad, all the other features aren’t enough to make it a good system.
If you want to improve performance but keep things simple, quality fixed perch struts with a functional lowering spring make a lot of sense. A good example are the GTWORX Bilstein struts above paired with Racecomp Engineering springs.
Quality coilovers can be more expensive and require careful set up, but are a good choice for those that want to fine tune their suspension.