Ah, spring has finally sprung. The flowers are blooming, the salt from winter has mostly washed away, and the sound of motorcycle and modified car exhausts are returning to the air. Nature sure is beautiful. Fortunately for you, we’re in an extremely pleasant mood with all these days above 60 degrees kicking in. This week, we’re talking suspension upgrades (ha, springs, get it?) We are encouraging everyone this spring to either do that suspension maintenance you’ve put off or finally upgrade to a set of coilovers or lowering springs to dial in that factory ride height. Here’s what you need to know.
Suspension components like shocks, upper mounts, bushings, and ball joints all have an operational lifespan. The telltale ‘old’ car feel is primarily associated with all these little rubber bushings and sealed ball joints wearing out to the point that they’re nothing but give. It makes your car feel like an old farm truck. While a dealership or indie service shop may charge thousands to replace all these components, suspension maintenance is not as difficult as it seems and can be handled at home with our suspension refresh kits and upgrades, saving you tons of money.
The control arms locate your wheel hubs to the chassis. Many single link front suspension designs use what is called a ‘wishbone’ style control arm that features a chassis mount and a ball joint pivot on the apex of the arm. The control arm bushing and ball joints wear out, making the suspension feel sloppy and your turn-in feel vague. We offer replacement OEM and aftermarket control arms, but also have several upgraded sets that are perfect for giving your car a better than new feel.
Upgrading to our Monoball front control arm bushings is the ultimate in performance without sacrifice and a lifetime solution to suspension wear. Between Turner Motorsport and ECS, we have Monoball solutions for most Audi, VW, and BMW models. Unlike polyurethane or Delrin, Monoballs are sealed spherical bearings that are serviceable with grease nipples so you’ll never have to replace them again. You will also eliminate all deflection at that point without adding any noise, vibration, and harshness, which makes these bushings a perfect maintenance service and upgrade that will work comfortably on the street or competitively on the track without compromise.
For more information on Monoball and polyurethane bushing upgrades, Turner Motorsport put together this helpful video that applies directly to most BMWs but will give any driver some education on the differences in materials:
Thrust Arms / Trailing Arms
Multi-link suspension is exactly what it sounds like. Multiple links. This means rather than a single control arm, there are often several. This is fantastic from a performance perspective but creates multiple opportunities for deflection in the factory suspension and eventual failure points. Replacing these arms entirely is the best and fastest solution that can be done at home with pre-pressed full assemblies, which will restore your suspension’s feel and save you plenty of money.
Of course, we do offer upgraded bushings and Monoballs for many of these applications, some of which are covered in the Turner video linked above.
Usually two-piece rods with ball joints on either end, the tie rods are generally composed of an inner and outer element that connects the steering rack (in rack-and-pinion steering systems) to the front wheel hubs. Tie rods are also responsible for your front toe alignment, which makes them even more important than just the parts that allow you to turn your wheels. Notoriously, especially in climates that experience winter weather, the jamb nuts that lock the inner and outer rods together like to seize, making alignments extremely difficult. What’s more, the dust boots on the rack and over the ball joint at the knuckle deteriorate over time and eventually fail, allowing contaminants in and the lubricating grease out, causing the joints themselves to fail. Tie rods are inexpensive and easy to replace with our tie rod replacement kits, which we highly suggest during a suspension overhaul.
For some of you, we offer upgraded tie rod ends as well as bump steer and roll center correction kits for select BMW models through Turner Motorsport. If your BMW is lowered, chances are you’ve experienced some negative side effects, like bump steer, during your hard driving. These kits are designed to lower the mounting point of the tie rod, bringing its motion range back within spec, and eliminating the negative changes to your suspension geometry from aggressive lowering. You can learn more about this from our own Mike Day here in this instructional video:
Sway Bars / End Links
Each pair of wheels on an axle is generally tied together with a sway bar, which acts as a torsion spring to resist body roll away from a corner. Over time, the end links that connect each end of the sway bar to each suspension assembly will wear out, reducing the effectiveness of your sway bars and making a fun clunky noise over bumps and when turning. Replacing end links is extremely inexpensive for aftermarket units, but why replace when you can upgrade?
Upgrading your sway bars, if you do nothing else to your suspension, is one of the single best upgrades you can make for driving enjoyment. By reducing body roll and adjusting for over and understeer, you will have more control in the corners and a tighter feel to your suspension. Our sway bar upgrades include stiffer bushings, some of which are easily serviceable with grease nipples for extending the lifespan of your bushings well beyond the OEM bushing life expectancy.
Upper Strut Mounts
These mate your shocks and struts to the car, are commonly made with rubber to absorb NVH and are definitely wearable parts. When the shock mounts start to fail, they can make your car feel less stable, especially while cornering. There are also some common issues with strut towers, like in MINI Coopers and BMW E36 and E46 chassis cars which can fail extremely dramatically. Fortunately, we offer reinforcement plates that work with either stock USMs or upgraded camber plates often found on coilovers. We also carry cup kit and coilover kit installation sets that include all of the mounts you need to install fresh components with either stock suspension or coilovers.
Shocks / Struts / Springs
Finally, the shocks, struts, and springs are the folks doing the heavy lifting. Literally. Your springs don’t generally deteriorate that quickly, but if you live in a rust belt state, you’ve probably seen them snapped at least a time or two. Shocks and struts on the other hand are where most of the impacts from the road are absorbed. They take a beating over thousands of miles and will eventually fail. Some last longer than others, depending on the quality of the manufacturer, but you’ll need to replace any set at some point. Included in many of our suspension refresh kits are new shocks and struts, which we recommend if you’re servicing everything else.
However, if you are intent on modifying your car either for looks or performance, coilovers are an excellent upgrade that replaces the entire existing coil and strut assembly, often along with upper strut mounts and spherical bearings. A good set of coilovers costs about the same as factory replacement equipment, so upgrading when it’s time to overhaul your suspension is an effective way to kill two birds at once. Naturally, we have a helpful coilover buyer’s guide that can give you more information.
Now that spring is officially here and we’re about to spend more time out enjoying our cars, it’s the right time to inspect your car’s suspension and dive into any maintenance or performance upgrades that you can enjoy this summer and several more to come. Be sure to check out the linked sources in this article for more information and as always let us know what you’re working on, new topic ideas, and any questions in the comments.