Piston Slap: Coil Overkill?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

John writes:

Stop me and if you’ve already addressed this: but I can’t find it on TTAC. Could you describe to the pros of spending the extra coin for aftermarket coilovers rather than just buying stiffer springs?

Sajeev replies:

In theory, aftermarket coilover shocks provide a superior balance of suspension control and road grip for performance applications. They are a spring and shock designed to work together, compared to mixing and matching parts that can easily go awry. Plus, coilovers are physically compact, height adjustable (without destroying the load rating or ride quality) and work in race applications that demand specific adjustments depending on each corner’s weight.

TTAC’s entry into the 24 hrs of LeMons has a set of (old) coilovers installed, and one of these days we’ll spend the cash to have it corner-weighted. (But if master-judge Jonny Lieberman is listening, probably not.)

Now in the real world, this is a highly subjective proposition. And the quality of the dampers, spring rate and overall coilover designs are all over the map. Even the good designs can (will?) beat the living snot out of you when traversing a pothole soaked road.

So what’s the deal? Who knows, it depends on your needs and perceptions.

Read the model-specific forums for your car and look critically at their comments: cars aren’t necessarily faster with lowering springs, and sometimes you can screw up your suspension geometry with even a minor tweak. Be realistic about your driving habits: aside from the adjustable stance, coilovers are a waste of money for most street going tuners. Usually a damper or sway bar upgrade is a better alternative.

[Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com]

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Dolo54 Dolo54 on Sep 24, 2009

    I went with what many people had recommended as a cheap performance upgrade for my car, that was Eibach springs with KYB adjustable shocks. I love em. They are tight and controlled, but not too crashy and rough. I've had them for 2 years now (over 20k miles including a cross country drive) and they still feel great. However, because the springs were a little shorter than stock I put in an adapter to make up for the change in front camber, without having to buy an expensive adjustable control arm setup. Something to consider if you're dropping your suspension at all.

  • Niky Niky on Sep 24, 2009

    It depends on the quality of the coilover. I've ridden coil-over equipped cars that were better controlled than stock... but none are ever quite as comfortable. Most coilovers are sprung for track use, and unless you find a Sonata forum that tells you how good or how bad the ride is going to be (and even then, it's a very subjective... errh... subject), you're not going to know until you try them. Ultra-Racing, based in Southeast Asia, makes tower strut-bars, chassis braces and anti-roll bars for a whole host of Korean vehicles that are not supported by the aftermarket. Sure, you'll have to pay extra in shipping, but their products are of very good quality. http://www.ultraracing.com.my/Catalog.asp?Brand=Hyundai&pageno=4 They apparently have two levels of anti-roll bar for the Sonata, but I don't know if they match your model year. I find that the best cars in terms of a balance of handling and ride comfort, tend to have a very rigid and well-braced (and, preferably... light) chassis matched with relatively soft springs and modest dampers. It also helps if they have lots of suspension travel... too low and too little suspension travel can be just as bad as too tall...

  • Willman Willman on Sep 25, 2009

    John, don't know if you're still reading this as it's a few pages back, but @niky brings up a good point. What you do with the dampers, springs & swaybars will also vary based on how much you brace the chassis with upper & lower Strut-Tie Bars & K-members/brackets or the like. *****One of my cars benefitted IMMENSELY from a simple front lower tie-bar. So @niky's mentioning using Ties to stiffen the chassis is Very important, even though your question was about springs+dampers.

  • Pbenn Pbenn on Dec 25, 2021

    Old post, but a question: Did Post Office r/w/blue color scheme have a yellow trim stripe middle of rear quarter panel? fincar1 on Sep 24 2009 suggested the USPS had Couriers in red/white/blue color scheme. Seeing the film “Oh, God” (1977) makes me wonder if the color scheme started in 1958. In this clip, observe what is gaining and passing John Denver in the left-hand lane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kheP3iy8-6E