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Old 03-13-2013, 06:45 AM   #1
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Low-Down + Facts + Skinny: Springs vs Air Suspension vs Coilovers!


You see tons and tons of threads asking what suspension one should go with on their vehicle. Much like a set of wheels, a good steak, a cold beer (or even a hot date), very few men want the same thing from their suspension. We're pretty much all different, have different driving habits, want to go in a different direction with our projects, drive our cars more or less daily (or weekly) than the next fella, and last, but not least, live in different parts of the country (or state) where driving conditions make all the difference in the world with the suspension you decide to go with. We'll go out on a limb here and say that we're probably one of the few (if only) shops around with *in-house* shop cars that run on every darn combo you can think of - air suspension (Air Lift), coilovers (both KONI and B&G) springs with shocks (Eibach Pro-Kit with Bilstein HD), springs with shocks (H&R Sports with KONI Adjustable Sports) and yet another vehicle on a different combo of springs with shocks (a KONI FSD Eibach kit). The point? That we have the best of all worlds right here at our facility on each of our own in-house cars, drive them every day (and drive them hard), giving you hands-on experience and real world situations with air vs. coilovers vs. springs with matched shocks (both adjustable and non-adjustable). Without a doubt, there is a benefit and downside to each and no two people want the same thing from their suspension, hence why we have different vehicles here within our in-house projects all with different setups on them. Below will give you the breakdown of each:

SPRINGS WITH SHOCKS:

Because of cost, this is by far the most popular combination when choosing a performance suspension for your vehicle. This setup can pretty much give you the same benefits of coilovers without the ride height adjustability (that is if using KONI Sport Shocks). Rebound dampening adjustability (if using KONI Sport Shocks) can also be tailor-mated to the spring of your choice, again, giving you the same exact options of a good coilover kit. The downside, however, is that unlike coilovers or air, you cannot adjust the ride height. Determining what drop is right for you (i.e. .75", 1", 1.5", 2", etc) and deciding on what springs to go with (B&G, Eibach, H&R, Vogtland) becomes the biggest challenge. How low (or not low) do you want to go? Do you want the option of adjusting them for softness or firmness, or would you simply like a non-adjustable shock like the KONI Street (Orange) Shocks or Bilstein Sport Shocks? KONI Shocks has told us that development on the Camaro5 models is under way.

COILOVER KITS:

No different than a spring with shock combo, but with the ability to adjust ride height and rebound dampening adjustability (kit dependent). Some kits on the market today offer rebound dampening and some do not (the difference being $$$$). All will offer ride height adjustments, though. Typically used for racing (most notably for corner balancing), coilovers are going to typically cost more than a spring and shock combo, but not typically as much as an air ride system. Most "real world" coilover users today are typically buying coilovers for the "idea" of having them and not necessarily for what they're intended for (racing and corner balancing). What we've found with a majority of our customers is that they're buying coilovers for their cars, dialing them in with ride height and dampening (where applicable) where they like it, then never, ever touching them again. That is nice and all, but somewhat defeats the purpose of spending $1000+ (or more) on a "racing" suspension, no? If you're comfortable with the 1.5" to 2" range (which is where a majority of your daily drivers are), why not just do a good spring with shock kit? A quality spring and shock combo (for a lot less money) will get you the same exact results with improved handling and steering response - and again - that adjustability should you go with a KONI Sport Shock. Ultimately, it's the end user's decision on what he wants to do, but nowadays it seems that most people just want to be able to say, "I have coilovers!" as opposed to actually using them for the track or the other types of racing they're intended for.

AIR SUSPENSION:

Obviously, air is going to be the most superior in "adjustability" options when it comes to suspension. Air ride is not a full-on "racing" suspension, but nor is a spring and shock combination necessarily one, either. For real world conditions (i.e. daily driving with occasional "spirited driving"), an air setup can be the perfect solution for those wanting comfort and ride height adjustability. Air will indeed ride the best in respect to comfort, but also comes with a price tag and minor trunk space loss that springs with shocks or coilovers do not have you sacrificing (hopefully you don't play golf). Even then, however, there are kits available with small compressors and tanks where a good portion of your trunk can be retained with false floors, hiding components, etc (something we can do for you here in-house at MJM). We recently removed coilovers on one of our cars and replaced it with air and two things were immediately evident:

1) The handling did not change whatsoever.

2) The ride comfort did indeed get better after changing over to air.

Air ride, however, is not for everyone, but on the particular car we did it on here at our facility, we would not go back to any other suspension setup and the difference is night and day over coilovers. In hindsight, we wish we would have made the decision to bag one of our cars a lot earlier than we did. It's cool for only about 101 different reasons, but not exactly something we want on each and every one of our 9 in-house project cars here at MJM, and again, it's certainly not for everyone (as they say, to each his own).

Suspension makes up for a fair percentage of our business here and we have experience with pretty much every single combination of setups you could imagine. Feel free to email us through our site (www.mjmautohaus.com) for some 1-on-1 consultation on what would work best for you based on your driving style, driving habits, road conditions, performance desires and budget for suspension modding. Again, we're the sole Warehouse Distributors for Air Lift, B&G Suspension, Eibach, H&R Special Springs and KONI here in South Texas with more *in-stock* suspension part numbers than any single distributor in our region and have experience with any setup your little heart desires. Whether you want the "static" of the firm and denture-loosing setup of something like an H&R Race Spring (or Eibach Sportline) with KONI's famed adjustable Sport Shock or the OEM + and OEM feel of an KONI FSD Shock Kit (that rides better than a factory car), we're here to serve you with what most folks want to do first with their car - THE SUSPENSION! Feel free to hit us up if we can help or if you have any questions.
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Old 03-13-2013, 11:11 AM   #2
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nice thread!!
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Old 03-28-2013, 09:07 AM   #3
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You just helped me decide which way I am going on suspension.
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Old 03-28-2013, 12:39 PM   #4
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Good info on the suspension types!
I don't know a lot about how alignment works but I know that it sucks to have bad alignment. Also, I do know that with a significant change in ride height requires the alignment to be adjusted.

Some Questions:
1. How does alignment work if you adjust the ride height from 1 end to the other with coilovers or air ride?
2. What helps you determine the right setting for camber/toe?
3. Does it make a difference when riding higher or lower when compared to the alignment setting for the specific ride height?
4. Do camber kits help us in a case where the ride height is adjusted often?
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Last edited by spyder; 03-28-2013 at 10:25 PM.
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Old 03-28-2013, 06:22 PM   #5
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Thanks for the info
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Old 03-28-2013, 10:19 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spyder View Post
Good info on the suspension types!
I don't know a lot about how alignment works but I know that it sucks to have bad alignment. Also, I do know that with a significant change in ride height requires the alignment to be adjusted.

Some Questions:
1. How does alignment work if you adjust the ride height from 1 end to the other
2. with coilovers or air ride?
3. What helps you determine the right setting for camber/toe?
4. Does it make a difference when riding higher or lower when compared to the alignment setting for the specific ride height?
5. Do camber kits help us in a case where the ride height is adjusted often?
+1 To all of the above questions
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Old 04-03-2013, 06:13 AM   #7
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No answers?!
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Old 04-25-2013, 06:35 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhiteBanshee View Post
You just helped me decide which way I am going on suspension.
That's what we're here for! Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by spyder View Post
Good info on the suspension types!
I don't know a lot about how alignment works but I know that it sucks to have bad alignment. Also, I do know that with a significant change in ride height requires the alignment to be adjusted.

Some Questions:
1. How does alignment work if you adjust the ride height from 1 end to the other with coilovers or air ride?
2. What helps you determine the right setting for camber/toe?
3. Does it make a difference when riding higher or lower when compared to the alignment setting for the specific ride height?
4. Do camber kits help us in a case where the ride height is adjusted often?
1. With coilovers; you'll need a new alignment. With air, it does not.

2. It's personal preference, what the car is being used for (i.e. track vs. daily, etc).

3. Alignment needs to be done with the settings you dial it in at.

4. Camber kits help when you dial in the car's suspension for specific tire and wheel combos.
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Old 04-26-2013, 09:33 AM   #9
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I had coilovers and varied the settings for track, strip and street depending on the day, time, conditions, etc. A couple people in our local Camaro club also did the same.

I only adjusted the height once though. No real reason to tinker with that after I had it set where I liked it.
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Old 04-27-2013, 01:13 AM   #10
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I used to mess with the spring and shock combo in my prior cars. I went through many set and was never truly happy with any of them. I ended up spending more than a good coilover system. In the end I sold them all and got coilovers. Since then, every car that I have owned I went straight to coilovers. With the coilovers, you can get then just right. I can't say the same with shocks and springs. IMO, just not worth the hassle.
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Old 08-07-2013, 02:40 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HumanWiki View Post
I had coilovers and varied the settings for track, strip and street depending on the day, time, conditions, etc. A couple people in our local Camaro club also did the same.

I only adjusted the height once though. No real reason to tinker with that after I had it set where I liked it.
"Only adjusted the height once, though." With the new arrival of the KONI Sport (Adjustable) Shocks, this is all the more reason why a good spring and shock kit is no different than a coilover kit (again, if you're not corner-balancing the car and/or tinkering with ride height). Actually, that being the case, it's a no-brainer to go the route of a performance spring with adjustable shock like the KONI Sport that's soon to be released for the '10-up Camaro.
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Old 08-07-2013, 04:35 PM   #12
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So when you say corner balancing you mean you can't adjust the stiffness like you do with coilovers ?
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Old 08-12-2013, 12:20 PM   #13
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Coming from the sport/sport-touring motorcycle world I admit to missing having adjustable suspension.

Any idea what the KONI Sport (Adjustable) Shocks will cost?
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