All About Coilovers Suspension: Types, Features, and Performance Benefits
Whether you’re looking to upgrade your current suspension, thinking about replacing your air ride with an alternative, or just curious about suspension technology, your interest in coilovers has led you here. To help make sure you learn what you came here to learn, our research team has compiled this guide to everything you need to know about coilovers.
In the following article, you’ll learn in detail what coilovers are, exactly, what types of coilovers exist, their distinct features, and their most notable benefits. Keep reading to become a coilover expert.
What Are Coilover Suspensions?
The term “coilover” is shorthand for “coil-over shock absorber” and describes a specific type of suspension component. They are part of a passive suspension system that uses mechanical resistance to keep a car at the ideal ride height and provide damping to deliver a smoother, more comfortable ride for a driver.
How Do Coilovers Work?
Coilovers use a sturdy strut to support the weight of a vehicle and a metal coil spring to provide extra resistance and a calculated amount of give. The springs used in these components are simple springs that are no different in design from what you’d find in a mattress or a ballpoint pen – albeit much stronger and more precise.
They work by absorbing the impact of changes in road surfaces and the force of driving actions like turning and stopping. The coils in coilover assemblies are tuned – the industry term for “calibrated” – to provide the ideal amount of resistance for the vehicle they’re installed on. Too much give would result in a spongy-feeling, inefficient ride. Too much resistance would result in a bumpy ride and a car that handles stiffly.
But with the right tuning, coilovers can offer a vehicle that feels like it glides over the road and features balanced handling. They’re also often used in high-performance settings like off-roading and racing.
Types of Coilovers
All coilovers use the same basic principles and technology. But the industry divides the types of coilover assemblies into two main categories.
Full coilovers are coilover struts that come fully assembled from the factory. They include both springs and dampers and typically come pre-tuned as well. Many of them even come with mounting hardware attached, meaning the person working with them doesn’t need any extra parts to install them.
These types of coilovers have become increasingly popular as the market for replacement suspension parts has grown. Also referred to as “EZ Struts,” full coilovers have made it much easier for non-professionals to install them on their vehicles.
Slip-on coilovers are made by acquiring separate coils and dampers and combining them. Whether they’re just bought separately or lifted from parts from other cars, they’re often cheaper than fully-assembled coil struts.
However, they’re also a lot more difficult to use and install. While full coilovers can usually be installed by someone with little mechanic experience, slip-ons require more knowledge and equipment to put together and put on a vehicle.
Coilovers have several features that help them do the job of a suspension properly. These include:
- Damper: Also called a shock absorber, dampers absorb the brunt of the forces of driving. Made of sturdy metals and typically filled with pressurized gas or hydraulic fluid, they provide much of the raw strength of a coilover assembly.
- Coil spring: The coils that give these strut assemblies their name are made of high-tensile-strength metals – usually steel. While they also support the weight of the vehicle, they provide the “give” that limits how much a driver feels the shock of bumps and dips in the road.
- Bump stop: Mounted at the top of the strut, bump stops provide the lower limit of the travel of a coilover. They prevent the car from sinking lower than is safe and the manufacturer intended.
- Mounting brace: The mounting hardware for coilover assemblies provides an additional layer of support and cushion in addition to attaching the assembly to the vehicle.
Coilover Performance Benefits
Despite being an older technology than many of the active suspension systems on the market, coilovers are often the preferred choice of performance drivers. Racers, off-roaders, and others tend to choose coilovers because of their performance benefits. These include:
- Dependability: The simplicity and strength of coilovers make them ideal for drivers that need to be able to rely on their suspensions. Without moving parts, there is just very little that can go wrong with a coilover system.
- Responsiveness: While active suspensions undoubtedly offer a more comfortable ride, coilovers tend to be more responsive to the actions of a driver. This results in a slightly “sportier” feel that both performance drivers and people driving the family sedan can appreciate.
- Longevity: Coilovers tend to last longer than other types of suspensions. This is mainly because they are made only of extremely robust materials, whereas active systems like air suspension have lots of components made from more delicate materials like plastic and rubber.
- Simplicity: Made of only a few components, it is very easy to identify problems in coilover suspensions. It’s also easy to fix them.
- Affordability: Even high-end coilover suspensions are relatively affordable compared to components for active systems like air rides or magnetic suspensions.
- Adjustability: Some coilovers are easily adjustable, allowing drivers to increase or decrease resistance to improve performance in different settings.
Coilovers: The Final Word
Admittedly, coilovers won’t be the preferred choice for everyone. Some people really value the almost-impossibly luxurious ride provided by active suspension systems and don’t mind the cost of repairing or replacing them.
But for many people, coilovers are the right answer. They use timeless technology to provide a simple, elegant suspension solution – whether as an affordable alternative to expensive high-tech active suspension systems, or as a high-performance upgrade.