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Buying Guide: DSM Shocks, Struts, Springs, & Coilovers (not finished)

Posted by Ludachris, Aug 7, 2012

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  1. Ludachris

    Ludachris Founder & Zookeeper

    Joined Nov 12, 2001
    Roseville, California
    In the DSM world, suspension has never been the area of focus for the majority. The average DSMer is mainly interested in bigger horsepower on a budget, and the options available to us reflect this - there aren't a lot. This guide is meant to serve as an aid in your research when deciding on a solution.

    <h1>DSM Shocks & Struts</h1>
    One of the most overlooked and skimped on components in the DSM world is shocks. There is really only one quality shock made for the DSM and very few in our community buy that shock because it's a little more expensive than the others, and since the priority in the DSM world has long been bigger power, the average DSMer will buy the inferior product and take a massive short cut on handling. A few years ago, a member here used a shock dyno to test a handful of shocks for our cars. He found that most of the shocks available for the DSM were valved badly and inconsistently, adjusters didn't work correctly, and that the results simply varied by a wide margin on the same shock throughout testing (<a href="http://farnorthracing.com/autocross_secrets18.html" target="_blank">see the write-up here</a>). We'd love to get someone with access to a shock dyno do more testing so that we can post additional results here.

    Koni - Best Option for 1g and 2g
    Simply put, this is the shock every DSMer should buy when replacing what is on the car. It's the best option out there and it's only slightly more expensive than the cheaper, inferior options. It will outperform all of the others at the limits and it will be a lot more compliant on the street in daily driving conditions, and has rebound adjustment, which will be handy for the track. The Koni is the only shock that has a shorter body, which means it can handle a lowered ride height (to a degree) without premature wear - a common trait among the rest of the shocks on the market. And if you need to lower the car even more, Konis can be shortened by an inch by <a href="http://www.truechoicekoniracingservices.com/" target="_blank">True Choice Racing Services</a> for less than a $100. Read the last few sentences again. If you plan to lower the car, get Konis. Understood? Good. Any other shock you get will fail sooner on a lowered car, which makes Koni the best value in the long run. We typically encourage all DSMers to buy these shocks so that Koni will continue to produce them for our cars.

    1g Special Note - the rear Konis for the 1g have been discontinued. However, some people have found that the 2g rears mount up without any modification when used with 1g Ground Control kit. To date, there hasn't been any testing with lowering springs. The valving is a little different but not enough to notice a major difference.

    Pricing for Konis: $615 a set for a 2g, $660 a set for a 1g - using 2g rears for pricing. Available at <a href="http://www.extremepsi.com/store/home.php?cat=345" target="_blank">ExtremePSI</a>

    Other Shocks - Not Great Options for the DSM
    Please understand that choosing any of the other shock options out there is essentially the same as buying stock replacements. They are designed for the stock ride height and will fail prematurely when used on a lowered vehicle. The ride quality is harsh, but don't mistake the stiff ride for better handling. They are valved with more damping and, in some cases, are valved too aggressively. More rebound damping keeps the car from bouncing and floating over bumps and undulations. More damping also makes the car much more responsive to steering input. Too much damping is not good; it can prevent the suspension from returning once compressed, causing it to pack down, lose travel and gradually bottom out. Shocks generally do not affect body roll - that is controlled via stiffer springs and swaybars. Shocks simply affect how the suspension responds to bumps and steering input.

    A good quality shock should be just as compliant as the stock shocks in every day driving conditions, yet should offer improved performance when driving at the limit. Though most of the cheap options will feel more sporty (meaning, more firm), they shouldn't be confused with a high performance shock, even if they are adjustable and have more rebound damping. The consensus is that you should only opt for them if you absolutely cannot afford the Koni set, with the expectation that they will probably fail prematurely on a lowered DSM and will offer a harsher ride and less performance than the Koni. The only benefit they have is the lower price. Everything else is inferior.

    KYB AGX - the AGX has long been the most popular option for 1g DSMers due to the fact that it has been the cheapest adjustable shock made for the platform - with Koni being the only other adjustable option. Don't be fooled into thinking that it's a poor man's Koni - it's not. The AGX is nothing more than a stock replacement that rides stiffer and can rattle your teeth loose when set to full stiff - though that doesn't necessarily mean it is performing better. If your car is lowered, the life expectancy of the shock can drop dramatically - failures have been seen within 1 year in some cases with Eibach Prokit springs. Search the forums for these stories. Because of this alone, the Koni proves to be a better value than replacing a blown set of KYB AGX shocks.

    Price for KYB AGX - $490 a set for 1g and $450 a set for a 2g.

    Tokico Illumina - labeled as a performance shock, these are considered by some to be a slight upgrade over the AGX and have been favored in the 2g world for quite some time, mainly because they've been around the longest and were cheaper than Koni. Though they're only slightly cheaper, the Koni outperforms the Tokico in all areas. Just as with the AGX, most DSMers get tricked into thinking the Tokico is a cheaper version of the Koni with all of the same adjustability and a slight drop off in performance that they won't miss. When in reality, the difference in quality, performance, and value is substantial. Again, don't let the "firm" ride fool you into thinking it's delivering high performance handling. And just like the AGX, these are designed with stock travel, so they will wear prematurely on a lowered car.

    Price for Tokico Illumina - $510 a set for a 2g. Not available for 1g.

    KYB GR-2 - these are nothing more than a stock replacement. The were not designed for a lowered car and will wear prematurely - only use for stock ride height cars with factory spring rates. If you feel an improved ride quality after installing, it only means the shocks you replaced were in really bad shape.

    Prices for KYB GR-2 - $260 a set for a 2g, $230 a set for a 1g.

    Tokico HP - a slight step up from the GR-2 in terms of more agressive damping. A decent stock replacement to be used on stock height vehicles with stock spring rates. Anything else will result in premature wear.

    Prices for Tokico HP - $370 a set for a 2g. Not available for a 1g.

    <h1>DSM Lowering Springs</h1>
    coming soon...

    <h1>DSM Coilovers</h1>
    coming soon...

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