How To Install Coilovers In Your Car
Short for “coil over shock,” coilovers are a popular way to improve the handling of your car while also lowering it. Coilovers are a type of suspension system where coiled springs go over the shock absorbers. The combine the vehicle’s shock absorber and coil spring.
Top quality coilovers allow you to easily adjust the firmness of the shocks and the spring height. But first they must be installed – and installation often seems complicated.
Fortunately, at-home installation is possible, as long as you take proper precautions to stay safe. While coilovers come in a wide variety of sizes and types, the installation basics are similar regardless. Here’s what you need to know:
- The Two Types of Coilovers
- Pre-Installation Preparation: Install Spring
- Prepare Your Car
- Remove the Calipers
- Install the Camber Caster Plate
- Remove the Coil Spring
- Install the Coilover
- Adjust the Camber Caster Plate
- How to Determine if Coilovers are Installed Correctly
- Can I Install Coilovers Myself?
- Final Thoughts
The Two Types of Coilovers
Coilovers are sold in two different ways:
- Charged with nitrogen (“fully extended”) and springs installed
- Collapsed with no springs installed or spring included separately
Before installation begins, you’ll want to make sure the coilovers are the right size. Some sets include specific coilovers for the front and back while others are universal.
Pre-Installation Preparation: Install Spring
If your coilovers are collapsed, you’ll need to add the springs yourself. First, fully extend the shock. You can do this by hand.
Slide the spring up the shaft until it hits the upper spring retainer. The lightest/shortest spring goes first. Once the springs are on, install the lower spring plate.
After the lower spring plate is installed, you’ll then set your zero-preload position. This is the height limit; your vehicle won’t raise any higher. To set this position, you rotate the coil adjust nut until the springs are snug and the lower plate is settled onto the lower rod end. Tighten down the locking screw. Some people also like to make a mark on the threads so they can see the zero-preload position easier.
At this point, look at the threads above the coil adjustment rut. You shouldn’t see more than three inches. If you do, you’ll need longer springs.
Note that the number of visible threads is not the pre-load. Instead, the pre-load is the point where the springs, slider, spring plate and coil nut adjusters are all touching.
Prepare Your Car
Make sure your car is parked on a flat surface. You’ll need to take some measurements underneath. Measure from the center of the wheel to the bottom on the fender. Make a note of this for each wheel.
Next, you’ll need to jack up your car. While you want to raise it high enough for access, make sure the car is still stable. You’ll need complete access to your suspension.
Remove the Calipers
Now you’ll need to remove the calipers. This is a mechanism used to control the movement of the brake pads. But, right now, they’re mainly just in the way.
Removing the calipers is done by unscrewing its top and bottom bolts. Once it’s free, set it aside gently. You’ll now have access to the brake rotors, which you should remove as well.
The sway bar is the next component removed. First take off the bolt and brushing. Then remove the strut support bolts and stock strut mount.
Install the Camber Caster Plate
These are mechanical plates which are used to adjust the angle of each tire. Changing the angle affects suspension and handling.
Plates will first need to be separated into the bottom and upper part. The bottom part is placed on the bottom of the strut tower. The upper plate is placed on top. Tighten the bolts and the plate is installed.
Remove the Coil Spring
The last component you need to remove is the coil spring. This is the most potentially dangerous part of the entire installation. Remove the spring slowly. If the spring expands too fast, it can propel itself through your body, so be careful and go slow.
Install the Coilover
Push the coilover until it’s against the camber caster plate. Use the washer and nut to secure the top part of the plate. Once the nut is tight, the coilover is in position.
Adjust the Camber Caster Plate
Tighten the bolts at the top of the caster plate to 40 foot-pounds. Make a mark to show where the bolt and the stud are aligned. This can be useful for quick readjustments if vibrations cause either to move.
After the plate is installed, you’re ready to put the brake rotor, caliper and other components back on the vehicle.
Once the coilovers are installed, you’ll want to lower the vehicle. Do this slowly. You’ll want to carefully watch how the weight of the vehicle sits.
How to Determine if Coilovers are Installed Correctly
Ideally, the vehicle should be settled at your desired height. But if not, you can easily adjust the spring or pre-load as necessary. Here’s what to watch for:
Vehicle is between one and three inches below ride height. This is a simple fix. You just need to add more pre-load to the coilovers.
Vehicle is more than three inches below ride height. This usually means the coilovers have fully collapsed. You’ll need to change the springs.
Vehicle is above ride height. This means the coilovers are working fine, but the springs are a problem. They’ll need to be replaced.
Can I Install Coilovers Myself?
Yes, but this is usually a job for someone with at least a moderate level of experience in car care. You’ll need to be comfortable raising the car up, dropping the system and performing a variety of similar tasks.
Never attempt to remove the coil spring unless you know what you’re doing. Any accident can result in serious injury. This specific step is best left to professionals or experienced at-home mechanics.
Coilovers are a great way to improve your car’s handling while also dropping the height. While the process is moderately complex, you can install coilovers in your home garage, as long as you follow proper safety procedures. Once installed, coilovers are easy to adjust and you’ll be able to enjoy the significant handling improvements to your new ride.