Tech Corner: Tubular Suspension is a No-Brainer Upgrade

Tech Corner - IntermediateIf you’re looking to improve the performance and clearance of your ride, then adding tubular suspension components is almost a no-brainer. These upgrades will improve strength without adding extra weight. Many kits currently on the market are even lighter and stronger than the stamped components you would typically find from the factory.

When it comes to making this upgrade the only thing you need to ask yourself is how involved you’re willing to get. Sure, there are companies out there that offer tubular suspension components that bolt directly in place of the factory hardware. But keep in mind, that doesn’t always mean it’s an easy job. Let’s take a look at some of the basics when making these enhancements to help you decide how far you’re willing to take a tubular suspension upgrade. And we start with some advice from Brian Toole, a mechanic who has honed his skills with Prime and BMW over the years.

“With anything, you should have a good understanding of how things work before swapping components in and out. Now, with suspension, I would consider it an intermediate-level job when it comes to bolt-on kits.”

Front End Overhaul

The first place people look to make this modification on their cars is usually the front end. Depending on the budget, there are a few offerings on today’s market that offer an entire front end overhaul bundled into a single kit. These kits can come armed to the teeth, and the level of work required can be quite extensive.

If you’re interested in replacing something like a K-member, you’ll have to disconnect just about everything in the engine compartment along with anything suspension related. If you opt for direct-replacement components, installing them is about the same level of difficulty as the tear down. And if you’re moving up to kits that include upgrades like coilover conversions, you’ll want to prepare yourself to make quite a few modifications. Either way, it’s a big job. But you get out what you put in, right? So, if you are truly looking to maximize performance and drivability, going the distance is absolutely worth the time. And that includes the shop you choose to partner with for the project.

“A performance shop would be ideal, but depending on your immediate area there might not be any–just repair shops or a big corporation shop. I would say start off at a family- owned repair shop and see if they have and mechanics/technicians that have experience in tubular suspension. If they do, ask them some basic questions about the pros and cons of a tubular suspension setup or suggested brands in each price point,” said Toole.

Bolt-In Replacements

Any job involves two key factors: time and budget. “How much money are you willing to spend? Many might say you get what you pay, but first things first–budget. Then look up brands and find a few that are within a desired price range. Compare what grade metal they are made of, what finish they have, what style bushings/joints, and make sure to look up reviews on the product,” added Toole.

Considering the advice above, replacing the entire K-member may not be worth it to some people. This is where the versatility of bolt-in replacements really comes in handy. Control arms, strut bars, and sway bars by a trusted name like QA1 can bolt in or simply mount right in place with factory components. You can mix-and-match whatever components you want and still see the benefits of each. In this case, you don’t need to tackle as intensive of a project to still enjoy the perks of a tubular suspension upgrade.

Back End Upgrade

Back end modifications generally follow the same format as the front. The difference is that there aren’t quite as many options, and you’re often left with either doing a little bit of work or taking on a massive job. This is especially true for cars bearing leaf springs in the rear. If you’re looking to increase performance in turns, then consider adding a sway bar. This is an affordable and fairly easy modification, and it’ll will add noticeable gains. If all-out performance is on the agenda, moving up to a 3-link or 4-link set up is what most will consider. This task can be very involved and very pricey. Additionally, once it’s been done the entire dynamic of the car changes, especially if you have made some major modifications to the front end as well.

What Works Best For You

Building the proper vehicle has little to do with what is considered a performance car by everyone else. It really boils down to the connection between car and driver. Approaching this part of the build should follow that same principle. Tubular suspension modifications have given enthusiasts the ability to really tap into their vehicles. Consider what your driving habits are and how the intended modifications would affect you day in and day out.

It’s not about what will make the car drive better, rather what will make you a better driver. Picking out build mods should follow the same guideline. And if it takes that little bit of extra time and love then so be it– you’ll get all of it back behind the wheel.

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