Monday, July 20, 2015

Beginners Fab Ep 20: Adjusting Coil Spring Height (Shortening)

 Before you say: "What? No... That's a bad idea..." I would like to say that I'm 100 % in agreement that, what I'm showing in this video is not an ideal solution. However, when you don't have the money for a custom set of coil springs, or a set of expensive coil overs, this solution can be a safe, and lasting solution. That being said, here's a few things that you need to realize about shortening your coil springs for a custom application.

First thing to realize: Compromises are part of custom builds

It's debatable as to whether someone should even build a modified rig, if they don't have the money to build it "right". First off, who's to determine what "Right"? Some people would say: "If you can't afford to do it "right", just don't do it at all." However, I say, just because you can't do it with the best components, or the most expensive way possible, doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it at all, or that it can't be "right", or safe. Still, there always needs to be a balance. You should never let your desire for a custom rig/off-road capable rig, take place of safe work.

So, when building a rig with a custom coil spring suspension, if you can't afford the trial and error of buying... selling, then buying more, then selling more. You probablly can't afford coil overs. Why do I say that?

Honestly, because uless you just want a standard application kit for you typical vehicle make, if a kit is even available (nothing is made for my Daihatsu),  you will have to do a bit of testing, and that cost money.

A cheaper option is to look thru aftermarket spring catalogs and look for springs that have similar spring rate, a diameter close to what you are looking for, and a overall height that is close to what you think/know you need.  Then you need to realize that you will have to either cut or lift your coil spring to fit your application completely.

Second Step: Making sure you do things the SAFEST way possible.

Let's face it, building something custom is not worth your life, or the life of those you care for. So, don't do stupid things! It's just that simple. We all make mistakes, and that's just part of it too. Just don't ignore experienced people who have valid, and reasonable suggestions or warnings about what you are doing.

To that end, when you are working on shortening a coil spring, it is not a good idea to do any of the following.

-Don't use extreme heat, such as a torch, to colapse or cut your spring

-Don't curf springs so that the fold easier.

-Don't stack coilsprings

-Don't weld pieces of coil springs together.

Step Three: Be alert to the effects of you mods. Both positive and negative.

It's always good to realize that customizing a vehicle is more than what you want it to look like, or ride like. Every time you modify a component of the vehicle, that component starts having a positive effect (if done correctly), but it's also having some kind of negative effect in a place you may not have thought about. So, be willing to see the over all picture. If done correctly, the negative effects will be light stresses or abnormal wear patterns that do not outweight the positive effect of the mod.

One instance of this, in connection to compromise would be, to figure out the best (safest), upgrade for your vehicle based on three factors. 1)How important/needed is the desired effect that I'm looking for? 2) Am I willing to suffer a bit more uncomfort, for a safer vehicle? 3) Will this mod put someones (be it mine, or someone in my general vicinity) life at risk, or in danger?

To be sure, it's hard to concider, and foresee all that could be effected by any mod we may be planning. Still, there are some basic rules of thumb that we can keep in mind. For instance, if we are doing a custom coil spring mod, we can think about some of the following.

-By not shortening the coil spring, how much of a negative effect will it have on the vehicle?

Fact of the mater is, if the front or rear of your vehicle sits a lot higher than the other, you will have some kind of abnormal steering/control situation going on. While this may not be a problem for baja or pre-runner vehicles due to their intended use, it can be a problem on the street.

-To get the vehicle level how much do I have to shorten the spring?

Once again, while it sounds like the answer would automatically be to level the front and rear out, that's not always the optimal solution when dealing with coil springs.

There are a couple reasons why making the front and rear level, may not be ideal. For instance, if you have to shorten a set of coil spring a lot, the spring become extremely stiff, and can cause extremely harse riding conditions. To the point of actually causing back soreness.  They also, can become so stiff do to the little compression room available, that they end of snapping.

Another effect of them being to short, is that they may begin to bind during down travel. If the springs bind, or are overly stiff, the constant down force can cause other parts of the vehicle to fatigue, or break. In the end, you may cause more costly repairs by trying to mod your vehicle on the cheap, than if you had just bought a more appropriate compropriate/more expensive component to begin with. Plus, let's not forget that, if the springs are to short, they may fall out. In some cases, this may happen un the littlest amount of flex.

So, as you can see, before I go about doing a budget/DIY coil spring suspension mod using springs from another application, I consider and plan, with a lot of factors in mind. I don't just jump in. Hopefully, after watching this Beginners Fab episode, and reading this article, you will feel the same!

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