As you probably know already, the car's suspension system is responsible for driving comfort and safety as the suspension caries the car's body and transmits all forces, including power and torque, to the road in what is usually called traction. The suspension is a part of the chassis located between the body and the road, and includes the shock absorbers, or dampeners, the leaf or coil springs, they control arms the wheel and tires, and the steering system. Because the suspension transmits power and torque to the road, modifying and tuning the suspension has a profound effect on car handling and will allow you to get the most out of the performance modifications you've made as increased engine performance will change the physical dynamics involved when cornering and accelerating.
The same is true for the simplest performance modification that you can perform on your car, namely, weight reduction. The act of reducing the weight of the car has a significant impact on the car's suspension as the suspension has less weight to carry. This will, in turn, affect the car's cornering and handling, usually in a very positive way.
However, many people just lower the car and fit stiffer springs, believing that the lower ride height will improve handling; unfortunately the suspension and its modification and tuning is no simple matter. As with your engine, your suspension is a complex combination of parts that are designed to perform in a specific manner under different conditions, and the setting for each part can be modified to change the handling characteristics of your car.
If car modification is a compromise between performance and drivability, and it is none more so than when it comes to modifying the car's suspension. For example, the simple fitting of a lower profile tire improves steering response, and thus improves handling and road holding, by reducing the flexing of the tire walls. This allows for more precise cornering but it also transmits more of the road noise and vibrations as there is less rubber to absorb noise and vibration. Furthermore, a suspension modification aimed at improving one aspect of road holding can and a negative impact on another aspect of road holding. For example, fitting wider rear tires to improve grip at the rear end can also lead to oversteer. So suspension tuning is a bit of an art, especially when you need to set up your car for your style of driving, and given the different types of suspension systems in use today! Indeed, a car often has a different type of suspension at the front of the car and a different type at the back of the car!
In this section we discuss the full suspension, suspension tuning and suspension modifications, as well as their impact on drivability, in great detail. We'll also look at the different types of suspensions, the different types of suspension springs, and the affect of weight reduction and weight distribution on the suspension. Well being by discussing car handling basics, before moving on to the unsprung mass, in other words the wheels and tires, before moving on to discus suspension lift, suspension lift kits and adjusting the ride height, modifying and adjusting the shock absorbers, and tuning the front suspension and rear suspension for improved road holding and handling.
Unfortunately there are some rather technical terms, such as oversteer and understeer, caster and camber, and active suspension, that are used to discuss car suspensions. We cover these and other terms in our glossary, so if there is any term in this, or any other section, that you don't understand, please consult our glossary.