Vehicle Suspension Types: Coilovers vs Springs

April 6, 2012

Learn about the pros and cons of coilovers vs springs, and the consensus on which vehicle suspension type is better.

Vehicle Suspension Parts

The debate over coilovers vs springs regarding suspension systems generally leans in favor of coilovers. The coilover suspension is something that has a lot of do-it-yourself auto customizers talking. This innovative system, available as an aftermarket addition, came from the race track to the common car population over time, and now the average driver can enjoy more of the engineering that makes race cars so cool. Specifically, the coilover allows for an enhanced suspension system by offering a single piece, made of a spring wrapped around a shock absorber that helps with what's called "damping" or absorbing impact on the road.

Here are some of the commonly reported good and bad points of having a coilover on your vehicle.

Advantages of a Coilover Suspension

  • Good handling. Some enthusiasts point to improved handling with coilovers as opposed to some of the stock suspension systems that come from the factory. Setting up a custom suspension can help that system do more of the work in cornering and other parts of the drive.
  • Adjustability. Drivers love that these custom suspensions are adjustable. That's great for anyone who wants a "low ride" for their car. On the other hand, for off-road coilovers, a high setting will often be preferable. Being able to set your suspension any way you want to is a huge plus for these kinds of systems.
  • Prestige. Telling your auto-buff friends that you installed a coilover suspension will probably get you some points. The better kinds of coilovers are well regarded in the car community as useful custom aftermarket parts, and some of the best cars around run on these kinds of specialized setups.

Cons of a Coilover Suspension

  • Stiff ride. Some drivers report that coilovers lead to a stiff, uncomfortable ride. In some cases, this is because poor quality coilovers were not able to be configured correctly. Buying cheaper coilovers can really compromise ride quality and even safety, so experts recommend springing for a set with a good reputation.
  • Possible failure. As mentioned, cheap and poorly made coilovers can be a real liability on the road. Some "sleeve type" designs can fail in certain kinds of driving. Read up on various kinds of coilovers before buying, to make sure they're not getting into a situation involving added risk on the road.
  • Space hogging setups. There's only so much room under the frame of your car, and for some drivers, coilovers tend to eat up more than their share. Coilovers can come into contact with parts like a sway bar, tangle up wires and cables for systems like antilock brakes, or even end up in contact with tires, chewing off the sidewall. These are serious issues, and you should look carefully at your particular wheel area before trying to fit another item into your car.

Leaf Springs

Leaf spring suspension is a simpler system because the vehicle's axle suspends the spring. This makes it sturdier, with higher load bearing limits. It also comes in useful when jacking a car or truck up because the leaf springs respond better to being lifted. They are also less expensive. There are downsides to a leaf spring suspension. They are less adjustable and having fixed points around the chassis of the vehicle offers far less movement, making them slightly more bumpy.