Coilovers are super fun and will definitely give you killer handlings. But that is only if you install them right! In this article I want to discuss whether you need to realign your car after coilovers installation (and many more stuff of course).
If you don’t want the details, then here’s the answer. You definitely need to realign your cars after coilovers installation because the installation requires a lot of tinkering on the car suspension. I recommend you go for realignment after about 3-5 days of driving – the coilovers components need to first settle in.
If you are just doing adjustment through the coilovers knob like tightening or loosening rebound control, then you don’t need any realignment. You will only need realignment again if you adjust suspension components like camber, caster or toe (these are not adjustable through the coilovers).
If you are not yet familiar, you might have lots of questions – things like “camber, caster or toe? What even are they?”. But don’t worry, I will cover everything you might want to know 🙂 So read on!
Recap: What Do Car Alignments Do?
Before we can decide whether car alignment is needed or not, we must first understand what really happens during a car alignment.
The whole idea of car alignment is to make sure car tires and axles are positioned equally – allowing your tires to move consistently in the same direction. Experienced mechanics use alignment tools that are connected to a computer – giving them extremely precise measurements.
Now that they have precise measurements, the mechanic proceeds to adjust your suspension components like camber, caster and toe.
Recap: What Are Camber, Caster And Toe?
Turns out tires can be adjusted in many different angles – backward, forward, inward, outward, you name it. These adjustments are called camber, caster and toe.
When you first install coilovers, you need to take out your stock spring and struts and replace them with your new coilovers. This means your existing adjustments will definitely go out of alignment. You can’t just readjust them precisely without superman laser eyes.
I don’t want to cover the details of camber, caster and toe. For this article, you just need to know what they are and what they control.
Camber controls the inward and outward angle of your tires. Some people would want their tires going outward to improve traction when taking corners. This is known as negative camber.
Caster controls the forward and backward angle of your tires. Some people adjust their tires to be slightly forward to have the car more stable at high speed. This is known as a positive caster.
Toe controls the direction which your tires point at. Toe is similar to camber – they can both be inward and outward. Don’t get them confused! See the image below for the toe.
Do You Need Alignments After Installing Coilovers?
Absolutely yes. To install new coilovers, you need to first take off the existing spring and struts from the caster / camber plate. Just from doing this alone, your car’s alignment will be out of whack and you need a precise realignment. (Still remember what camber, caster and toe do?).
Installing coilovers go a step further. You will be installing a brand new component and you will most likely make height adjustments after you first install the coilovers. The ride height that comes from the factory coilovers are usually way too low.
When you adjust the ride height using coilovers, your camber will also be impacted. The lower your car goes, the more negative camber you are going to naturally get (tires pointing outward). This means after every height adjustment, you are recommended to go for realignment.
Do You Need Alignments After Adjusting Coilovers?
If you are just adjusting the compression and rebound using the coilovers knob, then you won’t need any realignment.
If you are adjusting the ride height, then you should bring your car for a realignment. Like I mentioned, changing ride height will impact camber – the lower you go, the more negative camber you are going to get.
If you are manually adjusting the camber, caster or toe, then you definitely need a realignment. Coilovers do not give you the ability to adjust these, so most likely you won’t be adjusting them very often.
Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Skip The Alignment
Here are pointers on why you shouldn’t skip the re-alignment:
- Uneven tire wear. When your car is out of alignment, the contact between tires and the road will be uneven. Which means some tires are working harder than the others. The harder working tires will wear out much more quickly.
- Not safe! If your car is not aligned well, it’s driving and cornering abilities are impacted. Your car will not be going straight even when your steering wheel is. Or worse – your car might pull left or right on its own – undermining your steering.
- Not enjoyable. Would you enjoy driving if your car is not going in the direction you want it to go? Yeah, I don’t think so.
- Reduced lifespan. The suspension is the hardest working system in your car. If they are out of alignment, unnecessary pressure can be created. This will reduce the lifespan of your suspension system. (They are not cheap to fix too!)
When Should You Perform The Alignment?
After coilovers installation, you should drive it around for 2-3 days first. Let the new springs and coilovers set in before you bring them for a realignment.
If you bring your car for realignment immediately, it will probably go out of alignment again when new components in the coilovers set in.
Don’t wait too long though. 1 week tops. Otherwise you will be damaging your suspension system and wear out your tires.
How Much Does Alignment Cost?
On average, I would say $80 for two-wheels alignment and $150 for four-wheels alignment. It’s a little expensive but they are absolutely necessary for your car. Don’t skip them.
If you are installing the coilovers and realigning from the same workshop, then I suggest you negotiate on the alignment price.
What To Look For In Coilovers?
Now that we have covered all that, let’s talk a bit on what coilovers you should be looking for. The number one mistake that I see people do is to buy cheap eBay coilovers.
You should not do this because coilovers could be the hardest working component in your car – they should be of high quality and last long. I have heard many horror stories where people buy cheap coilovers and the coilovers leak only after a few months.
If you do not have the budget, then I suggest you look into high quality lowering springs instead. Yes, they won’t allow you to adjust your ride height but your car will still be lowered and look aggressive. Not to mention your car’s handling will also improve due to the lowered center of gravity.
If you are still keen on coilovers and you agree with what I said, then check out my other article where I discuss in depth what you need to look for when choosing coilovers and also the coilovers I recommend you check out. Best Coilovers: Which To Buy And What To Look For?