A4 Suspension Upgrade

I am a newby, planning to upgrade the suspensions of my 98 audi a4. For now, I have the money only for shock upgrade and possibly the springs. I am planning to get 17" wheels, but meanwhile I have to
resort to sticking with my current 16". I plan to go with either eibach pro damper or koni shocks. I hear that both require the installation of sport springs as well. I would like to know if adding the sport springs' a must. If I can get away without them, what consequences should I prepare for? If I use the 16" wheels, would that effect the suspension settings and what would the outcome be? Should I get the wheels at the same time if possible? If there's a great upgrade configuration proven for a novice like me, I would like to know. Please help.
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(clynex) wrote:

Agreed here; but part of the reason for running smaller diameter wheels is acceleration gearing and wheel mass. Smaller is quicker on both counts.

I'd beg to differ with each of you. For the original poster, the only exception I know to using a 'sport' shock with stock springs would be Bilstein's and that's because they build them physically shorter (to use with shorter springs). If the shock manufacturer says they'll work with stock springs, I wouldn't hesitate to use them that way.
To the respondent, what the hell is an 'overdamped' spring? Amos Johnson and Roger Mandeville used to professionally (and quite successfully) race 'showroom stock' Mazdas in the old IMSA Escort Endurance Series. While they were *allowed* to use different springs and shocks, they only used different *shocks* with *stock* springs on their 323s. It all depends on what you want to feel from your suspension. Tokico, Koni, and others make *adjustable* shocks, y'know. The reason is, you may want different damping for different conditions while still using the *same* springs (stock or otherwise). Ask those same autocrossers about it. As for me, I've swapped in gas 'performance' shocks and strut inserts (Bilstein and Boge) with stock springs. They work great. I've also done it with sport springs. They work great, too.

Sorry; I gotta disagree.

Actually, its a lot more complex than that. Suffice to say that a shock change alone *can* make a noticeable and positive difference in the handling of a car. Of course, so can changing antiroll bars ... or adjusting tire pressures.

There is. That is, if your suspension isn't at least as good as stock, get it there or slightly (not extremely - no full suspension rebuilds to racing specs) better with the new set of shocks/strut inserts. Then, get yourself into a driver school with it. Odds are your car is capable of doing things you can't (because you haven't learned how). Upgrade *yourself* until you can reliably, repeatably, and safely exceed your car's capabilities. By then, you'll know what you want to change and you'll know the people (instructors like me) who can tell you what to do about it. -- C.R. Krieger Audi Car Club N.A. BMW CCA SCCA
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(C.R. Krieger)

Fair enough!

A shock absorber *upgrade* is more likely to involve a gas-charged shock that increases damping for long suspension travel distances (big bumps, body roll in slight turn corrections) and, at the same time, decreases damping for small suspension travel distances (allowing the wheels to track better on slightly rough or uneven surfaces). While you're correct about the handling changes we'd expect to see, I didn't discuss oversteer-understeer characteristics because I assumed the OP would be changing both ends at the same time with a matched set of shocks/strut inserts. Of course, installing the correct 'unmatched' set or adjusting adjustables properly could be a distinct advantage in suspension tuning as well as a drawback.

High damping rates at long suspension travel distances keeps the suspension from bottoming out. This is a Worse Thing.

While places like these, as well as Road America, Watkins Glen, and Mid Ohio are quite smooth, you can always drop a wheel at the wrong place as well as having to drive the 'shortest racing line' over some 'alligator bumps' at all of those tracks. I've driven showroom stock race cars on the street with similar suspensions and they're flat out wonderful, if a bit stiffer than most people like. What makes the ride nasty on the street is too-stiff springs, not performance shocks. Then, there are the tracks you don't even want to drive your own car on. Ever been to Sebring, Nelson Ledges, Grattan, or Lime Rock? =8^O

Danke sehr! -- C.R. Krieger Audi Car Club N.A. BMW CCA SCCA
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