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Old 06-21-2006, 06:52 AM   #1
Canonshooter
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Default Lowering your Impreza?

A few notes;

1. This is not intended to second-guess anyone's decision to use "lowering springs." It is intended soley as an "educational piece" so that informed decisions can be made when it comes to modifying Impreza suspensions.

2. I mention my use of the Subaru SPT Pinks on my car. This is not intended as an advertisement, but rather as an illustration of the type of spring (ride height and spring rate) that helps avoid certain suspension geometry problems.

3. I do not claim to be any kind of expert on this. In fact, the real experts IMO are those participating in the NASIOC threads listed below - they went to great lengths with illustrations, pictures and written description to make this subject matter understandable.

Lowering your Impreza?

The following is based on my reading of accounts from those "in the know" about Impreza suspensions - specifically, those who race or autocross the Impreza - and on my own first-hand experience.

First things first, some definitions;

Camber - an alignment term that indicates the tire's vertical inclination.

When viewed from the front or back of the car, negative camber would look like this - / \ - the tops of the tires tip in towards the center of the car. From a strictly handling POV, negative camber is a good thing - as the car leans into a corner, the outside tire (the one bearing the most load) maintains better contact with the road with some negative camber.

Positive camber looks like this - \ / - the tops of the tires tip out away from the center of the car. Positive camber isn't good for much of anything, especially handling.

Toe (in or out) - another alignment term that indicates how the tire is "tracking."

Toe out is when the distance across the front of the tires (side-to-side) is greater than at the rear of the tires. When viewed from above the car, toe out looks like this - \ / . Toe out on the front of the car makes the steering feel more sensitive - the first tiny turn of the steering wheel makes for very quick response. It also can make the steering feel "nervous" or "twitchy" at higher speed.

Toe in is just the opposite. When viewed from above, it looks like this - / \ . Toe in makes the steering feel less responsive but more stable, which is desireable for a street driven car - especially if you spend a lot of time on the highway.

Toe in or out places a lot of stress on both tire and steering, and when too much is present, will cause accelerated wear on both. Only tiny amounts of toe are typically used (if any at all) - no more than a fraction of a degree or a millimeter or two difference in measurement between the front and rear of the tires. "Zero toe" makes both tires track perfectly straight down the road.

Camber curve refers to a suspension's tendency to change camber as it compresses. Some suspensions have a "greater curve" than others, and the Impreza front suspension has a very noticeable one.

As the front suspension of the Impreza compresses beyond a certain point, camber moves in a positive direction. In other words, as the suspension compresses over bumps or hitting the brakes, the tops of the tires move out away from the center of the car. This is due to the "geometry" of the suspension, and the relationship between the three pivot points that allow the suspension to articulate - (1) where the lower control arm secures to the chassis; (2) the ball joint, where the control arm connects to the spindle/strut assembly and (3) the top hats, where the top of the struts secure to the chassis.

It's called a camber "curve" because the curve is actually a plot (on paper) of how much the top of the tire tips out ("goes positive") versus the amount the suspension compresses. In our case, the more the suspension compresses, the faster the camber goes positive - the "nasty" part of the camber curve. This happens at about 1.5 inches of "drop" from stock ride height for a WRX, and about 1 inch for the WRX/STi. Ideally, you want springs that don't lower the car to this point.

At stock height ("ugly wheel gap"), as the suspension begins to compress, the change in camber is only very slight. However, the more you "drop" the car, the higher up the camber curve you go and the faster the camber goes positive with only a small amount of compression. So with a "lowered" car, even though the static camber can be set negative with an alignment (tops of the tires tipping inward), this negative camber is very quickly offset by the Impreza's rather nasty camber curve as the suspension compresses.

So with an Impreza that's been lowered too far;

When making a right turn, when viewed from the rear the front tires look like this - \ \

When making a left turn, like this - / /

When hitting the brakes and having the front of the car "dive," like this - \ /

Not so good, eh? And in order to avoid "bottoming" the excessively lowered suspension you want to cut the bumpstops too, allowing even greater compression?

The only way to deal with these tendencies on a lowered car (and get back down lower on the "less nasty" part of the camber curve) is to modify the suspension geometry by "relocating" the ball joint and by neccessity, the steering linkage to avoid bump steer with the relocated ball joint/modified suspension geometry. See post #67 on page three of this NASIOC thread by Tom Hoppe of www.6gunracing.com -

http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show...t=camber+curve

But it's even worse than just a camber problem.

Take a look at the front suspension of your Impreza and you will see that the steering linkage attaches to the front of the spindles. What the steering linkage does in the context of this conversation is serves as "brace" between the front of the spindles so that they must always have a set distance between them at the point where the steering linkage attaches to them. But what happens is that when the suspension compresses, camber moves positive, which means that distance between the front spindles where the steering linkage attaches gets smaller. But since the steering linkage is a set length, the linkage holds the front of the spindles at the set distance while the rear of the spindles move in as the suspension compresses, resulting in what is called "dynamic toe."

So as the suspension compresses, not only does camber go positive, but toe goes "out." And the lower the front of your Impreza is, the faster and to the greater degree this happens!

What to Do

If "the lowered look" is important to you, here are some points that you should consider as part of any lowering job;

1. Avoid springs that lower too much. A wheel center-to-fender lip measurement in the front of greater than 14 inches is desireable (a 1.5 inch drop in the front yields 14 inches). Springs that drop the front more than the back will accentuate the weight-forward bias of an Impreza.

2. Adjustable top hat plates, aka "camber plates." These will allow you to dial in a lot more negative "static" camber. Without plates, you will not get much negative camber with an alignment due to where you now are on the camber curve. Plates allow you to move the top pivot point in toward the center of the car and get more negative camber. Camber will still go positive as the suspension compresses, but the extra "negative static camber" will help offset that.

3. Get heavier sway bars. By reducing body roll, camber will not change as much when cornering.

4. Use "stiff" lowering springs with a higher rate. Springs that are advertised to "lower your car and maintain good ride quality" are usually the worst offenders of the problems described above. Of course, now you will need to uprgrade your struts as well to handle the heavier "lowering" springs.

5. Can you say "coilovers"? Yes, coilovers in combination with plates, heavy bars and adjustable lateral links in the rear are by far the best way to go. Just be prepared for the kind of ride that will result, and the amount of $$ you will need to spend to do the job right.

6. The Subaru "SPT Pink" springs I am now using are not promoted as "lowering springs," but rather "performance springs." They do lower the car a small amount but have a substantially higher rate than the stock springs for less body roll while cornering. Based on my experience with them, they have lowered the car a touch (14-3/4 inches wheel center to fender lip measurement front, 13-3/4 rear), greatly improved handling (compared to stock), maintained reasonable ride quality/suspension travel all while avoiding the worst of the the camber curve/dynamic toes issues described above. For the non-STi WRX or NA Impreza, SPT Pinks + upgraded sway bars = a great handling car without spending a ton of $$ or creating serious suspension compromises. Do you now see why they (or any spring with minimal drop/higher spring rate) are a good choice if you don't want to go with #4 above?

I will not go into the other "lowering issues" such as ride comfort and reduced ground clearance. Those are a bit more subjective - what is "harsh and bouncy" to one person may be perfectly acceptable to the next. All lowering springs will result in a harsher ride, some worse than others. Only you can decide if the ride is objectionable or not, or whether the "lowered look" is worth the problems that could arise -

http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show....php?t=1029701

Lowering your Impreza requires some careful consideration. Doing the job correctly is much more than just throwing on a set of "lowering springs" and getting an alignment if you want to avoid the compromises/problems described above.

Some good NASIOC threads worth reading from beginning to end;

http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show...t=camber+curve

http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show...t=camber+curve

http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show...t=camber+curve

Update 9 July 2006

A link worth the read - http://www.spdusa.com/change.htm
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Last edited by Canonshooter; 07-09-2006 at 09:21 AM.
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Old 06-21-2006, 08:03 AM   #2
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Great post everyone should take the time to read.
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Old 06-21-2006, 08:55 AM   #3
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Default Pinks on an 03 impreza

Are there SPT springs available for 02-03 wrx impreza's???......I can only find some eibach spt endorsed ones at genuine-bla-bla-parts.com and SPT pinks for 04-06........
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Old 06-21-2006, 12:31 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GetSideways
Are there SPT springs available for 02-03 wrx impreza's???......
It doesn't look like it, but I'm wondering if there's a way to use these springs on your car. Maybe with different struts (probably should change them anyway) and/or top hats? Hopefully someone will chime in with a definitive answer.
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Old 06-21-2006, 04:18 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canonshooter
As the front suspension of the Impreza compresses beyond a certain point, camber moves in a positive direction. In other words, as the suspension compresses over bumps or hitting the brakes, the tops of the tires move out away from the center of the car. This is due to the "geometry" of the suspension, and the relationship between the three pivot points that allow the suspension to articulate - (1) where the lower control arm secures to the chassis; (2) the ball joint, where the control arm connects to the spindle/strut assembly and (3) the top hats, where the top of the struts secure to the chassis.
More accurately, the top of the strut stays about the same while the bottom of the strut moves inboard as the lower control arm pivots.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Canonshooter
But it's even worse than just a camber problem.

Take a look at the front suspension of your Impreza and you will see that the steering linkage attaches to the front of the spindles. What the steering linkage does in the context of this conversation is serves as "brace" between the front of the spindles so that they must always have a set distance between them at the point where the steering linkage attaches to them. But what happens is that when the suspension compresses, camber moves positive, which means that distance between the front spindles where the steering linkage attaches gets smaller. But since the steering linkage is a set length, the linkage holds the front of the spindles at the set distance while the rear of the spindles move in as the suspension compresses, resulting in what is called "dynamic toe."

So as the suspension compresses, not only does camber go positive, but toe goes "out." And the lower the front of your Impreza is, the faster and to the greater degree this happens!
The steering rack is fixed, while the tie rods pivot. So each tie rod moves thru it's own arc. The position of the rack & the inboard tierod ball joints are (hopefully) chosen to control dynamic toe. Dynamic toe isn't zero (don't want it to be zero), but it's not as big as it would be with a solid tie-rod.
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Old 06-21-2006, 04:33 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canonshooter
It doesn't look like it, but I'm wondering if there's a way to use these springs on your car. Maybe with different struts (probably should change them anyway) and/or top hats? Hopefully someone will chime in with a definitive answer.
To use 04-06 rear springs you can do one of the following:

1. Use 02-03 rear struts + 04-06 tophats and do the "washer mod" to take up the slack in the top-hat. (A search for washer mod will reveal more info).
2. Use 04-06 rear struts and 04-06 rear tophats and you can use 04-06 springs.

Obviously #2 is the "better" solution, but many people do the washer mod with no ill effects.
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Old 06-21-2006, 04:35 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canonshooter
From a strictly handling POV, negative camber is a good thing - as the car leans into a corner, the inside tire (the one bearing the most load) maintains better contact with the road with some negative camber.
You probably mean outside not inside above. Good writeup!
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Old 06-21-2006, 06:21 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drees
You probably mean outside not inside above. Good writeup!
Yes! Correction made - and thanks!
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Old 06-21-2006, 06:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimBlake
More accurately, the top of the strut stays about the same while the bottom of the strut moves inboard as the lower control arm pivots.
Yes, this is a better way to describe it. And of course, the wheel and tire move along with it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimBlake
The steering rack is fixed, while the tie rods pivot. So each tie rod moves thru it's own arc. The position of the rack & the inboard tierod ball joints are (hopefully) chosen to control dynamic toe. Dynamic toe isn't zero (don't want it to be zero), but it's not as big as it would be with a solid tie-rod.
Yes, agreed.

Dynamic toe is just another thing that many people are not aware of. In fact, I'm willing to bet that those who modify their suspensions never considered (or were told) about all of the movement (camber curve and dynamic toe) that goes on. Hopefully this thread will serve as a reference so people better understand the issues invloved with changing springs.

Thanks for your input and contribution!
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Old 06-21-2006, 06:56 PM   #10
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Recommended your post for the FAQ. Hope you can incorporate any comments/fixes into your 1st post.
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Old 06-21-2006, 07:21 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drees
Recommended your post for the FAQ. Hope you can incorporate any comments/fixes into your 1st post.
Thanks! Yes, I hope to get as much input as possible and tweak the original post accordingly.
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Old 06-21-2006, 08:57 PM   #12
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Old 06-22-2006, 12:52 PM   #13
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This is why I LOVE my SPT Pinks, and my 20mm RSB on my 2.5i
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Old 07-09-2006, 09:50 AM   #14
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Original post updated with this link - http://www.spdusa.com/change.htm

There seems to be a growing recognition of the importance of maintaining suspension geometry, and how "lowering springs" can adversely effect it. I think this is a good thing - informed decisions on modifying our cars are always better than uninformed decisions.

I have no argument with anyone who wants to lower their Impreza - it's your car, not mine! What I do have a problem with is the misinformation being perpetuated in regards to lowering springs; specifically, claims that you can significantly lower your car ("pleasing fender gap"), improve handling and not seriously impact ride quality - all at the same time - just by slapping on a set of springs. This is total BS!

If you decide to lower your Impreza more than about an inch, that is fine (they do look good that way). Just be aware that ride comfort will always suffer due to higher spring rates and/or riding on the bumpstops, and that handling will be imparied to some degree due to unfavorable changes in suspension geometry (camber loss and change in the vehicle's roll center in relation to its center of gravity), all depending on how low you go.

Yes, Subaru engineers knew what they were doing when they designed the Impreza suspension. Yes, ride height is an important part of suspension design, especially for a car that utilizes struts. Yes, as AWD vehicles, Subarus are designed to sit a little higher than most other cars.

Know the facts before you buy. Happy modding!

Last edited by Canonshooter; 07-09-2006 at 10:08 AM.
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Old 07-09-2006, 11:09 AM   #15
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A few more links on "suspension geometry." Though they do not pertain directly to Subarus, they are useful for gaining a better understanding of suspension design and geometry, and how it effects handling.

Enjoy!

http://www.turnfast.com/tech_handling/handling.shtml

http://www.drivingsports.com/a/templ...id=16&zoneid=7

http://www.griggsracing.com/suspension.html
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Old 07-09-2006, 01:42 PM   #16
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excellent thread
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Old 10-01-2006, 04:44 AM   #17
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I believe that when the suspension compresses and toes out like you said, it only toes out on the outside tire while the inside tires toe in... basically steering to of the turn... This all because of the location of the steering rack. So it doesnt just toe out.
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Old 10-01-2006, 07:37 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by STi-MAN View Post
I believe that when the suspension compresses and toes out like you said, it only toes out on the outside tire while the inside tires toe in... basically steering to of the turn... This all because of the location of the steering rack. So it doesnt just toe out.
Toe changes according to how far the suspension compresses or extends and where it is on the camber curve.

Camber curve = where the control arm is in its arc of travel in relation to the chassis/unibody.

Maximum negative dynamic camber occurs when the control arms are "straight out" parallel to the pavement - this is the point where the bottom of the strut is "kicked out" as far as it can go. As the control arm moves either up or down away from parallel - following an arc with the control arm bushing as the center point - the bottom of the strut gets pulled back in, reducing negative camber.

When you start with the control arms below parallel, you gain negative camber - / \ - as the suspension compresses. At the same time, as you gain negative camber (compression), toe goes in. As you lose negative camber (extension), toe goes out. With the car set up like this, as you make a right turn, the left side compresses as the body rolls, gaining negative camber and toes-in, and the right side extends, loosing negative camber and toes-out. This helps to maintain tire contact with the road and keeps toe pointing in the direction of the turn. With McPherson struts, this is the way it should be.

Now let's do the same with a lowered car where the control arms start off parallel to the pavement. As you make a right turn, the left side compresses and looses negative camber as the control arm moves above parallel, pulling the bottom of the strut in. At the same time, the wheel toes out, in the opposite direction of the turn. On the right side, the same thing happens - negative camber is lost (once again resulting in toe-out) as the control arm falls below parallel and pulls the bottom of the strut back in. So as you make the turn and the body rolls, you loose negative camber on both sides and both wheels toe out.

In the worst case scenario, you've lowered the car so far that the control arms start off above parallel to the pavement. As you make that right turn, the same thing will happen on the left side - loss of negative camber and toe-out as the bottom of the strut gets pulled further in. But on the right side, as the control arm falls toward parallel, you will gain negative camber and toe-in as the bottom of the strut gets kicked out. In this case - as you're making a right turn - your camber (when viewed from the rear) looks like this - \ \ - and your toe is going out on the left and in on the right - in the opposite direction of the turn. Not a particularly good situation, is it?

Bottom line is that Mcpherson strut suspensions work as intended when the control arms start off below parallel. By changing the ride hight, we are changing the position of the control arm. If we change the position of the control arm too much, the suspension geometry becomes "inverted" resulting in some white knuckle experiences when taking corners or hitting the brakes hard.

I really wish I had the skills to make an animation of this - it is so clear what's going on when you can see it.

Last edited by Canonshooter; 10-01-2006 at 07:53 AM.
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Old 10-01-2006, 02:08 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Canonshooter View Post

In the worst case scenario, you've lowered the car so far that the control arms start off above parallel to the pavement. As you make that right turn, the same thing will happen on the left side - loss of negative camber and toe-out as the bottom of the strut gets pulled further in. But on the right side, as the control arm falls toward parallel, you will gain negative camber and toe-in as the bottom of the strut gets kicked out. In this case - as you're making a right turn - your camber (when viewed from the rear) looks like this - \ \ - and your toe is going out on the left and in on the right - in the opposite direction of the turn. Not a particularly good situation, is it?
Thats what i just said.
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Old 10-01-2006, 04:37 PM   #20
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Wow everything I was just looking for was answered in this thread, thanks!
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Old 10-01-2006, 04:56 PM   #21
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I'm just excited to see how much this community has progressed in its knowledge about suspension setup over the last 6 years. I think most of us are finally understanding what Mike Shields was going on about all those years ago!
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Old 10-01-2006, 05:44 PM   #22
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Quote:
I'm just excited to see how much this community has progressed in its knowledge about suspension setup over the last 6 years. I think most of us are finally understanding what Mike Shields was going on about all those years ago!

It looks like Mike hasn't updated his site in many years.
I actually bought a few parts from him about three years ago.
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Old 10-01-2006, 06:05 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arnie View Post
I'm just excited to see how much this community has progressed in its knowledge about suspension setup over the last 6 years. I think most of us are finally understanding what Mike Shields was going on about all those years ago!
Arnie, I agree. It's good to see a growing understanding that there's a little more to modifying Impreza suspensions than just slapping on a set of springs.

I find the whole "wheel gap" craze that drives so many Impreza owners to buy lowering springs maddening. IMO, seeing (for example) a set of Tein S-techs installed on a new STi is disheartening - a perfectly good suspension ruined for the sake of petty cosmetics! In most cases, I believe the person doing so has not been informed of the consequences, and those selling the springs are either in no hurry to talk about it or don't know themselves.

I have no problem with a free market and people doing what they want with their cars. I just hope to contribute some small share to help them make informed decisions.
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Old 08-31-2009, 02:15 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canonshooter View Post
The Subaru "SPT Pink" springs I am now using are not promoted as "lowering springs," but rather "performance springs." They do lower the car a small amount but have a substantially higher rate than the stock springs for less body roll while cornering. Based on my experience with them, they have lowered the car a touch (14-3/4 inches wheel center to fender lip measurement front, 13-3/4 rear), greatly improved handling (compared to stock), maintained reasonable ride quality/suspension travel all while avoiding the worst of the the camber curve/dynamic toes issues described above. For the non-STi WRX or NA Impreza, SPT Pinks + upgraded sway bars = a great handling car without spending a ton of $$
hey, would you happen to know where I can find a pair of SPT Pink Springs for a 2004 WRX? I can't seem to find any. I did the mistake of buying a set of Tein S-Techs without reading much about suspension.
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Old 08-31-2009, 02:26 AM   #25
Back Road Runner
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Google answers all.

And one more for bumping a really old thread.

And...since it's a Subaru part, Subaru sells them directly...as does any Subaru site like Subaru Genuine Parts:
https://www.subarugenuineparts.com/p...roducts_id=626

Now, I would question the need to upgrade struts with these springs. The stock struts will have dampening that is a little too low for these spring rates. This will make the ride bouncy and poorly controlled. I would heavily suggest that if you deviate from at or near stock spring rates you should also upgrade the struts to a firmer (STI, specifically 2004 since they're the only ones that fit) or adjustable (Tokico D-Spec) strut that can match the increased spring rate with a higher damping rate. You need enough damping to properly control the chassis. Being too low, the ride quality will suffer. You may be able to live with it, but the ride could be significantly better.
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