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Old 03-21-2009, 11:31 PM   #1
WheelNut
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Default Improving steering feel?

I've had my WRX now for about 2 and a half years and it is starting to annoy me now. There are so many rattles and the steering feels like it is built exclusively from the finest of rubber. Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but there is a good deal of wheel wiggle off centre where the steering wheel like it is just pushing on marshmallows and then as you increase steering lock the feedback through the wheel get a little bit better, but it is never a precise or accurate feeling. The secondary problem of the rattles would be a lot less relevant if I can get the fun back into driving the car.

Right now my car is pretty much stock except for a few things: Prodrive springs, fresh KYB GR-2 struts and 17" wheels w/Kumho ecsta SPT tires.

So, what is the best way to improve the steering feel of the WRX?

1. The obvious first move: Poly Steering rack bushings. How much of a difference do these really make? They are so thin I can't imagine they have to much flex, but maybe they really do.
2. Re-inforcing the rest of the front end: Poly bushings in the lower control arms. These should increase the precision of the front suspension, but will I be able to feel the road better through the wheel?
3. Re-inforcing the front more still: Group N top hats or Camber plates. These should reduce flex and increase steering feel, but once again, by how much?
4. The last resort: The Q-rack. At $1200 it is expensive, but it is theoretically the ultimate steering upgrade. It uses aluminum steering rack mounts so there won't be any flex at all. Will this transmit excessive vibration through the wheel and is it worth the money? Anybody have one of these in their daily driver? How is it?
5. Nearly forgot about this one: Anti-lift kit. Is supposed to increase turn in and give more traction at the front. Has always seemed overpriced to me since the parts are so small. Is it worth it? Even if it increases grip will it give a better feel of connection through the wheel?

I really want to get the fun back in my Impreza and I think improving my most vital link to the road would be the way to do it, but can it really be done? Can the Impreza have go-kart direct steering? The mushy-ness of the stock setup is driving me crazy!
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Old 03-21-2009, 11:52 PM   #2
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Start with the Whiteline steering rack bushings. That'll get you 50% there. The other 50% comes from the suspension bushing, ala ALK or similar.

You'll gain a very direct feel with the road and a very precise front end. Be prepared to actually steer the car. If you ever had the opportunity to run your car through a slalom of cones just prior too and just after the upgrades, it's a hilarious experience. It shows how insanely mushy the stock rubber bits are on these cars and how very isolated and delayed you are driving these vehicles. I go as far to say the best, first $1k you can spend on a Subaru is a full slew of Group N, Whiteline, and Kartboy rubber throughout the entire car, every piece. You essentially create a whole new vehicle, a soccer mom grocery getter to immersive precision tool.
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Old 03-22-2009, 12:54 AM   #3
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Ya, best handling and feel mods, in my opinion, are the ones you listed. Q-rack excluded, cause I do not have one...yet

Throw in some 22-24mm sway bars, and some slightly heavier springs with the group-N tops.

Also, a popular camber setup is max negative camber up front, which will be around -1.5 to -2.0 on the WRX, and around .5 less negative camber in the rear. You may need some camber bolts for the rear to bring the negative camber below -2.0, as the rear is not adjustable.

If you want an anti-lift kit, replace the lower control arm bushings with the ALK. Then again, you might as well replace the front A-arm bushings while you are at it. Remember, the ALK increases positive caster, so it does more than add a stiffer bushing. There are cheaper options if bushing replacement is all you want.

I also recommend giving the rear some attention if you can. It REALLY adds to the feel of the car. Rear diff support bushings, outrigger bushings, and some trailing link bushings, and lateral link bushings can are an awesome set of mods.
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Old 03-22-2009, 01:19 AM   #4
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What are your alignment settings? If you don't know, then that is absolutely step #1 (unless you decide to do some things that will require a re-alignment like ALK)

Steering rack bushings may take some of the slop out, they aren't a night/day kind of mod, just a nice to have. The stock sway bars are ok-ish, but nothing grand. The prodrives are a great street spring and should give you nice direct feeling if you have a good alignment.
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Old 03-22-2009, 08:20 AM   #5
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I have a JDM V7 STi Type RA Spec C, with the 13:1 steering rack. It certainly helps turn in, but steering feedback still isn't anything to write home about - when the front end lets go, you don't get any feel of the steering wheel giving in your hands. I just fitted poly steering bushes, it has made a small difference in off centre responsiveness, which I guess represents bang for buck given how cheap the bushings were.
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Old 03-22-2009, 08:45 AM   #6
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Usually, the older your car is the more the steering rack bushings have a chance of making a difference.

I am sure that you have read the threads about them, some people swear by them, and some feel like they wasted their money.

I for one swear by them, they greatly improved the mushy steering in my 02. I did them before I upgraded any of the other suspension and steering components so I had good comparison to what they felt like compared to stock. It all depends on how worn out the stock rubber bushings that are on your car now are. If they are very worn out and soft, then you will notice a greater improvement in the feel of the steering.

With the exception of the front control arm bushings I have upgraded all of my steering, suspension, and driveline bushings in the front and rear. The ones that made the most noteable difference in steering feel to me were 1. Steering rack bushings. 2. ALK 3. Rear trailing arm bushings. All the others helped too, but those are the most bang for the buck IMO.

Another very important factor is the tires on your car.

Sway bars too, but I would do bushings before sway bars.

Last edited by Slowsoul; 03-22-2009 at 08:50 AM.
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Old 03-22-2009, 09:28 AM   #7
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Lots of negative camber/positive caster will definitely affect steering feel. Every year I go from my winter setup (OEM alignment specs) to my autocross setup (-3 or more, and this year +5) and the difference in steering "weight" is substantial. A lot of the European cars have a lot of stock caster (my E36 has something like +7) and you often hear people raving about their steering feel.
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Old 03-22-2009, 02:36 PM   #8
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Default look boss! the Rack! The Rack!!

Hi Wheelnut. I'd say get the Quick-rack ( it's not the theoretically ultimate steering upgrade, it's the ULTIMATE steering upgrade, imo) and the Whiteline rack bushings. I have both and they are the best combo of steering mods, imho. I have the 11.5:1 rack. It's quick and direct. I never installed the aluminum steering brackets (so they are for sale ). Like you I have the 02 REX. One day I test-drove an EVO8, and knew I was robbed when it came to Subaru's 16:1 steering. Now I'm at two turns lock2lock. Have been for several years now. I just like the feel of really responsive steering. I'm not discounting what others are saying here. But the only other mods to my suspension are the f/r Cusco bars, and 225.50/16 tires. That's good for my urban (aggressive) driving style, and vey good for back roads. I hope you have a chance to experience the rack. You'll see what I mean.
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Old 03-22-2009, 06:05 PM   #9
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Ok, thanks for the input guys. I'm definately going to get some Group N top hats and put the poly bushings into the front lower control arms. I will probably pick up some Whiteline poly bushings for the steering rack and see how they feel. If the bushings don't do it I'll have to evaluate the pros and cons of the Q-rack to see if it is worth the money.
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Old 03-22-2009, 06:54 PM   #10
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I suppose I should ask how you use your car. Other than cost, there is no downside to a Quick rack. It won't use any more (premium) gas than stock, won't throw a CE light (afaik), wont adversely effect the ride quality, won't stand out in a crowd (the perfect Stealth mod). But it will supply you with endless grins (as it has me in all my driving regimes, so I wish this for you). The Q-Rack might even be the one mod that makes you contemplate keeping the car longer than you thought you might. I brought my car home on May 15, 2001. Like Ahab after the whale, I just can't seem to give it up!
But either way you go, I hope you reach your intended goal.
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Old 03-22-2009, 07:58 PM   #11
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Darryl- I use the car as a daily driver, fun car, and drive 450km once a year to goto an autocross of HPDE, so mostly probably the same kind of driving that you do. As the kind of person who loves cars though, I really like to have something that can deliver the goods even if it is just for one corner on the way to work or school. If I wasn't in college right now I would probably already have a Q-rack, but since I have very limited funds it is a tough part to justify. I really like the way it sounds though, and since it would improve driving at pretty much all times it makes it that much more appealing. It is really good to hear driving experiences from someone who actually owns one.
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Old 03-22-2009, 09:31 PM   #12
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Wheelnut,
May I suggest an interim move of installing poly rack bushings? Whiteline seem to firm things up nicely. A set will remove quite a bit of that soft, rubbery feel, and not set you back too much cash. Then perhaps you can save for an eventual rack (provided you still own the car). I know I sound like a Quick-Rack fanboy. I guess I am. At one time my car was outfitted with the APS/Cobb Club Spec upgrade, and making nice power. Then I went to the Cobb AP for a more elegant power solution. But now I've reverted my car to stock power levels ( but I did keep the intercooler hoses from the APS system). With those power mods I could not use them all the time, as that would have been impractical (and illegal sometimes). One thing about the rack is that I get to use it every time I drive the car. It's an unavoidable pleasure. The hands carve out precise placements, and the car follows immediately. Very easy to get accustomed to. Makes one wonder why Subaru didn't do this to start off. In snow it's simple to catch and correct a slide with precise steering. You learn to limit your imputs, and that always seems to limit the drama. Of course good tires and those Cusco bars help. I'm running Bridgestone RE-950 all season tires. They have a really good stiff sidewall, a feature which is part of good steering response too. Even with the slightly wider 225/50-16s the steering effort is comfortable. Aside from those features, these tires are great in the wet, the slightly wider size aids in braking, and dry performance is well within my power to use them.
To sum it up, I just feel the quick rack is the best mod I could make to a daily driver to make it a better driving experience.
Well, after this lengthy reply, i'm gonna go suck on an oxygen bottle!
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Old 03-22-2009, 10:40 PM   #13
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A good alignment set up is critical for steering feel.
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Old 03-23-2009, 12:40 AM   #14
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Design the handling towards neutral, and you won't need to do much steering. ...just saying.

You can set the car up to require very little steering input. The bushings will take out a TON of slop. Doing this will decrease the amount of steering input you currently use quite a bit. Day and night is an understatement, seriously. It's tough to show the difference in writing. You'd essentially have to have two identical cars on a course, one with and one without the bushings and you'd drive both and see. It's tough to comprehend the difference otherwise.

Alignment, spring, sways, and damper settings will balance the car. Once you get the car neutral, you pretty much don't steer more then a quarter of a turn one way or the other if you're decent with weight shifting and managing traction. These cars get fun once you get them to start floating around corners.

A quick rack will be important if you run courses that have a lot of tight, slow speed turns. For normal driving, there's no real point. I don't know. I grew up driving cars without power steering. I used to practice drifting in a p.o.s. pickup rust bucket with 8 turns lock to lock. The couple of turns these cars have is nothing in comparison, and the awd platform really negates much of the need to steer. Neutral out the handling, and you point straight or near straight all the time.

Like Buttdyno says, look into the caster/camber settings. Linky too:
http://www.iwsti.com/forums/gd-suspe...-analysis.html
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Old 03-23-2009, 03:06 AM   #15
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Thanks for the link Back Road Runner. Tons of good insight into suspension geometry tuning in there.

Now I'm compiling my list of parts and settings for this summer. Can't wait to see how it turns out.
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Old 03-23-2009, 07:37 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ButtDyno View Post
Every year I go from my winter setup (OEM alignment specs) to my autocross setup (-3 or more, and this year +5) and the difference in steering "weight" is substantial.
A grippy summer tire can really effect the steering weight as well. When I went from RE92's to RE070... whoa. Talk about night and day... and it was obvious just backing out of the garage.
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Old 03-23-2009, 08:15 AM   #17
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Bushings and alignment in the meantime and Q-Rack for long term solution. It also adds some weight to the feel.
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Old 03-23-2009, 08:16 AM   #18
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I am fairly new to the WRX world, but I have been around cars for years ( on top of 5 years of racing). For the money, an Anti-Lift Kit will do wonders. I put a whiteline ALK on when I installed my M1 subframe, and the difference is phenomenal! I have been so used to sharp turn-in on my other AWD cars, and my WRX wagon was lacking this in a major way. Just in doing the ALK, turn-in and steering response is greatly improved.

If you wanted to go more advanced, you could look at a castor kit. A small change in castor will equal a large change in steering response and feel. (This is why the ALK is such a huge difference.)

However, if you are just looking for steering smoothness than steering rack bushings and even tires will change that.
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Old 03-23-2009, 08:32 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Back Road Runner View Post
Design the handling towards neutral, and you won't need to do much steering. ...just saying.

You can set the car up to require very little steering input. The bushings will take out a TON of slop. Doing this will decrease the amount of steering input you currently use quite a bit. Day and night is an understatement, seriously. It's tough to show the difference in writing. You'd essentially have to have two identical cars on a course, one with and one without the bushings and you'd drive both and see. It's tough to comprehend the difference otherwise.

Alignment, spring, sways, and damper settings will balance the car. Once you get the car neutral, you pretty much don't steer more then a quarter of a turn one way or the other if you're decent with weight shifting and managing traction. These cars get fun once you get them to start floating around corners.

A quick rack will be important if you run courses that have a lot of tight, slow speed turns. For normal driving, there's no real point. I don't know. I grew up driving cars without power steering. I used to practice drifting in a p.o.s. pickup rust bucket with 8 turns lock to lock. The couple of turns these cars have is nothing in comparison, and the awd platform really negates much of the need to steer. Neutral out the handling, and you point straight or near straight all the time.

Like Buttdyno says, look into the caster/camber settings. Linky too:
http://www.iwsti.com/forums/gd-suspe...-analysis.html
Hi Back Road Runner,
Are you saying that all the things you suggest doing to the suspension are more to the point of "normal driving"? Is a neutral setup more to the point for normal driving? Or is it better suited for those slow tight turns you speak of. I'm just saying. I respect your opinion. I can only say what is my driving experience is like with the poly rack bushings, the f/r Cusco bars,and an 11.5:1 steering rack. I'd have to drive a car optimized as you speak of to know a difference between the two approaches. I'm very pleased with my meager setup. It feels good in daily driving. Spirited driving in twisties, curvey entrance and exit ramps makes me appreciate my setup too. I concede that I can gain more still from replacing the softer stock bushings, and springs, but then again it's a daily driver. It's enough for me atm.
darryl

Last edited by Darryl; 03-23-2009 at 08:39 AM.
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Old 03-23-2009, 12:54 PM   #20
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What is needed/desired for daily use is debatable. One thing I will point out for standard daily driving is road feel, grip, and wind. On the stock parts you are very isolated from the road. You can't feel the tires, the grip they have, or if they are slipping or not. On windy days you get tossed around and you notice that your car is drifting not by feel but by sight, a delayed perception to what's actually going on. In slippery or icy conditions you lack adequate feel to know what the tires are doing. Sliding is usually a visual perception rather then a perception from feel. The car tells you nothing and everything you do notice is after the fact. Your reactions to what you see are also into back into the car in a delayed fashion, forcing you to over compensate to make up for lost time.

I am simply bringing up more because people don't ask these questions when they are casual drivers. People ask these questions because they drive their car aggressively and are driving enthusiasts who would prefer a more precision instrument then what is stock.

I personally like neutrality and balance because it requires less work to drive the car. You're not fighting understeer/oversteer, or over compensating for an unbalanced system. Driving just becomes easier. An example beyond normal, I do some "ice racing" (more of a get together, get drunk and play on the lake ). A local Subaru guy owns some cabins and he hosts a couple events a year. He plows out a mile long course on the lake and we do timing to see who can go the fastest. Anywho, with a balanced setup, I can drive around the course without ever turning the wheel more then 1/8 of a turn either way. Braking and throttle inputs are also minimal to shift weight around and manipulate traction. Neutrality for me means not needing a wild inputs to make things work. Upgraded bushings/mounts means you can feel everything. It allows you to sense and react to small changes much easier because (a) you can actually feel them and (b) inputs are applied much mroe instantly. It makes driving easier, easier for sport and easier for daily use. Safety is improved as well because you actually know what's going on, can feel the grip levels of the tires, and can actually feel and react to changes immediately.

Car setup is largely a personal preference. Driving styles will suit different setup designs. As well, things like bushings/mounts add NVH that must be tolerated by the driver. Same goes for upgraded springs and higher damper settings and lower profile, sport tires. It's all trade-offs, all personal preference. I have my own sense of "ideal" and I tend to suggest that to others. You tend to tell others what you like. That's natural. Everyone likes different things, and that's natural too. The biggest part of this whole process is to simply find your own "ideal," whatever it may be.
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Old 03-23-2009, 02:17 PM   #21
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"One thing I will point out for standard daily driving is road feel, grip, and wind. On the stock parts you are very isolated from the road. You can't feel the tires, the grip they have, or if they are slipping or not. On windy days you get tossed around and you notice that your car is drifting not by feel but by sight, a delayed perception to what's actually going on."
BRR, I haven't found any of this to be true in my experience.

"In slippery or icy conditions you lack adequate feel to know what the tires are doing. Sliding is usually a visual perception rather then a perception from feel. The car tells you nothing and everything you do notice is after the fact. Your reactions to what you see are also into back into the car in a delayed fashion, forcing you to over compensate to make up for lost time."
Oh I don't know about that, BRR. I think my ass must be pretty well calibrated. It's telling me what my eyes have yet to see most of the time.

"I have my own sense of "ideal" and I tend to suggest that to others. You tend to tell others what you like. That's natural. Everyone likes different things, and that's natural too. The biggest part of this whole process is to simply find your own "ideal," whatever it may be."
I agree 100% Were I to engage in some of the activities you do I might consider similar upgrades. It is my considered opinion that a quick rack is not wasted on my car or my driving style. As I said, for me it's an unavoidable driving pleasure. Certainly the quick ratio of the steering lowers overall response time in reacting to most driving issues I have to deal with. Otherwise the steering feel is very nicely weighted, like Daishi00 said. This without additional NVH from firmer suspension components. As you said correctly, those things must be tolerated by the driver. I don't need to make those choices for a daily driver, even with snowy and icy roads here in (hilly) Cincinnati. What with a reduced city budget for treating the streets, thank goodness I have a quick rack! And I don't want to ask my lady tolerate a rough ride just to have a potential I'll never use as intended. I don't drive like that. Besides, the WRX is best known for it's rallying potential. That's different from having a road-racing heritage as I see it. Lotof of other cars to fill that niche. Even the STi is characterized by understeer at the limit. Is it not?
At any rate different strokes for different driving styles. As you say, find your driving ideal. I have mine, and heartily recommend it for enhancing daily driving pleasure without giving up usable comfort. I'm just saying.
darryl
ps I hope you can get a quick rack one day. With that setup of yours, you'll nearly be able to steer by throttle, brake and thought! (just kidding ya)

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Old 03-23-2009, 02:38 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darryl View Post
"One thing I will point out for standard daily driving is road feel, grip, and wind. On the stock parts you are very isolated from the road. You can't feel the tires, the grip they have, or if they are slipping or not. On windy days you get tossed around and you notice that your car is drifting not by feel but by sight, a delayed perception to what's actually going on."
BRR, I haven't found any of this to be true in my experience.
I find this to be very much true. I don't feel my car drift across the road from wind, I see it. The one time I had trailing throttle oversteer, I did not feel the slide, I only saw it, and only seeing it was scary
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Old 03-23-2009, 02:59 PM   #23
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I find this to be very much true. I don't feel my car drift across the road from wind, I see it. The one time I had trailing throttle oversteer, I did not feel the slide, I only saw it, and only seeing it was scary
IMHO, you don't "have" trailing throttle oversteer. You "cause" trailing throttle oversteer
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Old 03-23-2009, 03:40 PM   #24
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chazly,
I don't doubt what you say. I can only say that I've felt gusts hitm y car and move it about a bit. I've made small steering corrections to compensate, but again, I'm talking sudden strong (enough) gusts. Maybe my ass isn't as well calibrated as I thought? Either that or we're not thinking of road crowns and such.
Buttdyno, causing trailing throttle oversteer, eh? hmmmm... Is that why road racers say to do all your braking before your turning?
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Old 03-23-2009, 04:08 PM   #25
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Location: College Park, MD
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2005 2.5RS RBP
too many friction losses

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ButtDyno View Post
IMHO, you don't "have" trailing throttle oversteer. You "cause" trailing throttle oversteer
Yeah, I know I caused it.
chazly413 is offline   Reply With Quote
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