CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Aftermarket chassis reinforcement/stiffening braces and bars, worthwhile or useless?

Ultra Racing (here: http://www.ultraracing.com.my/ ) makes a bunch of products that supposedly stiffens (reduces flex) the chassis. They sell various chassis braces and strut bars and sway bars that bolts onto various parts of the car’s chassis.

My understanding is that a stiff chassis a good thing, for good handling and for comfort–you want the tires and suspension to absorb the punishment of the road not the chassis. I want to be convinced by their claims but I’m also a bit skeptical.

What do you think about these types of products? Mostly a waste of money? Can you actually stiffen the chassis with something you bolt-on?

PS: This is what they offer for my car: http://www.ultraracing.com.my/Catalog.asp?Brand=Toyota&Model=Altis%20(2002)&page=1

All modern cars are designed with “crumple zones” that cause the chassis and body to collapse at a controlled rate, and they also have sensors to detect the force of impact, in order to determine when to deploy the airbags, and when to activate other safety systems on the car.

Because of these designed-in features, I would personally be VERY hesitant to add parts that would likely change the controlled rate of collapse of the chassis and body. While stiffening the chassis would be beneficial in a racing situation, I believe that it would likely interfere with manufacturer’s original safety design of the vehicle.

As to putting the car in a racing environment, my understanding is that your Toyota Altis is essentially the same as a Toyota Corolla in the US. I don’t know about your part of the world, but in the US, people do not normally attempt to race Corollas, as they would be beaten by almost everything else on the road.

If you are planning to use this car strictly as a race car (with engine modifications, of course), then you might want to consider stiffening the chassis.
If you are planning on driving this car on public roads most of the time, I would suggest that you forget this scheme–especially if the car is already 10 years old.

The only mods I would consider from them would be anti-roll bars (matched front and rear, usually combined with better tires, struts, and shocks), and a bar attached to the top of the two front strut towers to stiffen up the front structure.

Every pound of added weight reduces your fuel mileage and acceleration and braking performance…

I get it, it’s not a good idea.

:slight_smile:

The only way you would need any of this is: Racing with a lot of HP. Tying the sub frame together is done to keep the body from twisting. If you are looking for better handing bigger sway bars will help.
I have installed sub frame connecters on Mustangs with over 400 HP. If they hook up hard they will sill twist. You have a FWD car. Are you going mod the engine for more HP? Are you going racing? If the answer is no For get it and save your money. Now if you want it handle better add the sway bars and better shocks.

Yeah, thanks, getting all these chassis braceese would cost well over 1000 dollars and add 100 lbs of steel to the car, all without real benefits for my style of driving which is street-driving (sometimes in Manhattan.)

A set of high quality struts/shocks will make the biggest improvement for the money…

Front and rear sway bars and that front strut tower brace, along with some good quality struts, will help with the car’s stock arrangement, and modification of the stock powertrain. As for the rest of that crap, it will come in handy and make a difference when you convert it to RWD and install a good old American V8 under the hood, when the whole chassis has to absorb torque from the engine. As for the stock four banger, you might ask, “Torque? What’s that?”

Ya, I’m seriously considering the TRD strut tower brace and thicker rear sway bars.

How does one select a quality strut/shock btw? Is KYB GR-2 a good product? Tirerack has Bilsteins and Koni’s, are those appropriate?

KYB’s GR-2, based on my very brief research, seems to be comparable to a Monroe Sensa-Trac, which is itself a good product. I don’t have much experience with KYB other than knowing they supply a lot of the automakers with their OEM shocks and struts, so they will probably be the same or similar to original equipment. Bilstein makes a very good product, but tends to be pricey compared to OE and may have something to offer that is more performance oriented if that is what you want. Koni is strictly sport/racing parts and very expensive. Probably not worth the price unless you just want to brag to your friends about your Koni struts. Not sure what you have in mind for this car, but if it were my daily driver, I would go with either the KYB GR-2’s or Monroe Sensa-Trac. I have installed a lot of the latter and really like the way they ride and handle.

I really don’t think a Toyota Corolla (Altis) would be a good canidate for this kind of modification. It’s an economy car, not a track monster, If you had something like a dedicated weekend track car like an S2000, or a 370z, or an M3, or even a Miata then yeah it would make sense. But for a daily driver, the benefits of these kinds of modifcations are largely wasted.

A KYB GR-2 is a great replacement strut if you current struts are worn out, it is not an upgrade from OEM. If you are looking for a performance upgrade, KYB makes struts for that purpose, but the GR-2 isn’t it, but it is an excellent replacement strut if you just need new struts.

Body/frame flexing can work to your advantage. If you ever watch a semi accelerate quickly with a loaded trailer, you will see the cab rock back and forth as the frame flexes. If you’re asking how this applies to cars, allowing the frame to flex keeps things from breaking.

Like others have said, making things more rigid is good for racing, and a lot of people make the assumption that what is good for the race track is good for the road. If you live in the north or elsewhere where there are a lot of potholes, stiffening things up will make you feel every bump.

One application these items would be good for is if you are making a car a convertible. The roof of a car provides a lot of structural support, and removing the roof could make products like these necessary.

Mark, KYB is a good product. They’re an OEM supplier to Toyota.

I put an upgraded TRD rear sway bar on my Scion tC, and I’d do it again…only earlier. It’s designed for the rear only, is some 45% stiffer in the “road” setting, and really did make a difference. It noticable improved roll, understeer, and highway stability without affecting ride quality. I haven’t even bothered to change it to “track” setting.

One can buy front & rear sets, however on my car the front bar requires a lift to change. The engine cradle needs to be removed to access the swaybar mounts, and that’s a ton of work.

Strut tower braces might make a difference, I admit to being curious and might try one, but I’m guessing that the difference would be minimal at best.

I don’t see how the other pieces in the illustration could help. The money would be better spent elsewhere, like springs, struts, shocks, and tires.

A strut brace can help a little, IF it’s connecting true ‘strut’ towers, ones that bear sideways loads during cornering. I’ve seen some sold for, say, the rear towers of a GTI, which are SHOCK towers, with no lateral loads going on. VERY minor improvement in body stiffness is all that’ll do.