Suspension tuning, an art and/or a science, or "not that big of a deal?"

according to this article, the secret to the Mazda2 is some type of suspension tuning involving the spring rates and damper settings.

Here’s the quote: “The way they do it is with suspension and tire tuning, through conscious choices made with regard to spring rates, damper settings, bushing hardness and the internal construction of the tires that support it all.”

SO my car is a 2007 Corolla and the suspension setup is almost exactly like the Mazda2, and I’ve been thinking about lowering it about an inch with TRD Springs and maybe a TRD Swaybar and/or a TRD front-tower strut-brace.

Is suspension tuning quite intricate and best left to engineers, or do you think I can get Mazda results by lowering the car?

What is to be gained? At what price? And often, modifying one component results in the need to modify another, and another, and another.

You won’t get Mazda 2 results, it’s a lighter, smaller car. But I’ve read several reports on how the TRD suspension pieces improve the handling of Toyotas, with good results on a Scion xB and a Yaris.

If you’re willing to sacrifice some ride, I’d go with a performance wheel/tire setup (mimum 50 series), TRD shocks/struts, swaybar, and TRD springs. The strut brace would help a little.

What’s to be gained?
-I hope to improve the handling of the Corolla (it’s dreadfully dull)
-TRD parts can be had for about 250 dollars each piece

You’re right, I’m worried about messing up the suspension geometry… It’s possible I can make things WORSE. Likely, even. After all, those engineers know what they’re doing right?

On, other hand, TRD offers these aftermarket suspension parts…which at least seems like a tacit approval from Toyota herself.

What to do, what to do…

The TRD parts are factory-backed, I wouldn’t worry at all about messing up the geometry, assuming you get it aligned (4 wheel) after they’re on.

But you can’t turn a Corolla into a BMW 3-car…$750 is a lot to spend for a set of springs and 2 braces…Performance struts and tires will deliver the most improvement with the least cost…If you want a performance car, I would start saving up for one and get the whole package…

That quote sounds like the marketing department and I’m sure the people at Mazda and Toyota say the same thing when producing and offering the stock setups on those cars.

My feeling is that you may notice a slight difference at first, with hard driving, but after a few weeks you may wonder why you even bothered.

A Mazda 2 is simply a totally different car than a Corolla. If your quote is about how Mazda “tuned” the cars suspension then; yes it is an integrated approach with CAD/CAM computer modelling and actual track testing to confirm they get the characteristics they want.

You can likely improve the Corolla’s handling quite a bit with aftermarket parts. Is in an integrated approach, no. But a typical Corolla is set up soft and you should be able to significantly improve the handling. If you are into racing you can buy struts that you can adjust and fine turn the suspension using lap times to determine if you are in fact improving the handling enough to impact the car’s performance.

I don’t think you can make a stock Corolla handle worse. You might not care for the harsh ride and/or jolts when you hit bumps and expansion strips when you are done but it will go through corners faster if that’s what you want.

Handling is both an art and a science. Making the car turn the way it does is a science, but how the car feels while doing it is an art. You can lower it and stiff up the suspension all you want, but it is still going to drive like soft car.

You can’t do anything about the steering ratio, power steering pump, the amount of friction in the rack itself, even the density of the foam on the steering wheel itself. Sports car enthusiast wants rock stiff brake pedal and Toyotas generally have brake pedals that feel like a loaf of bread.

How it feels in the palm of your hands and ball of your foot is just a part of it. You can’t change the car’s center of gravity (the car’s ability to grip the road) and its moment of inertia (the car’s ability to turn).

To get a Mazda 2 handling, it is a whole lot easier just to trade in a Rolla for a 2. The Corolla is made to be dull.

Toyota and Honda killed off all their fun cars(MR2, S2000, NSX, Celica, Integra, etc.)

If you lower it, look into a camber kit as well, that could throw things off in the camber area and you might not be able to change it once you lower it.

Its geometry. For the best handling, the objective is to keep the tread flat on the road at speed. When you apply lateral g’s to a tire, it wants to roll up to the outside. You want the camber to compensate for this roll. Now the camber will change as you turn the wheel due to the caster. The camber will also change as the body rolls. The body roll is controlled by the spring rate and sway bar rate.

By now you should be able to see that a lot of engineering goes into the suspension. If you upgrade with a designed package, like the TRD packages, they should be engineered to do what you want. Just make sure that it is what you want and you go with the whole package. Using only one part usually leads to worse handling.

for example, if you increase the roll stiffness only, the camber may no change enough in a hard corner to offset the tire’s tread rolling up on the inside of the wheel. so you end up with less tread on the road. But it might feel better because the vehicle isn’t rolling as much in a turn.

Suspension can be as complex a subject as you wish to make it. The science involves camber, caster, toe in, ackerman angles, spring rates, damping rates, types of suspension, and loads else. Great for the engineers, but not for you. All of this is designed into your Corolla, taking into consideration the weight distribution, the center of gravity, and a ton of other factors, to achieve “economy for the young family” ride and handling.

There’s little you can really change without a fat wallet and a willingness to make tradeoffs in the ride and/or underbody clearance. But there is one thing: the TRD rear antisway bar. That reduces body roll and understeer without noticable adverse affect on the ride. It keeps the body more level when you turn, keeping the tires more level to and in contact with the pavement. It reduces the rolling affect that Keith described. It also makes the car a bit more stable (against crosswinds).

However, as everyone else has said, it’ll never be a BMW, just a more stable and slightly better handling Corolla. You need to be realistic in your goals. If this is what you desire, I’d recommend the sway bar. If you expect it’ll make it into a street racer, you’ll be disappointed. In that case I’d recommend trading it for what you really want.

Thanks to you all (and I mean: ALL) for the advice, it was an education for me and very helpful.

I’m gon’ go ahead and take the plunge and hope for the best.

I’ll start with the TRD rear anti-sway bar, if I like the results, I’ll keep it and then probably add the strut-tower brace (though, I hear it makes no difference.) Finally, feeling confident, I’ll tackle the lower springs which lowers the car 1.25 inch.

I’ll revive this thread to report results.

PS: To address the suggestion that I oughta trade the Corolla for a Mazda2/3. Normally, this is what I would do except that my Corolla has been in an accident and is missing the bumper and there is some body deformation in the rear only. The car runs perfect and no electrical or suspension part was affected but the value of car has surely plummeted and is worth far more to ME than to anyone else.

PPS: Strangely, and fortunately, the Corolla has an ugly bumper (it sticks out and makes it look bloated), and I’m left with just reinforcement steel bar in the back, and this gives the car a preferable square and muscular look which suits me just fine.

well then, that changes everything now. Probably shoulda mentioned that in the first post.

How bad was the accident? Did it need to go to a frame straightener?