No more lowrider

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s difficult to find performance parts for a discontinued 10-year-old subcompact. So I’ve been making do with what I can cobble together.

Below are original struts/springs on left, new on right:

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Compressing the springs to fit them into the struts is the challenging part. They need to be squeezed with 400-500 pounds of pressure using a special tool, so it’s one aspect of car maintenance that many amateur mechanics leave to pros – it can actually be dangerous. But because the pros I talked to were either inept or disinterested it became my job. Below is the front left strut in the vice with the springs compressed. Not all that dangerous if one maintains a “healthy respect for the restrained energy” (one blogger’s words).

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The front left strut installed (note pitting in brake disk due to rust from being outside):

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After installing the front springs the car rode a full two inches higher than I had calculated for. I checked the stiffness by standing on a spring while Nick measured with a ruler how much it compressed, and the 150 lbs/in rating was accurate. So I’m not sure where the calculation fell through, but serendipitously with all four springs on they “settled in”, and the car appears to be riding just about an inch higher than stock. It’s good enough and makes for good speed bump clearance. Took it out on the freeway yesterday and got it up to 65 mph with room to spare. The KYB gas struts/shocks have a nice feel and do a good job of damping the stiffer springs, although in a perfect world would be slightly stiffer to match. The speed and pickup of the car continue to impress; the range is a mild disappointment — I can’t really count on more than 30-35 miles. I’m hoping that as the batteries are broken in the range will improve.

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