Tire Tracks

Can you have it all?

We have come a long way with suspension since the days of this 1899 Ford.

We have come a long way with suspension since the days of this 1899 Ford.

 

I am speaking to all of you out there that are faced with the age old question of whether to use OEM replacement suspension pieces or upgrade to more exotic performance alternatives.

Sometimes the original replacement parts no longer exist and you have to upgrade to new technologies. For example, in my home I prefer electric lights to whale oil lamps. I know that is kind of a ridiculous example, yet it does make a valid point. As hard as you try to keep the flames of tradition lit it is impossible to get your whale oil at your local meglamart. Though it might be interesting to see the reaction of the friendly superstore’s associate when asking for it.

In the other camp there are those that just want to upgrade decades old pieces with something cutting edge and new. I tend to fall in the latter camp when it comes to replacing the worn out originals. I even find myself doing this on my daily driver as well. My father instilled in me the mantra of, “overbuild it or don’t build it at all.” Granted, he worked his whole life in maintenance in a paper mill that required machinery to take absurd amounts of abuse, but I believe there is some truth to his sage advice. When was the last time you wished you had gone cheaper or weaker?

Let’s assume that we are buying newer replacement parts. There are so many choices that it takes an engineering degree to figure out which pieces fit the bill. For instance, a seemingly simple piece like a body mount. In the past they were made out of rubber. The rubber did its job and kept us chugging down the road without a worry. They were an afterthought until they crumbled to dust and your car’s body started to take on a mind of its own. What was once smooth sailing turns into floating front ends and a harsh, non-responsive ride. When it comes time to replace them we are confronted with a myriad of materials. They still make rubber mounts for most vehicles, but what about polyurethane, Delerin, Aluminum, steel, or whatever polymer the mad scientists come up with in the lab?

Each material has its own properties that translate into different ride qualities. Do I want to feel every inch of pavement while speeding into corners while driving a vintage Cadillac the size of Kentucky? Personally I wouldn’t, but I am sure there is someone who does. On the flip side there are those whose builds call for rigidity and responsiveness. It all comes down to what you are looking for. The days of one size fits all are over. We have to do our homework.

The scope of choices is endless for shocks, struts, air bags, motor mounts, coil and leaf springs, steering boxes, rack in pinions, wheels, tires, brake rotors, calipers, and the ever growing list of parts the aftermarket supports. I am grateful we live in a time where we are free to choose. I love the individuality this affords us as car enthusiasts.

Our cars were made to drive! The availability of upgraded parts opens the world to those of us who love our cars, but want to add to their performance potential. This might mean changing the whole demeanor of your car. That is perfectly fine! The parts are available for you to support the added strain placed on your car’s components from the increased power and handling capabilities. Building a strong engine is great, but your car will only be as strong as its weakest link. The power levels that are hitting the streets today were unheard of in the recent past. In a large part the newer suspension technology facilitated the recent explosion in power and performance. A 10-second “street” car was a pretty hairy ride in the past. Now they come from the factory that way. The customer has the option to experience a posh, cushy ride or an all out assault on the senses with a push of a button. I doubt these cars are riding on your grandpa’s suspension parts.

Even if you don’t want to change a thing about your car you can still benefit from the newer technology. The end goal is to keep our vehicles on the road as long as possible. With all the choices in new materials and manufacturing processes it is in our best interest to look into upgrading from the traditional parts we have been accustomed to buying. It takes a bit more effort, but in the long run it is worth the satisfaction of knowing that you will be improving your ride and keeping it rolling for years to come. So to answer my question -YES, you can truly have it all!

Keep wrenching!

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