Benefits of Coilovers for the Street & the Track

For decades BMW has utilized a McPherson Strut style front suspension on some of its most popular cars, including the legendary 3 Series. This design utilizes a single lower control arm that is attached to the body by a strut assembly that includes a telescoping shock absorber which is dampened by a spring. The rear suspension on some generations like the e30, e36 & E46 feature a trailing arm-style multi-link setup that also features a shock absorber and spring, but they are not part of a single assembly. The whole point of this style of suspension is to keep the car from bottoming out while under a load, but not to be so stiff that the ride is unbearable. This suspension setup has allowed BMWs to be some of the most comfortable cars on the road, while also making them well-handling and responsive cars when driven hard and pushed to the limit on the track.  

While factory BMW suspension components are adequate for the street, upgrades are suggested for cars that plan on seeing any type of spiritedstreet driving and are a must-have for any car that will spend time on a race track.

What are Coilovers?

A coil-over shock absorber, or “coilover,” for short, is a term that can technically be used to describe any strut assembly that utilizes a coil spring mounted over and attached to a shock absorber. But in modern-day car lingo, “coilover” has come to describe a strut assembly that is adjustable without the need to remove it from the vehicle. These adjustable coilovers are made up of a spring mounted over a shock, but they also include threaded components used to secure the spring to the assembly and allow for ride height adjustment. The front and rear coilovers are physically different, but both can beadjustable.

Front vs. Rear Coilovers

Both front and rear coilovers have springs that are adjustable to raise and lower the ride height of the car, and both ends shocks, also called dampers that offer an adjustment for stiffness (compression and rebound). Front coilovers are a direct replacement for a BMW’s stock front strut assemblies. The front wheels are the ones that turn and allow the vehicle to change direction, and many front suspension components have to deal with up and down, and side to side movements. Just like a stock BMW front strut assembly, a front coilover utilizes an upper mounting plate that attaches to the body of the car. This plate attaches directly to the top of the shock absorber, but unlike a stock strut assembly, the mounting plate on some coilover kits allows for adjustment front to back (this is called caster) and side to side (this is called camber). A front oilover also has to pivot and turn from side to side while its body mounting plate stays stationary, to allow the car to turn left and right.

On most BMWs the rear coilovers do not have the spring mounted over the shock, like the fronts. They mount to the suspension components separately. A rear damper is a direct replacement for the rear shock and does not have to pivot side to side because the rear wheels aren’t turning left and right. Rear dampers also do not attach directly to the wheel hub assembly like a front coilover, but instead attach to the body of the car at the top and attach to the trailing arm at the bottom. The front and rear coilovers are always replaced at the same time because if one end of the car is modified, the other end will also need to be adjusted accordingly. 

Benefits of Coilover Suspension for BMW Street Cars

The stock suspension installed on BMWs at the factory allows for the maximum amount of comfort while still allowing for responsive handling. But many enthusiasts choose to swap out their stock components for adjustable coilovers for one big reason, adjustability. Most coilover kits will enable you to easily raise and lower your car's ride height and adjust the dampers for a firm yet comfortable ride. 

The cheapest way to lower a car's suspension is to remove the springs, cut them (or expose them to extreme heat), and reinstall the modified springs. While we definitely don’t condone this, it works, but the end result often ends up being a car that is not completely level side to side and has a terrible ride quality. The correct way to affordably lower a car is to replace the stock springs with lowering springs, but you may not get the ride height drop you're looking for, and you will most likely need to replace the shocks while everything is apart. With coilovers however, ride height adjustments can be made without removing any suspension components from the car, and firmness can be adjusted without having to replace shock absorbers.

Benefits of Coilover Suspension for BMW Track use and Racing

 

Upgrading a BMW for track use  always requires making modifications to the suspension. The two most important modifications are replacing all rubber bushings and mounts with solid ones and replacing stock struts and shock absorbers with adjustable coilovers.  

Coilovers allow you to raise and lower your car’s ride height, adjust rebound and compression of the dampers, and the top mounting plates allow for adjustments to be made that will affect the camber and caster. All of these adjustments can be made using simple tools in your shop or garage or in the paddock of your favorite racetrack without much hassle. Coilovers allow you toreally dial in the suspension setup that works best for you. Top-quality coilovers are made out of robust components that can handle hard driving and any track conditions you might face.   

The Best Coilovers for BMW Racing

One of the most popular BMWs to drive, whether at your local autocross or a twice around-the-clock endurance race, is the BMW 3 Series. When it comes to installing suspension components, you will always want to go with the best parts available.  Safety should always come first and using cheap components from the fringes of the internet can be a recipe for disaster. Coilovers for most 3 Series models can be found in our online store in multiple versions and variations depending on if you only want to lower your street car, or you’re planning on dialing in your racecar to gain that extra tenth of a second.  

1. E30 Coilovers

The E30 is BMW’s second-generation 3 Series and was produced from 1982 to 1994. E30s have been popular cars to modify since they arrived on the scene, and they have been developed to race ever since. The KW E30 coilover kit is available in multiple versions from street to tack and can be found here at 

2. E36 Coilovers

The E36 3 Series was produced from 1990 to 2000 and has been successful on track at every level possible. The KW E36 coilover kit is also available in multiple versions from street to track, and these fully adjustable coilovers can be found here at 

3. E46 Coilovers

The E46 is BMW’s fourth-generation 3 Series, was produced from 1997 to 2006, and is ranked as one of the most popular BMWs of all time.  Many of these cars have hit the bottom of the depreciation curve and are transitioning from street cars to track day specials and all-out racers.  With the popularity of modifying these cars increasing, it’s no surprise that there are multiple top-notch brands producing coilover kits available for this model.  KW offers coilover kits in multiple versions for the E46 and Öhlins offers fully adjustable coilovers that can both be found in our online store. 

4. E90/E91/E92 Coilovers

The E90/E91/E92 3 Series, collectively known as the E9x platform, is BMW’s fifth-generation 3 Series, and was produced from 2004 until 2013. The E9x platform carried on BMW’s tradition as the Ultimate Driving Machine and was a popular model to upgrade and race from day one.  Multiple manufacturers also produce coilover kits for the E9x, including KW who makes versions for track and street that can be found in our online store, along with Öhlins who produces high quality coilover kits

Upgrade, Adjust, and Go!

Coilovers provide a way for you to get the most out of your BMW road and race cars. By giving you the availability to adjust your ride height, stiffness, and overall handling quickly and easily, you will be able to really dial in your car's suspension. These are parts that can be installed by any knowledgeable BMW enthusiast or by your favorite independent BMW repair shop. Just be sure to use the best parts out there, which are available from Condor Speed Shop at the click of a button, upgrade your BMW from stock suspension to a coilover suspension, make the adjustments best suited to your driving style, and hit the track! 

February 16, 2022 by The Condor

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