To try and stop peoples heads exploding with my mindless drivel about handling, I thought I would give a more benchmark guide for the "Wash and Go" sort of people. If you think 32psi is better than 36psi on the fronts then that's fine, I'm not going to argue, these settings are all designed to be middle of the road for Mr Average performance car driver.
This order for staged improvements is based on cost/performance and I make no effort to defend why I subjectivley think on a unknown car why you are better to do the stuts before the bushes etc. If your ball joints are worn etc then fix them first before anything else.
0. Driver (£0-£1000)
If you drive everywhere with your foot flat to the floor then a little bit of trainf through skid pans, advanced driving courses or track days (In order of cost) will go a long way. If you're feeling really flush then go on one of tthese High performance driving courses. At the very least, take your foot off the accelerator when you enter a corner :lol:
Seriously though, its often said that the best performance modification you can make to a car is the driver and even with todays traction control and ABS its still true. Off my soap box and on with the FAQ
1. Tyre Pressures (Free-£10)
So cheap, so easy and yet so often forgotten.
Front 35psi Rear 33psi
Use a decent gauge, don't rely on garage forcourt guages, ven the fancy digital ones as experience has told me there are almost always wrong and can be 2-3psi out.
Try adding or removing 2 psi at a time until you find what you like best
2. Alignment (£15-£150)
Again its often forgotten, a well aligned car will always give the driver more confidence than a poor one.
Standard cars only have toe adjustable front and rear
Toe Front 0deg to +/-0deg 6'
Toe Rear 0deg to +/-0deg 6'
If you're feeling brave, ask the mechanic to err towards the negative side of 0deg. If you would prefer a secure rather twitchy/responsive drive then ask him to err toward the positive.
3. Tyres (£200-£400)
The differnce between cheap tyres and an extra £100 on some decent ones all round can transform a car more than the other £1000 you put into the car's suspension. If you've still got your Nankangs on the car from Japan then change them pronto. If you're doing trackdays seriously then buy some legal semi slicks. If you want a good allrounder then by a known and approved brand amongst the community.
4. Struts aka shock absorbers(£300-£400)
If you've got 5 year old struts on your car then replacing them will make a healthy difference to accelerating, barking and cornering control.
Ideally get adjustable shock absorbers as it gives you the ability to find the right compromise for your driving style and weather conditions. Set adjustables between 0 and 50% of their maximum range when you first fit them, anymore normally damages the seals.
Set the balance front to back 60:40 so your front are slightly stiffer. Vary this +/- 10% to find what works for you.
5. Ride height (£150-£800)
The observant amonst you will notice I've put springs after shocks, ideally they should be done at the same time but doing springs before shocks means your worn out old shocks will have to work even harder and will actually perform even worse and I would not advise it though I know many of you who read this will do it anyway
Lower the car 20mm to an absolute maximum of 40mm. For me the sweet spot is between 25 and 35mm. Buy good quality springs for the sake of the extra £50. Progressive springs can work well on a road car but linear rate springs are more consistent though can be more jiggly around town.
The really observant amongst you might like to combine 3 and 4 with a set of coilovers. These used to be too stiff for out roads but a few brands recently have changed my opinon. Unfortunately a few other brands have confirmed what I used to beleive but at least they are so cheap you can cheaply swap the springs too.
I would not advise for a "road car" to go past 5kg/mm front and 4kg/mm rear. Tein have a good balance of 4kg/mm front and 3kg/mm rear. Other suppliers with 7kg/mm front and 5kg/mm rear are proving my point and IMO though great on smooth A-roads and tracks are too stiff for our B-roads. It depends a lot on what you intend to do with the car but for Mr Average I would advise against.
If you have gone for coilovers then get them setup properly either by following my sticky or paying someone else. Otherewise you are only getting half the benefits and wasting your money. Buy springs and shocks instead.
6. Camber Adjustment (£60 - £200)
The reason mods after this point are where thay are is I believ Mr Average would notive more of a difference with a car being stiffer than with a perfectly setup car and bang for buck would normally say do the rest first.
If you've got this far you might find your car's camber is too little or too great and some front adjustable top mounts it a good way to go with some camber bolts for the rear. Depending on if you have gone for shocks and springs in 3 and 4, you might need camber bolts front and rear instead and though not as robust do give the same result at a lower cost.
You will need to add in another aligment in the cost of this too
Camber Front -1deg road, -1.5deg fast road
Camber Rear -0.5deg road, -1 deg fast road
I've found as the camber gets closer together the car tends to understeer more and a 0.5deg diffenence is a good start.
7. Rear Anti Roll Bar (£100-£150)
Adjustable is nice but non adjustable would do as most people including myself leaving the adjustment on the middle setting anyway. Replace your ARB bushes at the same time for the sake of the extra £50.
I've not yet seen a stiffer ARB for the GtiR and IMO I can't see the point in fitting a smaller one not matter what Whiteline say. Yes it will improve turn in but it will also make your springs and struts work harder too. For me this is fine tuning and ther are better places for your money first.
8. Front and rear strut braces(£60-£150)
they are a good idea and you can feel them work but in terms of bang for buck other parts will do more IMO.
9. Bushes (£50-£500)
Bushes are a great idea but are proportionately very expensive for what you notice unless they are fecked. I would advise if you're going to change your bushes then do the whol of the front or the whole of the back at the same time as to change them you normally ended up dismantling everythind and butning stuff out.
If you've got this far then I would recommend the Whitleline Anti-dive/lift kit as the extra £50 over the standard bush once you're at this stage is probably reasonable value for money for an extra deg of castor and reduced dive under braking.
10. Bump steer Kit (£150-£250)
This would be at 5 or 6 if it wasn't for the fact that the rose joints keep wearing out. I'm still waiting to see if the latest specification has solved the problem or not as there is no doubting the differnce the kit makes to the car feel, unfortunatelyt there is also no doubting the failed MOT's and constant replacment that people have had to endure. In terms of short term bang for buck, rose joints on the steering combined with the reduced bump steer are are a great modification, I just don't feel confident to recommend them to Mr Average yet.
11. Everything else (£50-£1000)
Yes the sky is the limit with performance cars and other people will recommend lower braces, full roll cages, fancier supension with more adjustments and the like and I can't be bothered to argue. I've just tried to give a simple walk through list for people to follow as a starting point rather than a a hard and fast rule.
Good luck with whatever setups work best for you, did I tell you handling was subjective anyway :lol: