Ask The Expert: How To Set Up Your Suspension With KW

After my recent drive in the Eifel with Versus Performance’s BMW M2, my thoughts turned to how incredible the car drove.

I mentioned in the article how sharp and agile it was, and how it was stiff but it didn’t crash or jolt over rough surfaces, even on the large 20-inch wheels. Which got me thinking, just how do you set a car up so well?

2016 BMW M2 Versus Performance by Paddy McGrath-56

The M2 I drove was running 3-way adjustable KW Clubsports, which come specced from KW to perfectly suit the M2.

As you’re likely aware, KW has been a long-time friend and supporter of Speedhunters, and we’re allowed incredible access to its facilities, engineers and products. Most importantly though, KW’s on hand to lend its wealth of knowledge whenever we need it.

2016 KW Clubsport by Paddy McGrath-9

There’s so much hearsay on forums and around the internet, with so many contradicting opinions, which has turned suspension tuning into some sort of black art. I feel that if we’re getting answers from KW, we’re getting them from a company that time and time again has proved it knows what it’s doing with race wins all around the world at the very highest level.

So, I want to learn more about suspension setup and the process of doing so. For instance, what sensations should I be trying to feel in the car when dialling in my compression damping? What about individual high and low speed damping adjustments on 3-way adjustable units – how is this beneficial and where do I start with setting up the system?

I want to channel the power of our collective minds here and open the floor to your questions too, which we will bring to KW and get some qualified answers. So, please post yours in the comments section below.

Paddy McGrath
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Dear KW tuning gods,
My name is Spencer and I have a 1975 Ferrari 308gt4. I am not a rich man by Ferrari standards and I'm looking for a solution to update my suspension. The most logical solution that I found from KW is the HLS combined with coil over to meet my needs. This is an extremely costly solution. My alternate and slightly less expensive is the bilstein B16 with an Accuair bag solution. Can you share your opinion on the modern air vs the coil over hydraulic solution?


Mostly canyon use with the occasional autox and/or track day


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Dear KW,

Since I live in Eastern Europe, budget is always very tight. So lowering springs are usually the only viable solution. So I am looking for a set of progressive lowering springs to combo my standard shocks (30 mm drop max). The aim is to improve the body roll without compromising too much on the comfort side and maybe to improve high speed stability (for the occasional Autobahn run). The internet seems to be very divided about lowering springs. Is my reasoning correct or am I risking to compromise my suspension and will not see any benefit?

PS: I drive a Ford Focus Mk2. The springs I am looking at seem to have been, at some time, a factory option, but i'm unsure if they were ever sold like that.


In what ways will my suspension be ruined by lowering my car without modifying control arms?

Frank Candeloro

How do you properly set up spring preload on a set of coilovers? I have a set that can add just ride height independently of the spring preload, and have always wondered the correct way to do this. Thank you!


Finkregh you can not improve your cars body roll simply with lowering. Actually the roll center does down more than your CG , resunting a greater couple moment, this time you have to compansate with harder ARB. if you go lover and still want a lower body roll, use ball joint extenders.


N Wyatt already explained below.


Sly14u don't use bags, since their rate cant be adjusted, it just allows you to give the desired stance. Soon there will be 2 chamber bags like OEM is already using, and then the spring rates is going to be adjustable due to 2 different volumes that can be pressurised seperately. At the time the bag systems will be perfected, but not yet as soon as I know.


dr770 the idea was not to lower the car but to improve body roll. Coincidentally this can be only done (on the cheap at least) with lowering springs which in general (or at least the ones I'm looking at) are stiffer than standard ones (this is why I mentioned that they are progressive springs). Lowering for me is only a byproduct for the real benefit which I am looking for, which is less body roll. I am well aware that only lowering does nothing, hence the switch to a stiffer spring. Adjustable suspension is too expensive when considering a good brand like KW, Eibach, Bilstein B1x, etc. I do not want to roll on rails, but to remove some of the body roll and hopefully see the car change direction without unsettling it. I am also well aware of the limitations of such a setup, I just want the incremental improvement. So the question would be if I would see this incremental improvement or not, with "only" a stiffer (and confidently lower) spring. I am trying to decide if lowering (and stiffer) springs with a standard shock can have any benefit or if it is just a myth.


Finkregh dr770 well I had a similar problem and I have used lowering progressive springs with some rubber spacers under the springs to ensure I still have decent compression stroke. I could say that this worked. ARB is anti roll bar . well regarding your question about degreasing the body roll with extenders; it is something very difficult to explain withour drawings, but you can search on the web. Shortly body roll exists as a function of latheral acceleration acting on center of gravity and your virtual roll point as a function of your suspension geometry. the distance between these 2 points and cnetrifugal force creates the moment resulting as body you have mentioned the change in suspension geometry changes the critical distance to create tme moment M=FxD . you can not change the F which is Massxacceleration, but you can change D by altering suspension geometry.
hope this helps


Finkregh dr770 
Roll Moment is the distance between your car's Center of Gravity (COG) and Roll Center (the point where your car rolls around. The Roll Moment acts as a lever, the longer the lever, the greater the mechanical advantage with which the rotating force, in this case, roll, will be applied. When you lower a car, the Roll Center lowers more than the COG, which in turn increases your Roll Moment. Extended ball joints changes the suspension geometry (which you want), to raise the Roll Center, thereby decreasing your Roll Moment & increasing geometric anti-roll.

Lowering springs are generally not recommended because 1) their spring rates are much too soft, 2) they will not be properly matched to the dampers, even if you get good dampers, the dampers aren't designed to be critically damped with whatever lowering springs you chose, 3) you decrease your travel if you are still using your oem dampers. So yes, (most) lowering springs = better handling is a myth.

If you can't avoid properly valved coilovers with properly designed spring rates for the application, you might want to check out tires that have stiffer sidewalls, or stiffer seats. Both have a bigger seat of the pants feel than people realize.


dr770 Thanks a lot for the input. 

I had quick look with google regarding the extenders and your explanation does seem to make sense. But I would need to research more on the topic since I am not quite convinced that this would work on any type of suspension (without changing something else as well).

ARB... wow i can shoot myself in the foot for not realizing what it stood for. I have researched this topic in the past and, at least for the standard Focus with the available parts market, the results are not stellar and most people experienced very bad handling after the switch to a different (stiffer) ARB (very unsure and harsh ride). I think this would help with under/over steer, but I like the neutrality of the car as of now.

You gave me more food for thought.


Hi, I have the KW Variante 3 in my Golf Mk2. I left the setup as it was shipped to me. The only thing I changed was the height of my car, I put it lower to the ground of course. In combination with 16" Wheels and 205 40R16 Tires it feels incredible. And i also left the camber untuched. 
My question: Is it possible to make it bit more softer but also have a good amount of grip at lower and higher speeds? - And what should I do to make it so?
Best regards from Düsseldorf.


What is the ideal damping ratio range for autox purposes? And assuming its track specific, is there good starting point information you can provide based on measured corner weights?


Finkregh you can go stronger arb on rear for focus imo. but with more oversteer characteristics. for front I dont recomend any change, since the inner front wheel looses traction without limited differential. keep in mind that stiffer springs shifts the damping ratio closer to critical damping and can lead to loose traction on some surfaces.


Dear KW,

I have KW V3's set to the out of the box settings on my STI hatch. I have adjustable control arms so the alignment is proper. My question is: What should I look for when tuning a street car setup to know that it's properly damped? When I do track days the setup is easy: What's fastest. But on the road, I'm lost as to what proper "Feel" should be, and the proper compromise between suppleness and handling. Additionally, I live in a 4 season state, so I'm curious how I should tune my winter setup as well.

Thanks in advance,


Klass  **Broadly speaking** and in the realms of a KW V3, not outright soft as sh*t, softening creates more grip if anything so I wouldn't worry about losing out from softening things up a touch if they're feeling a little harsh to you. Look at budget/basic tarmac rally cars, relatively softly set with body roll taken out by other means, i.e. ARB's. I'd be looking at the 205/40's before suspension though, but each to their own :)


KW, suspension guru's and any other person feeling qualified enough to answer:

What are some of the pros/cons to anti sway (roll) bar pre-loading? I have heard with adjustable end links that you can pre-load the bars to a certain degree and effectively/minutely change spring rates. 

Also, is there any golden rule or ratio with how much body roll is effective? On the internets, it seems there are opinionated extremes but, no data to prove it.


Diesel Dude  adjusting preload on a bar allows you to more finitely dial in specs on a scale (cross corner weighting).  Can be very useful as a tuning tool.

For body roll, I am sure it varies by chassis- but to me, the tell tale is always tire temperature.  Let that data be your guide, and measure, measure, measure!  As you begin to consistently record data, you'll begin to draw some correlations.


Frank Candeloro  for what usage?  street?  track?


dr770 Sly14u  to be fair, you can't adjust "rate" on many springs either, unless you're referring to a progressively wound one.  In the most simplistic way, the spring rate supports the vehicle weight, and the damper you match to it controls to spring.

What Sly14u is referring to, I think, is the combination of a coilover with an add on height adjustable airbag to allow easy maneuverability up and down driveways, speedbumps, etc. A b16 series Bilstein still uses a traditional wound spring.  The nice thing about the KW solution is it's all designed to go together.


dr770 Finkregh Guys the pour man technique to set up a fwd is pretty simple. Lower springs = lower cg but longer roll center arm, so less rolling force but more rolling moment it depends on the angles of the car in question so.. who knows how will turn out maybe you will need ball joint extenders maybe not. The fun point is even if will tend to roll more, lowering it, you will have less weight transfer (lazy huge rolling car = big lateral stiffness, nimble 0 roll angle car huge stress on the tyre print) and at that point your tires will take a bit more. if you want a less rolling car then ball joint extenders or if can take the beats in the spinal column go with stiffer springs. if not put a bigger arb on the rear and on the front if u like arrows ( the arrows fly straight). iff the arb in the rear is not enough inflate the rear tyres to 789 bars and.. voila ( obviously joking but is not so complicated in theory " stress the end that have more grip until you like it")


@revtil9k Frank Candeloro Let's call it track, since street drivers don't normally care about stuff like this.


Hi KW, I'm currently running zero preload, 30mm lower ride height than standard and nuetral damping settings on my MR2 turbo. After much trial and error this combination has given me a comfortable and balanced road setup helped by thicker ARB's, polybushed suspension and performance street tyres.
What changes (if any) would you suggest I make to my coilover setup if I were to attend more track days?
Any adjustments in preload/damping/ride height etc
Would love to hear an expert opinion from yourselves, thanks.


I have KWV3s on my 996 turbo, lowered to about GT2 height, and love the way they perform though I have not adjusted the rebound or compression at all from stock. Car is 3400lb, about 50/50 street/hard mountain driving, very little track time. What settings would you recommend for maximum performance? Running 245/335 tires for reference.


I unfortunately don't have KW suspension but I have gone from bone stock suspension to single adjustable(rebound) dampers. What steps should I take when it comes to adjusting them for "spirited driving" and then for some type of track driving(Autocross, Race track, etc)?


I like these ask the expert articles. Just teach me some basic stuff so I don't think it's all magic lol.


Is it possible to make a shock absorber that take any spring rate (or a really wide range) and not have to be revalved?


Hi KW Team,
I'm not on KWs but I'm on entry level coilovers on my Genesis Coupe. The car is moderately dropped and used as a weekend fun car. The car handles pretty decently, but I was wondering if you could let us know about ways to smooth out the ride.
I'm in Seoul, where there's a lot of crappy roads. I've swapped out the coilover springs to Swifts which actually helped but I was wondering if there were other things we could do. I'm really not a fan of the jolts and harshness, I can live with it but if I can tune it out, it'll be wonderful.


Hi KW, I remember reading a some books suggesting that the softer the dampers were set up the better it was. What are the signs of the car being set up too soft? Thanks for your time and have a nice day.




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I just installed a set of KW Variant 3's on my 2014 Fiesta ST. The quality of the coilovers for the price is unmatched by anything else. I'm having a hard time dialing in the handling and ride quality to my liking. The car is pretty bouncy and still understeers. I want to get my car to rotate easier in the turns and have a more compliant ride quality. Currently I have the car set stiffer and quicker rebounding at the rear. Please point me in the right direction.


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As I know, on front engined cars front dampers and springs should be stiffer than rears. But what about rear engined cars? Also are there any rule in choosing spring rate depending on car`s weight?


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BlackSandsJenova Hi buddy, iam in germany near KW and plan to go there with my MR2 Turbo/KWv3 as iam not so satisfied with the handling yet.Iam on stock sways but polybushed all over.I actually came from Tein Mono first....

I have the same KWv3 in my E36 BMW CLASS II and it handles a lot better than in the MR2, and thus having mid engine layout on the MR2. Iam dialing like every time i ride my BMW and test out preloads very often.Until now iam pretty satisfied with my BMW setup but not on the MR2.

In my opinion the damper setup on the rear is too stiff sending a lot of feedback to the driver.Still the rear end is not soft enough to compensate fast turns and roll enough to stay gripped.Instead you have a slow roll until the damper closes due to uneven road and you loose grip.And this not beeing slammed at all.3 cm front tire to arch, 2 cm rear tire to arch.
i never understood how people can get understeer on this cars.

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Klass Hallo,

maybe you can remove any pressure (Druckstufe) on the dampers first to check how those dampers feel fully open.
You would try to do this front and rear until you get an even car up and down movement on long tarmak waves like on the autobahn.(ich meine lange Bodenwellen die dein Auto aufbauen/abtauchen lassen). like on those audi kombis you see rushing by on the autobahn.If you have that pressure setup you start dialing in your rebound (Zugstufe).
It helped on my BMW - i am gone so far that aprox street bumps of 1m width push my E36 up front rear in the same time.Actually thats what youre aiming for having a relativly neutral setup.Meaning your front damper reacts a tiny bit "slower" than your rear. for more tips check out Webers book.Its known as the holy grail of suspension setups in germany.
always go for the rule , as soft as possible,as hard as necessary - and you will start to dial things the right direction.- make sure youre swaybars arent that hard.Most people use way to strong swaybars!

gruß aus Stuttgart

Frank Candeloro

@DriveCircles Frank Candeloro track usage please, if i understand correctly, this can be sued to balance the car for turning one direction. I am looking for a more balanced setup, autocross, and drifting setups. Thank you for the replays!


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Hi there KW engineers!
How well can you adjust 3 way adjustable (hi and low speed compression + low speed rebound) dampers without proper datalogging ?


A bit off topic, but can KW offer suspensions for the Nissan Skyline GT-R range, please? (BNR32, BCNR33, BNR34)

Seeing as these are popular cars for tuning, I was a bit surprised KW never offered products for these cars. Thank you!


Why do you only offer ride height adjustment through the adjustment of the spring perch instead of allowing a separate adjustment of the whole body like competitors such as Tein? Rather than having a predetermined minimum drop as designated by the shorter shock body, you could provide a longer body which could offer more stroke/travel and then tune the ride height separately while corner balancing. Is there an advantage to your method versus the competition?


Louch it depends on who you are :P


el_kuks i am not from kw oviously but i can anticipate you something. Weight and springs are closely tied together by a thing called wheel frequency the formula for this is in cycle per minute 187.8 x square root of the wheel rate in lbs/in  / the sprung weight in lbs. is better talking about cpm and under this circumstance i can tell you that for a car that needs to be drived safely you need plus or minus 10 % frequency lower on the front that on the rear only to avoide stange pitch oscilacions betwen front and rear wheels when passing bumps. But ween the car is hard driven everything can change. The setup is done regarding the vehiche dinamic in corners not over bumps and it mean that to now exactly what you really need you need to strugle a litle bit more for an answer than asking iff the springs need to be stiffer on the front that on the rear, and the answer can be evasive.  Sorry for my English


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@revtil9k Diesel Dude for what i now sway bar preloading is a tehnique effectively used to avoid spring rate changes when the vehicle is droped on his wheels because corner weight distribution difference exist. And in practice you dont preload nothing you just mount the swaybar links to whatever end is attach to, when the vehicle is on the floor or on some kind of a fixture that maintain the wheel hubs in the same spot relatively to the chassis like it was on the floor, making sure that the bolt enters freely.


RyanKuan Soften them up for compliance (harder feels "racey" but soft is faster) and look at your rear sway bar to help a FWD rotate. You can then stiffen the rear in corners without losing straight line traction.


TomRich Klass Yay someone who knows soft is OK!


How does a 3 way adjustable vs a 2 way adjustable and a single adjustable relate to a car that produces significant downforce vs a car that is used for road racing assuming no cross talk. If I was running a Formula Atlantic car vs a BMW 3 series in the SCCA runoffs with a track with aggressive curbing how would I expect each suspension to react given a fixed spring rate.

How much of a difference do you see in lap time across the various suspension systems given a standardized platform assuming a competent driver is at the wheel. Are shock dynos available?


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Hi! Which parametres have influence on the damping? 
How can someone adjust the bounce and rebound setup at front/rear?


I'd like a basic setup guide from KW with their suggestions either way.

I have 2 sets of KW's on my cars and the suspension seems incredibly well judged out of the box, it would just be good to understand more about setup.


I have a forester 2008 (3d generation) I bought KW suspension for it. (KW 35245017, KW VARIANT 3 RUS.EDITION).
Can you help me with the right settings? (How is it better to setup.) What is a standart setup of this suspension? No one can tell me in my city))).
Thank You!