Sale ends todayGet 30% off any course (excluding packages)

Ends in --- --- ---

Suspension Tuning & Optimization: Choosing Springs

Watch This Course

$149 USD $74.50 USD

Or 8 easy payments of only $9.31 Instant access. Easy checkout. No fees. Learn more
Course Access for Life
60 day money back guarantee

Choosing Springs


00:00 - Choosing the correct spring rates for your car is something that can be confusing for a lot of people.
00:04 Previously in the course we went through the theory of using the undamped natural frequency of the sprung mass to help us calculate the appropriate spring rates.
00:14 In this section, we'll run through the calculations involved in a real example.
00:19 It's important to keep in mind that these calculations are intended to get your spring rates to a sensible starting point for both your car and its specific application.
00:28 As we mentioned previously there are many factors like driving style, track layout, tyre types, surface conditions and much more that'll affect the ideal spring rate.
00:37 In saying that, these calculations will give you a good foundation from which you can use as a base to start tuning your suspension from.
00:46 Let's take the case of a rear wheel drive coupe that's occasionally driven on the road but is really a dedicated circuit racing car.
00:52 It has very little downforce so it's what we'd classify as a car that suits a mechanically biased setup.
00:58 Using our suggested table from earlier in the course, and the car we've just described, let's pick a target frequency of 2 Hz.
01:05 Part of the reason I've gone for the upper end of the frequency spectrum is that comfort is not as much of a concern for this car.
01:11 If it was a daily driver that we occasionally used on track days and comfort is more important to you, I'd recommend staying at the lower end of the spectrum instead.
01:21 We have to carry this calculation out twice, once for the front axle and once for the rear.
01:26 Before we can start our calculation, we first need to collect a few pieces of information about the car.
01:31 The first is the total weight sitting on the front and the rear axles.
01:35 The easiest way to determine this is by using a set of corner weighting scales and measure the weight on each corner directly.
01:43 Remember when you do this to have the car as close as possible to how it'll run on track.
01:47 That means having the driver in the car as well as fluids like a suitable amount of fuel for example.
01:53 If you don't have access to a set of corner weight scales, you should at least be able to find the total approximate weight and how it's shared between the front and rear axles online for your make and model.
02:03 One important thing to remember with these calculations is that being consistent with the units is critical.
02:08 For these calculations, I'm going to use standard SI units, however if you find it easier to work in imperial units, you'll find the conversions in the handy reference sheet that you can download from below this video.
02:19 Here you'll also find all the formulas you'll need to calculate the spring rates that you'll need in this module.
02:24 Let's say that our car weighs a total of 1375 kg with a driver onboard and a quarter of a tank of fuel which is representative of what we'd often have in the tank on average when we're on track.
02:36 By summing both front corner weights together, we get 761.5 kg.
02:41 Now we have the total weight on the front axle that's being supported by the front tyres.
02:44 As we have 1 spring for each corner of the car, we only care about the weight on each corner.
02:51 Dividing the total weight on the front by two, we get 380 kg for each front corner.
02:57 But remember we're calculating the natural frequency of the sprung mass only.
03:02 That means that we need to subtract the unsprung mass from this front corner weight.
03:08 There are a few different approaches for deciding what to use for the unsprung weight.
03:12 One is to support the weight of the car, remove the spring and allow the suspension to fully droop.
03:17 With the suspension hanging, you can then put a corner weight scale underneath the tyre to measure the approximate unsprung weight for that corner of the car.
03:25 While not perfect, this is a reasonable approximation of the unsprung weight at each corner.
03:30 If you aren't able to complete this unsprung weight test for yourself. you might be able to find information online for your make and model.
03:37 If not, then a reasonable ballpark figure you can use for most independent suspensions is 45 kg on an undriven axle and 50 kg on a driven axle.
03:47 Let's say for our case we've measured the unsprung weight for one front and one rear corner.
03:53 The unsprung front weight was 43 kg and the rear, 53 kg.
03:57 Now we can calculate the amount of sprung weight at each corner of the front axle.
04:01 We take the total 380 kg for one front corner, subtract the 43 of unsprung weight, giving us approximately 338 kg of sprung weight for each of the front corners of the car.
04:15 Next we need the motion ratio for the front axle which is what we went through in a previous module where we calculate the amount the wheel moves for a given amount of spring movement.
04:24 On the front we have a motion ratio of 1.1, meaning the wheel moves 1.1 what the spring does.
04:31 And 1.3 on the rear.
04:32 Now we have all the information we need to calculate the target spring rates.
04:36 This is the formula we use to calculate the target spring rates at the wheel.
04:41 Reading left to right, we have the sprung mass for that corner of the car, the value of pi and the target frequency.
04:48 From here, it's as simple as substituting our numbers into the equation.
04:53 Doing so, we get a value of 5335.
04:57 At first glance, this number doesn't look very useful, this is because the resulting sprung stiffness is being shown as newtons per metre which is the SI unit.
05:07 The more commonly used unit for spring rate is newtons per millimetre.
05:12 To convert, all we need to do is divide our answer by 1000, giving us 53.3 newtons per millimetre.
05:19 Now we have the target spring rate at the wheel.
05:23 If we had a 1:1 motion ratio, this would also be our spring rate, however as we have a motion ratio of 1.1 on the front axle, we need to convert it to a spring rate.
05:32 To do this, we need to multiply the target wheel rate by the motion ratio squared.
05:36 This gives us a target spring rate of approximately 65 newtons per millimetre.
05:42 Using the conversions listed in the supplied formula sheet below this video, gives us a target front spring rate of 6.6 kgs per millimetre and 368 pounds per inch.
05:53 Obviously, springs are only going to be made in certain increments, so it's unlikely you'll be able to buy the spring that exactly matches your calculation.
06:02 Just go with the closest value you can, no need to get too hung up on finding one down to the last newton per millimetre or pound per inch.
06:09 Now we can repeat the same process for the rear axle.
06:13 Using the exact same procedure as before but substituting the numbers for the rear axle we get a target spring rate of approximately 68 newtons per millimetre which is 6.9 kg per millimetre or 387 pounds per inch.
06:28 Notice that for this example, the rear axle is significantly lighter by around 150 kg.
06:34 With all other things being equal, this would mean a softer rear spring to achieve the same target suspension frequency.
06:41 However following the calculations through, and when we take into account the different motion ratio on the rear axle which is 1.3, we end up needing a stiffer rear spring as a result.
06:51 Some sources will tell you that you need to target a slightly higher rear suspension frequency relative to the front.
06:57 This is based on the idea that for a given disturbance like a bump in the road, because the front axle will hit this first, you can end up with poor handing qualities with the front and rear axles moving out of phase from each other, causing excessive pitching of the chassis.
07:12 The wheel base of the car and the road speed will also affect this.
07:16 This concept is rooted in the world of road cars and in my experience, when we're dealing with cars for competition use, it's not necessary to aim for a difference in the target natural frequencies.
07:26 At least, not in the first instance.
07:28 What you'll usually find is that after starting with your initially calculated spring rates, you'll most often end up with a split in the resultant natural frequencies in the normal process of tuning the balance of the car by trying different combinations of springs.
07:42 At this point, paying attention to the natural frequencies isn't as important and you should be focusing on tuning for balance and grip rather than being focused on a theoretical target frequency.
07:53 As we discussed earlier in this module, the concept of the natural frequency is useful for a starting point only.
08:00 We established earlier in the course that we'd be ignoring the effects of the tyres on many parts of the suspension and using the concept of the sprung natural frequency in this way, we're significantly simplifying the system by ignoring the effect of the tyres.
08:14 In reality, the tyres themselves can be thought of as having a spring rate and damping properties of their own.
08:20 So in reality, if we're being more accurate, the spring calculation for each corner of the car should include the effect of having another spring in series with the main suspension spring.
08:30 In saying that, while it's a significant simplification, I don't believe it's absolutely necessary when considering a suspension in a simplified way as we have throughout this course.
08:41 It's still a valid and useful calculation to do.
08:45 Once you've calculated the starting point for your front and rear spring rates, selected the springs as close as possible to the target and then run them on track, you'll begin the tuning process.
08:55 As we've already alluded to, this may well mean you end up moving away from the theoretical spring rate you'd calculated, at least at one end of the car in order to maximise your balance and grip.
09:05 Once you've found a suitable balance, you can also try moving your entire spring package stiffer and softer together to see whether a stiffer or softer overall setup will be more beneficial for a given car at a given circuit.
09:19 This is something we'll be discussing in more detail in the later module on calculating the lateral load transfer distribution.
09:25 A concept we introduced earlier in the course.
09:28 For now though, I encourage you to go ahead, make the required measurements on your own car and carry out these calculations for yourself.

We usually reply within 12hrs (often sooner)

Need Help?

Need help choosing a course?

Experiencing website difficulties?

Or need to contact us for any other reason?