Choosing The Correct Suspension For Your Project With Ridetech

You finally pulled the trigger and scored your dream project vehicle. To get this ride, you successfully navigated storage issues, financial obstacles, project time management, and most importantly, you convinced your significant other that this new purchase was a good idea. Congratulations! Now comes the fun part: deciding how you want to customize this ride to make all of your gearhead dreams come true. There will be plenty of decisions to make as you heat up your credit card and begin ordering parts, but when it comes to a suspension system, having an excellent overall build plan in place can save you a lot of money and headaches down the road. This is where the folks at Ridetech can help get your project across the finish line with ease.

Saturday parking lot cruiser, drag race hero, cone carving monster, or all of the above? As you begin planning your car project, having an idea regarding what you want to do with it when you’re done will help you make smart choices when buying parts.

Everything your project car is going to do (accelerate, turn, brake, or even just sit at a car show) it has to accomplish through its four tires and those four tires are connected to the vehicle through the suspension system. Ridetech has three different upgraded suspension systems: air, coilovers, and StreetGRIP creating a massive catalog for cars and trucks (you can view them here).

This display shows the three types of suspension systems Ridetech makes air, coil-over, and StreetGRIP for the exact same vehicle; in this case, a Chevrolet Chevelle.

When it comes to making a good decision on a type of suspension system, the folks at Ridetech have been engineering, testing, and building bolt-in systems since 1996. They started with a vision of producing a better lowered car, and they take great pride in creating products that your average gearhead can bolt in. You do not have to be a welding stud or fabrication master to install any of Ridetech’s suspension systems; all you need are basic tools.

Decisions, decisions, decisions… Ridetech offers a lot of choices when it comes to suspensions. Knowing what you want to do with the car will help you decide your path.

We spoke to Darren Schilling, product manager at Ridetech, who explained why the company makes different styles of suspensions.

“Old cars, like a stock 1969 Camaro Z28, have a lot to be improved upon when it comes to handling,” Darren explains. “We make tubular A-arms, taller spindles, coilover shocks, sway bars, and a full kit that really make a world of difference in the driving of that car. But for those who want to spend half as much, we have our StreetGRIP kit, which replaces the important pieces of the suspension using some of the OEM parts, like the stamped steel A-arms, with taller ball joints and other components from Ridetech to improve the ride.” 

When it comes to air suspension, Darren said, “Air ride is all about the stance.”

This Cadillac rests on Ridetech’s air system, has a nice low stance, and can handle bumps on the road with ease. This is great for cruising but probably not the perfect setup for autocross. But this car wasn’t built for autocross.

Air Suspension

Ridetech started out with air systems and it still makes them to this day. But don’t look at an air suspension system as something you would just bolt on a low-rider. These systems have come a long way in technology and development. Ridetech’s air suspension packages include everything you need to get that ultra-low show stance while providing excellent ride quality and handling on public roads. According to Darren, “What our customers like about the adjustability in ride height with air is the ability to have a very low car with a great stance, and then raise the ride height to get into a difficult driveway or to put their car inside a trailer.”

The ShockWave air spring and shock combination has two patents held by Ridetech. This replacement for a traditional coilover spring on shock system provides massive amounts of ride height adjustability at the touch of a button.

One of the air suspension systems from Ridetech is its ShockWave technology that merges an air spring and a shock to create an adjustable-height airbag version of a coilover. This clean and simple piece bolts into the suspension, and the ride height can be adjusted through air pressure.

The air ride suspension’s control system, the Air Pod all-in-one system, fits nicely in the trunk. The system is controlled via Bluetooth through your phone or tablet to set vehicle leveling. Yes, you can text your spouse and adjust your ride height on the same device, just please no texting while driving, of course. They also have a simple control piece that plugs into your cigarette lighter and has three pre-set ride height positions, so you don’t have to connect your phone every time.

Everything you need to make your air suspension work comes from the same source: Ridetech. Tank, compressors, controller, air springs, bolt-in suspension parts, shocks, the works.

For those that don’t want an entire tank and compressor system in their vehicle, you can still use the ShockWave coilover with a Schrader valve on each airbag to adjust pressure and ride height. The only drawback to this installation is the lack of ability to change the ride height on the go without stopping to add or release pressure from each corner of the car. Darren said most customers who install the ShockWave system using a Schrader valve ultimately upgrade to a control unit (compressor/air tank) in the vehicle for ease of adjustments. Those who want more “go” than “show” skip the air ride systems and choose a coilover setup from Ridetech.

If you want to build a car that can smash track records and slip between cones, Ridetech has bolt-in coil-over systems with tons of adjustability in alignment and shock settings to put you on the podium.

Coilover

If you’re looking for less stance and more corner grip, then you may want to skip all of the work of routing air lines and installing an air tank in your trunk and go with a traditional coilover setup. Coilover shocks allow you to adjust the ride height by threading the spring perch up or down on the shock body and allow for easy swapping of different spring rates. Darren says all shocks in Ridetech systems use the 2-inch tube Fox Racing shock, which he says, “is the best shock in the industry.” Each Fox Racing shock comes with rebound adjustments, but for serious racers, Ridetech will upgrade those shocks to dual- or triple-adjustable units. Darren was kind enough to explain to us the difference between the three types of adjustments.

“Our shocks are all rebound adjustable. However, we do offer a double-adjustable shock for both rebound and compression, as well as a triple-adjustable remote-reservoir shock with rebound, low-speed compression, and high-speed compression adjustments.”

Coilover shocks from Ridetech are from Fox Racing and come with rebound adjustments. They can also be converted to double adjustable for rebound and compression or triple adjustable for rebound with low and high-speed compression.

To understand the difference between low and high-speed compression adjustments, it all comes down to the piston’s speed moving inside the shock. A movement of zero to 6-inches per second is considered low speed, which is related to a vehicle in a corner leaning to one side. A movement of zero to 10-inches per second is deemed high speed, which is associated with a vehicle striking a bump. What is optimal for this adjustment style is that you can dial in more low-speed compression to keep a car from leaning while cornering but still allow the vehicle suspension to work when it needs to go over harsh bumps.

For those who want serious track performance, coilover shocks are a great way for maximum adjustability in ride height, spring rate, and corner weighting. Ridetech makes this type of modern technology a bolt-in option for vehicles that came from the factory with completely different suspension systems, like leaf springs.

The Ridetech coilover systems come with a sporty spring rate. For serious racers who want more, they’ll need to answer a few details on a questionnaire when ordering their kit. 

“Are you running a 245 radial tire or a 315 super sticky race tire?” Darren asks. “Because the wider, sticky tire will change the amount of lateral grip, which will then change how much the car will lean.” This information will help choose the correct spring rate and re-valving of the shocks to be optimal for the springs. Darren did have one word of caution for customers, noting “Sometimes guys ask for a very stiff spring rate because they are going autocrossing. But after a drive through town with their wives and they quickly find out their spouses hate the ride.” The good news is, springs are inexpensive and easy to swap out to keep your passenger happy. Happy wife, happy life.

Everyday driver or dedicated cone slayer? These decisions will help you and Ridetech decide on spring rates and shock valving for your vehicle.

StreetGRIP

For those of you who don’t want the installation of an air system tank or the often-complex adjustability of a coilover system, Ridetech has its StreetGRIP series. This system, which is designed to bolt into your car or truck, provides an outstanding ride and handles the curves perfectly, directly out of the box. Not everybody is looking to hit the track to break a speed record or have their car so low to the ground that squirrels have to run for survival. Some folks want to upgrade their OEM suspension system with something modern that works at a reasonable price. Darren affirms that is precisely what the StreetGRIP line was designed for. 

“Our StreetGRIP series is all about what’s the best bang for your buck. What replacement parts will make the greatest impact on the handling of a car for the least amount of money?”

This gorgeous Impala rolls on Ridetech’s StreetGRIP system and has the perfect lowered stance.

The good news is Ridetech did all of the hard work, research, and design for a system that meets all of the previously mentioned criteria. The StreetGRIP systems are perfect for restorations and mild customs such as restomods and Pro-Touring cars. These are bolt-in systems that generally replace springs, shocks, sway bars, mounting pieces, and bushings to lower and tighten-up a vehicle for outstanding handling. To help decide if a StreetGRIP suspension system is what you are looking for and to see what the final ride height will look like, Ridetech created a chart with photos for all of its StreetGRIP products here.

To create a smooth ride down some of America’s pothole-filled roads and still have outstanding cornering ability, Ridetech uses a dual-rate spring. Darren explained how these springs make a difference. 

“Our dual-rate springs provide great ride and handling. The first 3/4-inch will be at 480 inch-pounds. Beyond that, it will be a 700 inch-pound spring. This allows for going over bumps with ease but not too much lean in the corners.”

The StreetGRIP complete kit for a ’68-’74 Nova is easy to install and contains everything you need to get the job done, including lowering springs, rebound-adjustable shocks, high-performance self-lubricating bushings, a beefy heavy-duty sway bar, tall ball joints, all hardware, and instructions.

So, before you get your credit card out and start buying parts and having them overnighted to your house, come up with a plan and look at your project’s long-term goals. When it comes to a bolt-in ready suspension system with all of the components tested along with one another in the same chassis, you will be hard-pressed to find a better product package than what comes from the folks at Ridetech. Spend some time bench racing and surfing Ridetech’s website and take a look at what an air suspension, a coilover conversion, or a StreetGRIP system can do to get your ride headed down the road handling bumps with ease and carving corners.

Ridetech has a complete Corvette Track Package for the C5/C6 Corvette (including the Z06), which transforms an already great handling car into a sharpened track weapon with triple adjustable coilover struts, trick spindles, and tons of alignment adjustability.

The list of vehicles for which Ridetech makes products is massive. Do you want to build a track Corvette? There is a coilover system for that. Do you want to slam a 1966 Chevelle to the weeds? There’s an air system for that. Are you wanting to modify and lower your Chevy C10 pickup moderately? No problem, you are covered with the StreetGRIP system. The only thing holding your project car dreams back is your wallet, and Ridetech has different systems to meet your price point to help you on the financial front. Enjoy the planning process, and good luck with your decision making, because once your choices are made, all that is left to do is start wrenching.

Article Sources

About the author

Rob Krider

Rob Krider will race absolutely anything. He is a multi-national champion racing driver and is also the author of the novel, Cadet Blues.
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