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How To Make Your Car Handle Like A Racecar

Following up on last week’s guest post about the Evolution of Suspension Systems, here’s how you can go about turning a regular old car suspension system into a racing type setup:

How to make your car handle better

How to make your car handle better - buy a set of good tires

1. Get new tires. First and foremost, you need a set of low-profile tires. Low-pro tires are the best suspension enhancement you can make, so if you have limited funds this is the best place to start. Low-pro tires are better because:

  • The tire tread design works better under high cornering loads
  • The tire sidewalls do not flex much (if at all) at high cornering speeds, which means the tire maintains maximum surface area contact with the road

The downsides to low pro tires are rough ride, poor handling characteristics in rain, ice, and snow, and shorter tire life…don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Sidebar: A great place to buy performance tires on the cheap is TireRack.com. You can buy a quality set of performance tires online for hundreds less than your local tire dealer, mostly because your local tire dealer doesn’t sell many low-pro performance tires. Don’t buy tires without getting a quote from TireRack.com first.

Forged aluminum wheels

Forged aluminum wheels reduce unsprung suspension weight, which means the suspension doesn't have to "work" as hard to control wheel movement

2. New lightweight wheels. Another downside to low-pro tires is that they usually require you to buy a new set of wheels…most passenger cars come with 16″ or 17″ wheels, but most low-pro tires are designed for 18″ or 20″ wheels, so you have to upgrade.

If you do upgrade your wheels, keep in mind that forged aluminum wheels are best for racing. They’re incredibly light as well as strong. Lighter wheels make it easier for your suspension to do it’s thing – think of wheels as weights attached to your suspension. If they’re lighter, the suspension is more capable.

Cast aluminum wheels are next in order of preference, but since cast wheels aren’t as strong as forged wheels, they’re made with more aluminum…which means they’re heavier. Finally, as far as racing is concerned, stay far away from fancy chrome rims. They’re heavy and just not made for the track.

Koni Eibach Spring Shock kit

Upgraded springs and shocks are second only to tires and wheels when it comes to improving handling. Click the image above for more spring and shock kits.

3. Get new springs and tuned shocks to match. New, stiffer springs are a great way to improve the handling of your vehicle, and provided that you pair these springs with tuned shocks, you’ll get a car that runs laps around your old suspension setup without a massive penalty in ride quality.

4. Lower your vehicle. Lowering your car improves the handling because it lowers the center of gravity of the entire vehicle. Often times, you can purchase a set of springs and tuned shocks that lower the car all in one kit. However, depending on what you’re driving, you may need to replace some key components too.

5. Fix that loose nut behind the steering wheel. If you’re reading this and ready to go and buy all these parts, please take a moment and consider the notion that the finest drivers can win with an average race car, but average drivers can’t ever win with even the finest equipment.

There are hundreds of racing schools across the United States that will teach you performance driving skills that will drastically improve your ability to pilot your ride. Before you lay down thousands of dollars for new tires, wheels, etc., why not invest in some driving school tuition? :-)

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