2001 Acura CL Type-S Project Car Phase III – Suspension Tuning with Eibach Springs & Sway Bars
Our project car hasn’t received much love in the past year and a half, so we thought we’d show her some attention this week. Since Phase I (cold air intake) and Phase II (Aftermarket wheels and performance tires) were already installed, we decided to start Phase III – Suspension. After doing a lot of research, we chose to go with the Eibach Springs Pro-Plus Performance Kit, which includes their Pro-Kit Performance Springs and their Anti-Roll Sway Bar Kit.
Eibach is one of the most highly regarded suspension companies in the world, with an unsurpassed reputation for quality and performance. They help numerous race teams and amateurs win races each day, while also catering to the needs of a wide variety of car enthusiasts and tuners. Eibach, a world leader in suspension technology, has received many awards from a variety of companies/institutions. After considering all this, our brand choice for suspension was easy…
Each of Eibach’s aftermarket suspension products are custom-made for specific years, makes and models of cars and trucks, including our own. The performance springs and anti-roll bars we acquired are manufactured to replace the factory springs and sway bars, for increasing handling performance, decreasing body roll and enhancing aesthetic appeal. Eibach uses “the world’s finest Hi-Ten spring steel, produced to exceedingly precise tolerances” and “world-renowned German CNC coilers, as well as many unique machines engineered and built specifically by Eibach.” Their Street Performance spring and sway bar products are backed by extensive research and development, including hours of professional road and track testing. All of this is done to provide the consumer with improved handling performance and aesthetic appeal, while still retaining a high degree of comfort. Though the Street Performance kits aren’t as performance oriented as Eibach’s race products, they go through the same testing and benefit from the same race technology.
After picking up the products we wanted, we needed to choose a reputable shop that could install the suspension properly. Luckily, one of the Sub5zero members is a business partner of an awesome local independent automotive repair shop. Castro’s Smog & Repair, also known as Castro’s Customs, in North Hollywood, CA, specializes in domestic and foreign automotive maintenance & repair, as well as custom performance and fabrication. Chris Castro’s shop maintains a great reputation for honest, quality work, at very competitive prices, with a speedy turn around. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better mechanics in the area than Chris and his crew.
Chris participates in every job or project that comes into his shop. While Chris enjoys working on cars of all makes and models, he has a special place in her heart for BMWs. Beside the steady flow of customers the shop sees for day-to-day maintenance needs, Chris also takes on a lot of custom projects. Aftermarket modifications and customizations are Chris’ specialty, so he was clearly the man for the job. If you ever need work done on your car in the LA area, you definitely want to swing by Castro’s Smog & Repair!
Now on to the installation of the new parts! While these parts can be installed in your driveway, or garage, it is a fairly complex job. Without a hydraulic lift and power tools, the time to complete the job is at least doubled, and becomes increasingly difficult. The task requires a great deal of physical effort, especially when compressing and decompressing the springs, and is much easier with two people. The tools required to swap the suspension components include at least 1 hydraulic jack/lift, at least 1 jack stand to support the suspended vehicle, a ratchet, a set of metric sockets, a spring compressor, 1 large pry bar, and a lot of determination.
Because our project car spent the majority of its life on the East Coast, the underside of the car, along with the suspension, were pretty oxidized. This was a bit of an unusual situation for the shop, as they typically see rust-free cars in sunny So Cal. Once the car was on the lift, Chris and his apprentice Jose, got a better look at the work ahead of them. Needless to say, the oxidation and salt damage added considerably to the effort required, especially compared to a California car of the same age and mileage. The greatest burden was to break free all of the seized bolts holding the suspension together. Luckily Chris has a top notch impact (compressed air-driven) gun, which allowed him to perform the job without undue hardship.
The first stage of the install, after putting the car up on the lift, was to remove the front and rear sway bars. In order to remove the front bar, the sway bar links had to be detached from the front lower control arms. Since the bar moved freely with the sway links removed, the sway bar mounts holding the bar to the front sub-frame were next. Once Jose removed the mounts, the front sway bar was out of the way.
The removal of the rear sway bar was very similar; the links were removed from the rear spindles and the mounts were detached from the rear cross-member. Look at those beefy red sway bars compared to the factory units!
Now that the factory sway bars were taken care of, Chris and Jose moved on to the spring and strut assemblies. Since the car sat freely in the air on the lift, the springs and struts were decompressed. Jose removed the large bolt holding each of the front struts to their respective spindles; this allowed the strut body to hang freely so that it could be un-mounted from the engine bay.
Next up, the 5 nuts holding each of the spring and strut assemblies to the shock towers needed to be removed. Chris quickly zipped off the nuts with the impact gun and within moments Jose had the strut assemblies off the car!
After the front struts were done, Jose climbed inside the car and began removing the back seat for access to the rear strut mounts. In a few minutes the back seat was out, and the guys performed the same procedure for the rear strut assemblies as the front ones.
Before long the rears were off the car; these two don’t waste any time!
In order to swap out the factory springs with our shiny new Eibachs, spring compressors were used to decompress the preloaded springs. These compressors are simply long, heavy duty, threaded bolts, with 2 large threaded nuts with hooks, which are used to grab the spring coils. While these can be used manually with a conventional wrench or ratchet, the process goes much faster with an impact gun. Once the compressors were attached to each side of the spring, Jose carefully loosened the threads on each of the units to decompress the spring. The key is to loosen each compressor a bit at a time, which prevents excess tension that can build up on the side that’s still compressed.
After both springs were decompressed, the large nut holding the strut against the factory strut mount and spring perch was removed. To break the nut loose, an Alan socket was used to keep the strut body from spinning, while an open ended wrench broke the nut loose.
Now that the spring perches and mounts were off, Chris took the front springs out to compare them to the Eibachs. As you can see in the picture below, the performance springs have 1 less coil than the factory springs, making them more than an inch shorter when fully decompressed. The shorter spring height lowers the car, while the design of the spring has been stiffened for a firmer, more compliant ride.
Now the Eibachs needed to be compressed with the spring compressors, in order to put the factory strut mount and spring perch back on.
Once this was done, the strut assemblies were ready to reinstall. Because of the fewer number of coils, the new performance springs required less compression than the factory height springs. Jose quickly removed the front wheels to allow for more access to work on the strut assemblies. Chris and Jose reinstalled the front strut assemblies and then moved onto the rears.
Similar to the other steps in this process, decompressing and replacing the rear springs went much the same as the fronts. When the guys were ready to replace the springs, we compared the Eibachs versus the factory units once again. However, this time the performance spring wasn’t physically shorter; instead the design was considerably different.
If you notice in the picture above, there are 3 more coils on the Eibach spring compared to the factory unit. However, the last 6 coils on the Eibach spring are very tightly wound, and are also known as “dead” coils. These dead coils are meant to fully compress when installed, providing lower ride height, but also maintaining suspension travel and comfort. With the strut assemblies together with our new Eibach springs, Jose bolted the nuts for the rear strut mounts to the body inside the car. Then Chris positioned and tightened the lower strut bolts to the rear spindles, and the spring install was complete!
The final stage of our suspension overhaul was to install our beefy, new Eibach sway bars. First, Chris needed to apply the provided suspension grease to the polyurethane sway bar mount bushings. The purpose of this is to make the install easier, and to keep the polyurethane bushings from squeaking (from the friction against the sway bar).
As you can see in the picture below, the sway bar bushings were already in need of replacement!
Once the bushings were pre-greased, Chris swapped over the factory sway bar links from both of the original bars onto the new Eibach units.
Now the front and rear bars were ready to be installed. The installation was simply a reversal of the removal – remount the sway bar with the new polyurethane mounts, then position the sway bars appropriately to reattach the sway bar links to the front and rear spindles.
Chris and Jose made quick work of the sway bar install, and in a short period of time the car was ready to be taken off the lift.
When the guys put the car back on the ground, we immediately noticed a more aggressive look. In general, most cars look a million times better with a proper drop and some nice wheels. Well, needless to say, the good ‘ole Acura looked a whole lot better with its new suspension.
Here are a few before and after shots to show the effect of the lower ride height:
Look at that hideous fender gap!
Ah, much better!
Last but not least, a road test was in order! Pulling out of the driveway, we immediately noticed a stiffer, more compliant feel. Turning the steering wheel from side to side, the car felt much more responsive, with no more unwanted body roll. Heading for the freeway, we approached the onramp turn much faster than typical to gauge the tolerances of the new suspension system. The car felt so much more planted through the turn, and easily could have been pushed harder. At speed, the stiffer ride made the car feel a bit quicker and sportier overall. Next, we got off on a street with road construction to see how harsh the ride would be with the stiffer, lower springs. Once again we were taken by surprise! The car retained almost the same amount of comfort as the factory spring and sway bar setup, which was a big relief!
As we took the car back to home base, it did feel a bit bouncy at higher speeds because the factory struts weren’t valved for the stiffer spring rates. We will be looking into stiffer dampers as our next modification. Otherwise, the car felt so much better overall! I only wish we would have completed the suspension upgrades sooner. Special thanks to our friends at Eibach Springs for providing us with their awesome suspension products. Truth be told, it was easy to fall in love with the car once again! We’re very pleased with the new setup and the products truly perform as advertised. The springs and sways offer a stiffer, more compliant ride, while retaining factory drivability. We highly recommend Eibach performance springs and sway bars to anyone looking to upgrade their suspension. Now the CL has the look and feel that it was meant to have…
We’d like to thank our friends Chris and Jose at Castro’s Smog & Repair, for installing the parts on the car, and giving us an in depth lesson on the Acura’s suspension. Without reservation, we highly recommend Chris’ shop for anything from normal maintenance to building a full-on race car from the ground up.