After lurking on this board, researching a number of suspension related sites and finally meeting and getting to know a suspension tech, I finally got off the pot and did my first suspension upgrade.
Short version: This was a difficult install for me but the results are so worth it. It rides smoother than OEM at full soft, they've all but eliminated body roll for daily and spirited, rural drives, there's very little squat or dive, rebound is amazing and best of all, my wife doesn't mind the ride at half and 75% to full stiff. Full stiff is rough but I had the best twisty, mountain drive I've had since learning to rally in my high school-friend's dad's Audi Quattro up in the logging roads. Didn't do it for the drop but I'm probably 1/8th to ¼" lower than HFP.
Originally I wanted to order the Koni FSD Kit (2100-4120). Unfortunately nobody actually had them in stock and Koni didn't have any here or in Europe. By the time I found out though, I had already ordered and received the Ground Control kit ($415 shipped).
Rather than send them back, I decided to buy the Koni Sports from Throwdown ($640 shipped) instead. Of course, when I received the Konis, I realized that I needed a different threaded sleeve from Ground Control. No problem, just had to pay for shipping ($10).
By the way, Ground Control was great. Trevor really helped me out with the spring rates, the exchange, my noob questions and kept me updated and informed about every stage of the order. Even though it took a while to get right I never got impatient because I knew what was going on.
The installation took approximately 10 hours over two days. Again, I am new at this and this wasn't just a simple direct replace.
I also debated on whether or not to get the ground controls sleeves or just the Eibach Pro Springs. Either way, I was going to spend about the same amount of time disassembling/reassembling the shock, so why not get the sleeves? I'll have some flexibility should I decide to ride lower.
I began with the fronts which were pretty simple until I had to compress the spring to take off the top hat. I didn't have a bench vice so this was a very physical process. Each spring took me about 20 minutes to compress. That's the only part of the suspension that I couldn't find. I didn't think to see if it was available as an OEM part. But if it were, I wouldn't have these awesome biceps.
Tip: Use a bench vice.
The rears were an absolute nightmare. I worked on this alone so I didn't have a second set of eyes. I used my iPhone as a video camera and a ratchet on a six inch extension. This was like controlling a Mars rover but much, much less… anything, really. So, so much less.
I struggled with it for a good, frustrating hour before I figured out that my hand could comfortably slip through the bottom of the rear shelf. Do this.
That was only the beginning of my problems. I disconnected the damper from the knuckle, disconnected the end link and even disconnected the lower control arm (not necessary at all). Then I went to remove the damper and it was stuck. I could not get enough clearance. I struggled with it for a good hour. Because it was 1AM at this point and I had to work the next day, I decided to put it all back together.
Now I couldn't get the bottom of the damper onto the knuckle. Somehow there just wasn't enough clearance. After much struggle I got everything back.
The next on my drive in, my alignment was seriously out of whack. The steering wheel was off by 10 degrees at least.
That night, I went at it again, this time working from the service manual. I did not disconnect the lower arm and everything went smoothly. I removed both sides in under an hour.
I disassembled the old and assembled the new dampers and the install took about 45 minutes for each side.
The instructions for both the Konis and the Ground Control units are good but do a quick search and you'll find at least two or three DIYs to help you through.
Tip: Black electrical tape above the seat perch before you slide on the threaded sleeve keeps it from rotating while adjusting. This will save you a ton of frustration.
With all four corners installed, I adjusted the height so it was even all the way around and went for a late night drive.
The weeks leading up to the installation, I kept notes on how the car performed at various places, or my control streets, that I drove. I paid attention to ride quality, vibration, roll, dive, squat and rebound. I drove these places multiple times the same way, adjusting only my speed.
I was worried that the ride, even on full soft, would be a bit harsh. It was just the opposite. The ride was smoother than OEM and smoother than HFP. Immediately, I noticed the rebound was incredibly precise. No extra movement. Then I went to the nearest control streets and performed the exact same actions at the exact same speeds.
The difference was remarkable. All across the board there was less roll, dive, rebound, etc. at the same speeds. (FYI- I was within 7mph of the posted speed limit either way.)
That weekend I went to my rural control streets and performed similar tests. Again, all +/- 7mph of posted speed limit and again, there was an incredible difference.
The next weekend, after an alignment, I went up into the mountains to one of my favorite drives. There are no homes within 20 miles and it's not the best way between the two nearest towns. It takes me 3 hours to get there. In other words, this is a car commercial road.
I drove it back and forth for about two and a half hours without seeing one car. At each end, I'd adjust the suspension a half turn firmer and while the drive got rougher, the car became something completely different. Suddenly, I had reliable, repeatable and controllable oversteer. There's one corner at the bottom of a short hill that normally causes understeer because I'm hitting the brakes and have to make cuts at two different apexes. At lower speeds, I noticed that I wasn't pushing through the front of the curve. At higher speeds though, I started to push later in the curve which is good because it lined me up a little better for the second apex. I could get on the gas much earlier and by the third time through, I was gunning that second apex like I owned it.
On average, I was 20% faster on my last four runs than before. Maybe it's the placebo effect. I don't care because I LOVE this ride. Oh, and I hadn't even installed the end links at this point. (There was a delay and the retailer went ghost rather than keep me updated. Quite frankly, I couldn't wait any longer.)
Adjustments on the Koni's are noticeable at every quarter turn once you're past a full turn from soft. That's the only thing I miss from a previous car with coils: the click stops. Not totally necessary but knowing that both sides are dialed in precisely would be cool.
I installed the end links when they finally arrived 7 and a half weeks after I ordered them (and 3 weeks after I was told they were a week away.) The ride is a little stiffer…*maybe. It's not bad and I don't know that I've experienced any differences in handling.
I don't think I'll go back up to the mountain until I get different wheels and tires or just replace the tires. They are not that great though they are consistent in how bad they perform which is to say, I am used to their mediocrity. I don't accept it, but I'm used to it.
Overall ride quality is fantastic. At full soft you are stiffer around corners and smoother over the road, if that makes sense. My wife actually doesn't mind the ride at around 50% stiff so that's a bonus. Yes, this setup is more expensive and takes more work than some of the coil over kits but the Konis are a vastly superior damper with an incredible warranty. This is not to say that others aren't great, but Konis have published data to back up their reputation.
I would not have done any of this if it wasn't for Drive Accord. I know so much about the care and feeding of my car now. All the information here, both good and bad, really does make me a much more confident owner. I haggle for parts more, I know exactly what to ask for and what to watch out for and best of all, how to improve an already good car.
Face off with my wife's 1st Gen CRV. OT: I am looking for the JDM front bumper for it. If you have any info on where to find them, please let me know.