Front Wheel Drive Handling

There is more information on the EEK! Mailing List Home Page - which you should visit anyway if you own a non-Omni-based front-wheel-drive Chrysler car made before 1995 (except for the LH series).

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These apply to cars based on the K and extended K platforms, especially the Sundance/Shadow.

Tips from Vincent Cheng

  1. Bigger sway bar in the back to reduce understeer.
  2. New gas shocks.
  3. Cut off half a coil off the spring in each corner. This lowers the car by about 1/2 inch to 2 inches depending on the type of sprint you have. This, with the large sway bar, can really make the car corner.

This setup gave me great control since understeer is reduced and the car is lowered.

Sway Bars (Herbert DaSilva)

You can use the front sway bar from a Shelby Daytona or a Shelby Shadow CSX in any Sundance, Shadow, Spirit, Acclaim, LeBaron Coupe, Daytona, or Chrysler Laser (NOT Plymouth Laser). Note that although the bar is the same, the bushings are different, so you need the right size bushing for the bar you get, plus it has to be the right style for the car it is being installed in. Note that there are many aftermarket bars available and installation of a new bar is a good time to put in polyurethane bushings as well.

 I would choose the Shelby bar because it is the thickest bar available. The "strength" of an anti-sway bar is pretty much due solely to its diameter, and since the Shelby bar is 1-1/8" thick, it works better than the 3/4" or 7/8" bars that are stock on other vehicles, and yes 1/8" difference in diameter makes a difference you can feel. Also note that when you order a bar from an aftermarket supplier, they don't mention what option package (e.g. Shelby, ES) a bar fits, only the model, and then they list the sizes. Since the largest diameter bar is typically few dollars more than the smaller bars, I would opt for the largest available bar.

 I'm pretty sure the Shelby bar is 1-1/8" diameter, and the bars standard on other sport models is 7/8". The stock bar on other cars is typically 3/4".

 Also note that the rear sway bar is built into the rear axle, so if you want a rear sway bar upgrade, you must either replace the rear axle with a Shelby-style axle, or add a hanger-style helper bar. In this case, I would recommend against the Addco rear sway bar. Their design stinks, and the hanger parts are second rate.

 The front bar is trivial to replace, but FWD cars actually respond better to more rear-end stiffness. Sometimes when you install only a bigger front bar, the car feels better during most of around-town and highway driving you do, but when you race or autocross it, it plows (understeers) WORSE with the heavier front bar. In that case, you can either stiffen up the rear with an anti-sway bar, or install really stiff shocks and/or springs. (Editor's note: this may lead to a dangerous understeer situation, so matching the rear to the front iss essential).

 There are 4 bushings on a sway bar. The inner two appear to be the same shape on every K-derivative platform. The outer two are either square or round. If you look at the underside of the A-arms, where your existing bar is, it should be easy to tell which you have. Then, you simply need to get a bushing that is the right SHAPE and has an INSIDE DIAMETER that is the same as the bar you are installing. If the CSX outer bushings are the same shape as yours, you're all set. If they're not, you can get a full set of polyurethane bushings (another upgrade) from most speed shops in the proper diameter for your vehicle for about $30. A good aftermarket bar shouldn't run you more than $100 anyway.

 - Mopar Performance sells "P-body Autocross Springs" - also good for road racing - lowers the car about an inch.

 - Get a set of 15x6.5 Mopar wheels off a Daytona and slap some P225/50/15s on them (BFG Comp T/A generation 3s available for $130 each from Tire Rack, Z rated!)

 - Set the camber on the front wheels to the maximum negative you can get. You will need to have the toe adjusted after doing this, so you might as well have it done for you. Most independent alignment shops will help you do a custom alignment.

Other handling upgrades for front-wheel drive Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge

Tire upgrades esp for those awful Invictas. You can use 195/60R15 tires to really help handling; people often recommend Comp T/As, Dunlop D60A2s, and Yokohama Avid MDH-4s. (see below).

I used Yokohama Avid MD H-4s to maintain the original tire size (185/70R14). This cost about $240 but was well worth it in both dry and wet weather traction - no loss of snow traction. Superb tires compared to the Invictas, made the handling much better and greatly improved stopping and turning on wet roads. Note that I kept the original wheels both to lower the cost and to keep the ride about the same. I did not really notice a difference in the ride with the new tires; going to lower profile tires usually makes the ride stiffer.

 Regardless of what tires you have, putting 35 psi in front and 32 psi in rear tires of ordinary Sundances/Shadows improves handling. Try putting slightly higher pressure into the front tires of your FWD car, Sundance or not. If you don't like it, let the air back out.

Shocks, struts, springs, and sway bars

I have been driving a 1990 Plymouth Sundance for the past 8 weeks. I spent some time researching on this and other like forums.

I aquired a set of 1988 LeBaron convertible front and rear springs, its 1.3” front swaybar, and a set of KYB GR-2 struts and Gas-A-Just shocks from a 1987 Lebaron Town & Country Wagon, all at the wrecking yard. One of the struts was beyond use, the other had some life left in it. Both of the shocks looked new and have a ton of life left in them. I was uncertain how the springs would hold up, but the Sundance's rear was sagging badly and the struts were beyond safe use.

I installed the Gas-A-Just's and the LeBaron's rear springs (same number of coils but an honest inch taller, uncompressed) all in one shot. The difference was incredible; I had read that the springs used on these LeBarons were on par or superior to what Cadilac was using (at least in the same time period). I have done a few suspensions and never enjoyed the ride as much as just doing the rear with these components.

Next I installed the swaybar from the Lebaron with a set of bushings from Polybushing.com. This was also rewarding, as the front now felt flat, with hardly any disernable body roll. The struts and springs proved to be more work. I received the KYB Excel-G struts from the KYB Outlet store online. I was able to get the left one on yesterday but it took longer than I had allotted. I did encounter a couple of setbacks:

  1. The center nut was much harder to remove then the donor car’s. I soaked it in oil and failed several more times to make any progress with it. My trusty, abused set of vice grips gave their last effort on this job; so I brought out their replacement, a set of Craftsman vice grips found in a garage sale. I decided to find a snug socket to hold the strut rod end in place while I loosened the nut with the box wrench but I used the vice grips to hold the socket. This worked.
  2. The Lebaron springs had one (1) extra coil but were only about a honest inch taller, uncompressed. I didn't feel this would work against me as it came off easy enough. I was wrong. I compressed 4 coils in the compression tool, then removed one side to grab 5 coils, to compress it enough to get the new nut on the Excel-G rod end. This took quite a bit of time since I didn't have access to my air tools to work the strut spring compression tool. I eventually had it all back together.
  3. It is completely necessary to mark the location of the strut upper components prior to disassembly. The book says to but I didn't fully understand why prior to doing it. The location of the upper spring seat and the upper mounting plate are critical to proper strut alignment for reinstall.

Even without the right side installed, I had some immediate positive driving results.

I had a "shimmy" in the suspension/drivetrain; I was uncertain whether it was an unbalanced wheel, missing wheel weight, worn suspension or steering components or a wheel bearing. So I did what I always do, check the free fixes first. My books says to torque the lug nuts to 95ft/lbs; that helped but didn't fully eliminate the vibration. Next, I took it to the exstablishment that installed the most recent tires. A wheel weight had flung off; this helped but there remained a shimmy vibration which now felt like it was in the front. I inspected the brakes, they are in spec and looked in good overall working order. The front sway bar install made the shimmy feel like the front left wheel was the predominant source of the vibration. After installing the upgraded front left strut/spring, the shimmy is gone!

If anyone has any questions or inputs regarding my selection of components, method of disassembly or my plan, I would like to encourage your inputs, thoughts and questions. I am here to learn, everyonce in a while I accidentally do something right and from time to time I am able to share my experience with others or provide a laugh. (Add to the discussion)

Strut tower braces

Mark Sutyak wrote: “I finally installed a strut tower brace on my Shadow. The brace is a Greddy adjustable brace made for a Nissan 240SX ($98). It took me a couple hours because I'm a bit slow and picky on these things. However not picky enough. I ended up bending both mounting brackets a bit. My final verdict is that it works great and is worth whatever you end up spending on it.

strut tower brace handling

Photos by Mark Sutyak, cropped and with arrow crudely drawn by us.

Installation

You will need to uncsrew the the ends where the mounting brackets are to adjust the length. There is an adjustable nut at each end so when you get the desired length you can tighten it and the length will stay. Once yet get the desired length and line up the brackets with the bolts on the towers mark your holes very carefully. This is not something you have a lot of tries on. You will need a beast of a bit to drill through the brackets. I found it easier to remove the brackets from the bar to drill them. Drill a hole, check the tower bolts. An eighth of an inch will ruin your day! You may not be able to use all 3 of the original nuts. I could only use two because of the 3rd bolt location. I had to use a nut without the washer on it. Be Very careful of the AC line that passes by the passenger side tower. Installing the brace will indeed push it down some, but won't break it. I mounted the brackets first, then the bar. Be very picky on the position of the brackets on the towers. If it is not centered, like mine, then the brackets will bend as you torque the nuts. The brace should look like this: @________@ sort of. You will be able to get to your air filter too.

Original post

Greets all you EEKers! Today I recieved my Greddy 240sx strut tower brace. According to Rick, the 400hp Daytona guy, it would fit my Shadow. Well, he was right. The brace is adjustable in legth, but the brackets need 3 new holes drilled to fit the bolt pattern. It's not the most beautiful installation because I ended up slightly bending both brackets when I torqued down the nuts. Other than that and a couple hours installation time (I'm slow) it turned out great.

After some nice curvy WV driving I came to the conclusion that my steering has tightened up along with my cornering ability.

Note: if you do use a strut tower brace, we suggest you also stiffen up the rear end with an Addco sway bar (unless you use one on a CSX). We believe they will fit most EEK!s - Daytonas, Shadows, Sundances, Spirits, etc - but we only know of tests on a Daytona, the following LeBaron convertible, and this Shadow/Sundance.

More on strut braces for handling

Phil Goller got one for his LeBaron convertible. He wrote:

I have successfully installed the Greddy strut tower brace in my '89 LeBaron GT convertible (turbo 1). It went in fairly easy and lined up perfectly. It would have taken less than an hour, but I ran down to Pep Boys to buy new M8 nuts and washers to mount it.

I had to drill two new holes in each bracket, but one existing hole on each side lined up fine. The strut doesn't seem to block access to anything. As far as performance or chassis stiffness, I can't really perceive any improvement. I think the car's lack of stiffness is not in the front end, but aft of the firewall. I am considering bolting or welding in some steel tubing underneath to try reducing chassis flex.

strut braces

Other performance modification pages

The EEK! page has a number of other handling tips, including but not limited to...

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