How to Adjust Your Shocks, Part One- Single Adjustable Shocks

How to Adjust Your Damping!

Now we are coming to the good part!

  1. Do not make your rebound damping too stiff!  This is what I see as the most common mistake people make, if some is good, more is not better.  You want to run the least amount of rebound damping that gets the job done.  This will produce the most mechanical grip by minimizing tire shock.
  2. Turn your knobs the right way!  Not all shocks are created equally.  Some shocks turning the adjustment knob clockwise makes the rebound damping stiffer, for others softer, some shocks have handy arrows on the knobs but most don’t.  Some brands of shocks turn in different directions on different models.  If you are not 100% sure what direction to turn the knob, call the manufacturer and verify.  Many, many people, some very smart people make this mistake all the time.
  3. Start at your manufacturer-recommended baseline settings for your application.  Believe it or not, most brands of shocks don’t have this information but other brands like KW and Suspension Techniques do and that info is in the provided manual.  If you have no recommended baseline starting point, start with your shocks set fully soft and stiffen them one notch at a time until the ride gets harsh, then back off a click or two.  This is usually an excellent starting point.  Many people would be best off leaving their shocks here.  Believe it or not, this setting usually works best for both street and track if all other things remain the same.  Perhaps you might want to go up a click or two for the track but maybe not.  Things like tire choices affect shock adjustment so if you change brands or types of tires, you might have to go up or down on the shock adjustment a little to get the most out of them.  Fight the urge to go stiffer!
  4. Fine-tune your shocks.  Remember that shocks do not affect your suspension stiffness and overall slip angles of tires in steady-state cornering and cannot affect steady-state over and understeer.  Shocks act like a weight transfer capacitor and can speed or slow weight transfer and can greatly affect how the car behaves in transitions. A shock can feel like it is a steady-state balance device but it is because it helps the car get into another phase of cornering. Adding front rebound will speed turn-in and make the car more responsive to steering input. Adding rear rebound will slow the rear of the car’s response to inputs like trail braking and lift throttle making things like trailing throttle or lift throttle oversteer more gentile.  Maybe this table will be a good guide to your adventures in adjustment.

More Front Rebound

Sharper turn-in.

More response to steering input.

Feels good and responsive in transitions

Feels good for most drivers but, this can fool them into adding too much.

Most things happen at the corner entrance

Too much front rebound

Tire shock

Poor harsh uncomfortable ride

The front suspension packs down progressively on bumps, getting harsher and harsher.  Front of the car bobs and jiggles around.

The front of the car skips under cornering and braking and has no traction.

The front of the car has poor traction in bumpy turns.

Sometimes poor corner exit traction due to poor dynamic weight transfer to the rear wheels (noticeable in drifting the most).

Poor off-the-line traction for drag launches.

Too Little Front Rebound 

The front of the car feels floaty and scary when going fast, especially under undulations or pavement height variations. Feels like a boat.

Slow sluggish turn-in, the steering wheel feels like it’s leaning the car rather than turning it.

The car gets blown around in the wind.

The front of the car gets light at speed.

The front of the car rears up and loses the front grip on the corner exit.

More Rear Rebound

Slows rear rotation, can make use of trail braking or lift throttle to rotate car easier to manage and catch

Adds rear stability in high-speed turns.

Can add traction at the corner exit, the car hunkers down on throttle.

Reduces braking dive and rear wheel lock-up.

Adds stability on transitions

The back of the car follows the front better

More traction in a drag launch


  1. Love these “refresher” articles.

    I went from a Feal 441 Coilover setup with 7k front / 4k rear in a 1999 Subaru Impreza RS that burned down to a 2000 Subaru Impreza RS with Subaru Performance Tuning lowering springs and AGX shocks in the front and JDM STi shocks in the rear with factory non-STi tophats. I wonder why I endured the harshness and noise from the pillowball mounts of the adjustable coilover setup. Odi actually installed and corner balanced the car when he was just starting out Feal in Rancho Cucamonga. I never really adjusted the clicks once I found a nice balance, which was actually near full soft.

  2. Perfect timing of the article Mike. I just had my Apexi N1s rebuilt, and getting my Autocross MR-S ready for the season!

  3. Looking forward to what could be a great series for sure! I’m using settings on my KW v3’s that are more crowd sourced than technical, and would love to learn more on what is ideal.

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