Strange Engineering Talks Drag Brakes, Shocks, and Suspension Tuning

Stephen Kim Nov 8, 2013 0 Comment(s)
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Shock Line
With a rich history in the highest ranks of NHRA drag racing, it's only natural for Strange to apply its track-proven shock technology to street applications as well. The company offers a variety of different models of shocks for both high-end tube chassis drag cars as well as bolt-in shocks for stock chassis applications. At the entry-level end of the spectrum are Strange's single-adjustable steel body shocks and struts valved for street/strip driving. The next step up is Strange's double-adjustable steel body shocks for late-model Camaros that are valved for drag setups. The company offers a multitude of aluminum-body shocks as well. "We have both single- and double-adjustable bolt-in shocks for most American muscle cars. They are offered as direct replacements and as coilovers," Jeff says. Likewise, these shocks can be mounted with either polyurethane bushings or Heim bearings. "For all-out racing applications, like Pro Stock, Pro Mod, and Super Gas, Strange has single- and double-adjustable struts with integrated spindles and optional lower control arms. These strut packages include the strut body, spindle, springs, aluminum steering arm, tie rods, bearings, and seals."

Strange Engineering Shocks 2/11

Single or Double Adjustable?
When shopping for a shock, one of the first choices that must be made is whether to go with single- or double-adjustable shocks. While single-adjustable shocks definitely have their limitations, novices can easily get in over their heads with a double-adjustable shock. "Strange's single-adjustable shocks adjust both the compression and rebound at the same time in a predetermined ratio of compression to rebound. These settings have been refined over the years to our customer's needs," Jeff says. "Our double-adjustable shocks allow independent tuning of the compression and rebound force curves. This allows tuning for a wider variety of conditions. Low-grip surfaces due to temperature, or an early season green track, require as much suspension tuning flexibility as possible. With both types of shocks, you are trying to minimize the extra motions of suspension oscillations. In low grip conditions, less rebound and more compression can produce better grip and still minimize oscillations. In general terms, the least amount of damping will produce the best grip, but the trade-off is vehicle stability. Double-adjustable shocks allow a finer line to be drawn."

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Clickety Click
All clicks are not created equal. Jeff says turning the adjustment knob one click on one brand of shocks is very different than turning the knob one click on a different brand of shocks. "With high-end shocks, you're looking for a wide adjustability range in addition to durability and nice fit and finish. A lot of companies market the number of adjustment clicks that their shocks offer, but after conducting extensive dyno testing we have found that having a lot of clicks doesn't always mean that a shock offers a wide range of adjustments," Jeff explains. "At Strange, we focus on the change in valving that results from each click. We still have 10 external clicks on our shocks for rebound, which is much less than many competitor's shocks. However, there is a very noticeable difference in valving between completely soft and completely stiff. This maximizes the range and the effectiveness of the shock as a chassis tuning component."

Due to the compact size and ease of ride height adjustability, coilovers have become very popular in street/strip applications. For those on a tight budget, Jeff says that a non-coilover suspension can still perform extremely well. Even so, coilovers offer several important advantages. "A coilover system allows you to adjust the corner weights. There are a variety of spring rates and load heights available with a coilover arrangement, and the height adjustment allows fine-tuning for the correct corner weights," he explains. "Likewise, coilover systems are easy to adjust and compact by design. On the flip side, the disadvantage of a coilover is that if the spring ends are not parallel, the spring can start rubbing against the shock body. This changes the spring rate and damages the shock. That's why we exclusively use Hyperco springs. A lot of people think that springs are just springs, but they are a very important part of the suspension. Ruining an expensive set of shocks with some cheap springs is never a good idea."

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Reality Check
As one of the easiest sets of components to access and adjust, it's not surprising that the shocks are one of the first places racers turn their attention to when dialing in their cars at the track. Granted that shock adjustment can be an extremely effective suspension tuning tool, it can't cure an inherently flawed suspension setup. "Remember that the suspension system needs to be tuned as a whole, and shocks are just one part of the total system," Jeff explains. "Spring rates, instant centers, weight bias, suspension friction, and tire pressure are all part of the system. Sometimes a better solution to a specific traction problem might arise from adjusting other parts of the suspension system. If you really need to adjust the instant center, but you're changing the shock valving instead, the results will be less than ideal."

Tuning Tips
Racers often get overwhelmed when trying to figure out how to adjust their shocks based on how their car is driving. Some suspension maladies are so common that experts like Jeff have entire notebooks filled with tips on how fix them. Perhaps the most universal of problems is a car that blows off the tires coming out of the hole. "Softer front shock rebound will provide quicker weight transfer, and in the rear shocks, less rebound and more compression will help. That said, the ideal approach would be changing the spring rates and adjusting the instant centers," Jeff advises. "It is all about making the tire produce grip, and if you load it too fast it will bounce and unload the suspension. If you load a tire too slow it will not achieve maximum grip. Every tire likes to be loaded at a specific rate, and 1 pound of air pressure can have a greater effect than one click of the shock."

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Tire shake is another common issue, and one that's much easier to address. "What's happening during tire shake is that the tire is running over itself," Jeff says. "The car is planting so hard that it stretches the tire too far, and the rotating tire then tries to plant on the stretched section of tire. To correct this condition, you have to slow down how quickly the chassis reacts to power input to get the car up on the tire. More damping is the answer, and increasing the compression and rebound valving on the shocks will help."

One of the most frustrating problems a drag racer might experience is a car that consistently pulls to the right or to the left. The first step in diagnosing this problem is checking shock adjustments to confirm that they are adjusted the same from side to side. "If the shocks are adjusted the same, remove the rear shocks from the vehicle, pull the springs off, and hand-stroke each shock to confirm that they compress and release similarly. If not, contact Strange Engineering so we can test and inspect the shocks on the dyno," Jeff advises. "Adjusting the spring height on the shock may be the best solution at the track. Putting more preload on the tire with the least grip will help equalize the tire loads during launch. Check rear suspension alignment to make sure everything is square."

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Strange Engineering
Morton Grove, IL 60053


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