How to Install Coilovers on your Miata / MX-5

How to Install Coilovers on your Miata / MX-5

We haven’t heard many people complain about how good the Miata is on a twisty road. Its FR layout with the engine placed in front of the driver, but behind the front wheels, combined with its extremely lightweight body and low center of gravity make it one of the most interesting driver’s cars, despite having relatively low power rating. For example, we have recently seen what Miata can do in capable hands. One of the small number of things that Miata had upgraded is suspension and the upgrade came in the form of coilovers.

Miata suspension cutaways

Why the coilovers are the way to go?

First of all, we have to say that the impeccable blend of comfort and performance of the stock suspension on the Miata does the job perfectly well for everyday use. Upgrading them would make the car noticeably more capable on the track and many people opt to do so for the fun of it. However, if you decide to add more power – by adding a turbo, for example – better brakes and suspension are no longer an additional perk, but rather a necessity.

Coilovers vs air suspension

Photo © Super Street Magazine

There are more advanced ways of improving your suspension. The top notch ones would be air suspension, or some hydraulic systems. They are usually used on the most luxurious of cars and they offer the best adaptability. Luxury cars use them for comfort, but they can also be used to bag the cars – make them as low as possible. Whenever you see a bagged car, it most likely has air suspension.

The problem with air suspension is that it is incredibly expensive to buy and almost as expensive to maintain and service. Lastly, despite the diversity of options, the main purpose of air suspension is comfort, so most of them are not meant to be used as rugged, track-oriented systems.

If you want great versatility of settings and sporty ruggedness, go for coilovers. Even though they are noticeably cheaper than air suspension, they are also more expensive than regular sports shocks and springs. However, the price difference between the shocks/springs and coilovers is more than worth it.

What are they?

They are a mixture of a coil spring and a shock in one unit. There are several different kinds, including the ones that give you the option of adjusting the height of the car. The installation process for the Miata is a DIY job and a pretty straightforward one. Furthermore, most coilovers will fit the car, so you shouldn’t have a problem with finding the set that is just perfect for your desires and budget.

A short video of Jason Fenske explaining how do coilovers work. (these coilovers are for Integra, but the principle is the same):

Installation process

First of all, a little trick of the trade. If you are not an experienced mechanic and if you haven’t observed the suspension on your Miata often, you should take pictures of the parts BEFORE you remove them from the car. There are loads of parts and if you are not familiar with them, you might have problems remembering where everything was and reassembling everything could turn into a nightmare, even though it is a simple task generally speaking. Make sure you know where everything should be and in which order. Explaining why losing any of the parts is not a good idea is probably not necessary.

Front coilovers installation

Front coilovers installation

Step 1
Remove the front wheels to gain access to the brake line bracket bolt. That one is located on the strut body and even though you won’t do anything with it immediately, doing this first will make things a lot easier later.

Step 2
This one is optional, but we would strongly recommend it. You should disconnect the sway bar from the link. Just remove the bolt and the nut and the sway bar should be released. This will give you more manoeuvring space and it will make things easier and safer and it is as easy as can be. It is optional, but there is literally no reason not to do it.

Step 3
Behind the disc brake you will find a nut and a bolt. These connect the shock and the lower control arm. Disconnect them.

Step 4
Remove the plastic trim that hides the engine. Do not pull it if you feel it’s stuck, since this probably means you haven’t undone all of the bolts. Pulling it might break it and you don’t want that. Remove all of the bolts (two per wheel well and a few more on the underside) and the trim should come right off.

Step 5
Removing the trim will give you access to the bolt and nut that keep the upper control arm attached. This bolt is longer than the others. Undoing it will disconnect the upper control arm.

Step 6
Get yourself under the hood and undo the two nuts in the strut tower. Completely removing these enables you to remove the strut with ease, since these two nuts connect the top side of the strut to the strut tower.

Step 7
First of all, connect the strut to your spring compressor. After that, remove the nut that keeps the top mount connected to the strut.

Step 8
This top mount should be connected to the coilover after you remove it from the strut. While you are connecting the top mount and the coilover, make sure all of the parts are put in the right order. This is
especially important for the parts that go between the spring and the top mount. Some types of coilovers might have more parts than others, but for each of them you should make sure that all of the parts are in the intended order. This should not be difficult, but it is paramount.

Step 9
Connect the mount and the coilover and make sure they aren’t loose.

Step 10
Put the coilover in the wheel well and guide the studs of the top mount through the intended spaces in the strut tower. Tighten the two nuts at the top of the strut tower. These are the two nuts you removed from under the hood in the Step 6.

Step 11
This is a combination of the first few steps in the reverse order. This is basically putting everything back in place. Here’s a quick checklist:

a) Connect the upper control arm by using the long bolt. Make sure everything is in its original place, including the two washers.

b) Connect the lower control arm.

c) Attach the sway bar to the link.

d) Attach the bracket at the brake line

e) Reinstall the plastic trim and don’t forget any of the bolts. Start from the underside.

f) Put the wheel back

Repeat the steps for the other side of the front.

Rear coilovers installation

Rear coilovers installation

The process is pretty much the same, so I’ll just address the slight differences and give a quick rundown.

Step 1
After the rear wheels have been detached and removed, disconnect the sway bar.

Step 2
Undo the bolt that connects the control arm and the strut.

Step 3
Remove the carpet in the boot to access the top mounts for the rear wheels.

Step 4
Remove the metal cover that stands over the fuel line.

Step 5
The rear tower is under it and once you get to it, remove the two nuts. If you can’t reach the nuts, do not use excessive force around the fuel lines. Rather use an extension.

Step 6
Upon removing the nuts, you will be able to pull the hub downwards and disconnect the shock.

Step 7
Remove the mount using the compressor and install it on the coilover just like you did for the front.

Step 8
Tighten the coilover top mount to the strut tower and reinstall the metal cover and then the carpet you removed earlier.

Step 9
Connect the lower part of the shock to the hub.

Step 10
Attach the sway bar and put the rear wheels back in their place.

That’s it. If you have any questions or suggestions, make sure you post them in the comment section and remember what you use your suspension for. You must be concentrated and very careful, since one loosely tightened bolt could cause serious issues.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Main Menu