Koni Sport Dampers (Koni Yellow) – Review

Front Struts

Overview

The Koni Sport dampers, also popularly known as the Koni Yellows are a line of dampers intended to provide enthusiasts with more performance oriented ride and handling characteristics. They come with a lifetime warranty for the original owner. They are one-way adjustable dampers (rebound) to allow for matching with different spring rates. While the MK5 has pretty good body control stock, it is missing a little bit of extra rebound damping. The rear can get bouncy sometimes and the body can pitch quite a bit on choppy sections of highway. Big hits can take a little longer than I’d like to settle back down.

The problem I have with the stock dampers is that comfort can suffer from the lack of rebound. It makes rough roads a little softer but the choppy highway ride is what is really uncomfortable. It’s undesirable from the driver’s seat, imagine how much more for the rear passengers!

Replacing just the rear dampers made a big improvement in ride quality and control. Koni’s have a very smooth engagement and it makes the suspension feel a lot smoother in operation, despite their performance intentions. I installed the rears one night and did the fronts another day.

Koni Yellow Construction

Koni manufactures a variety of different damper types. They do monotube, and twin-tube hydraulic or low pressure gas. They usually reserve the monotube variety for higher spec racing dampers. You’ll find a lot of discussion regarding whether twin-tubes or monotubes are the better construction type. Theoretically, a monotube is better. Compared to a twin-tube, monotubes generally exhibit faster reaction time, less vulnerability to heat and can be installed in a variety of positions. If the body is damaged though, it will affect the performance of the shock or possibly take it out of service. In practice, and especially in a daily driven car, either one can be made to work well. Here’s a link to an excellent site that everyone should read: Autocross to Win – Shocks.

The Koni dampers for the MK5 are of the twin-tube variety. Bilstein, one of the largest producers of monotube dampers, also makes an excellent damper for the MK5 but I didn’t choose them for a specific reason. The quick response of a monotube can degrade ride quality quite a bit. A twin-tube damper has a slower reaction time, leading to a more progressive increase in the damping rate. This progressiveness is what gives the Koni’s their excellent ride quality. If you track your car, the Bilstein’s will handle better than the Koni’s but they won’t blow them out of the water either. If you do a little of both or want an upgraded damper for the street, the Koni’s would be my choice.

Install

I’ve taken apart the suspension so many times that it’s easy for me now. The rears take about an hour for both side (replacing just the dampers). The front struts took me about 2 1/2 hours. The first time I tried to install springs and dampers on my car, it took me all day. There are several excellent suspension install DIY guides, I won’t try to make a better one. Here’s a good one-DIY Install. There’s nothing different about installing the Koni Yellows. The dampers will come with plastic washers, just be sure to place them between the damper and the bump stop. This keeps the bump stop from damaging the top seal. The Koni Yellows also come with a much larger location tab for the front struts, you may have to move the strut spreader to get the body to drop down into strut holder. A 1/4″ ratchet extension can work as a strut spreader in a few cases.

Be sure to check that both rear dampers are adjusted to equal positions. The rears require disassembly to adjust and you don’t want to remember after you’ve put everything back together. Set them at 1/4 turn from full soft for a few hundred miles to let everything work in. The fronts are externally adjustable, set them at 1/4 turn from full soft to let them break in as well. The reason for setting them a little off full soft is that the adjuster sometimes jams if left for a long time in the full soft position. I’ve never personally seen it but have heard a few stories regarding this.

Side Note

I don’t have a photo, but I stood the Koni Yellows up next to the stock front strut. To my surprise, the spring perch is maybe 1/2″ lower or so, nothing drastic. I don’t see it mentioned anywhere but i’m positive it is different. It’s a slight difference but it is noticeable visually. Works out perfectly for me because my front end sat slightly higher visually. I really wish I had taken a photo.

Driving Impressions

These dampers are much better than the original Sach’s dampers. Sach’s makes great stuff but remember that OE dampers are spec’d to a price point. At the softest setting, the ride quality is better than stock, like buttery smooth. I don’t see how people would find the ride quality at full soft to be worse than stock. Bumps are absorbed with little drama and then the chassis settles back down. Roll is much smoother due to the higher rebound damping rate. Turn in is a lot more predictable and less upset by rough roads. The car feels lighter on its feet with the added chassis control. In terms of driving, these dampers offer improved dynamics with no cons.

What is the Correct Rebound Setting?

The correct rebound setting depends on the spring rates and driver preference. Koni provides the rebound adjustment to match spring rate and also to adjust for wear. Although there is an optimal setting, there is enough leeway back and forth for a driver to adjust the damper to personal preferences. As such I’m only going to say that you want enough rebound damping to control the spring after hitting a bump in the road. You want the chassis to take the bump, and then settle down after reaching the ride height. I’m oversimplifying this only because I can’t tell you what the best setting is.

The softest setting is the Koni recommended setting for stock springs. I find it very comfortable but body control is still messier than I would like. I ended up at the 1/2 turn setting for the rear. Better than stock comfort and ride control. You’ll be surprised by how large a factor the rear dampers are in terms of ride feel and handling. Having them correctly dialed in makes the car feel a lot more stable. Get the rear dampers dialed in first and then adjust the front rebound control to taste.

Remember that you are not attempting to stiffen the car with dampers. You are matching the rebound control with the spring rate. Springs and sway bars control how far the body rolls, dampers control the rate of roll. Rebound settings that are far too stiff will cause the suspension to jack down and not rebound after bumps. Stiffer than required rebound settings can lead to weird handling (washing out, sudden oversteer/understeer) and poor comfort. Rebound settings that are too soft result in less than optimal body control. Body control will feel somewhat loose.

Overall

If you are generally happy with the MK5’s handling and would like to improve on it, upgrading the stock dampers is an excellent choice. Tires and dampers make drastic improvements to the already competent MK5 chassis. You’ll be hard pressed to improve the handling further within a budget. Stiffer springs will destroy ride quality and lower springs will compromise the suspension geometry. I am on stock springs with the Koni Yellows and I feel that this is the perfect daily drive suspension. The slightly lower Driver Gear springs would make for a nice visual change and slightly improved roll control (slightly stiffer) but minus the wheel gap, the stock springs with Koni Yellows are an excellent combination. Very fluent in the corners and comfortable. The suspension geometry and travel are all kept within their optimized ranges. I’ve never been more in love with the way the car handles. After a few hit and miss suspension updates, I think I have finally found the perfect setup for my needs.

They are available from a variety of vendors. Check out the vendor list at the top of the site. Koni had an amazing sale on these last year but as of now they are around 600 dollars.

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Windshield Wiper Shudder

Ever notice that once in a while, your windshield wipers will move or jump when you remove your key from the ignition? When I first got the car it used to fascinate me. It did it at seemingly random times. Later I found out that the movement was intentional. The purpose of the wiper movement is to flip the blade over to another side. It helps keep the rubber blade from permanently deforming in one position. At over 100,000 miles, I’m still on my original front wiper blades and they still work rather well. The nice California winters probably help.

Shorter OEM Bump stops (Euro Bump Stop)

118mm Rear Bump Stop - Part Number 1K0 511 353 N

 

The bump stops in most modern day Volkswagens (and plenty of other cars as well) function as supplemental springs. If you take a look at the picture above, you’ll notice that the bump stop is designed to get progressively stiffer. The narrower nose section is significantly softer than the larger ribs in the middle. When carrying a heavy load or during aggressive driving, the nose contacts the shock body and the sections collapse. As more sections collapse, the spring rate of the bump stop progressively gets stiffer and the combined spring rate increases. The rear bump stop usually has more travel to deal with than the front (from weight change resulting from baggage or passengers) so the length is about double that of the fronts. The system is finely tuned and handling changes can be made by simply altering the length or stiffness of the stop.

Bump stops are usually cut when the suspension is lowered too free up some travel. If you lower the MK5 too much, you end up riding on the bump stops and the ride becomes very hard. Not fun. By cutting the stops, you gain back some comfort but end up with a huge, sudden increase in spring rate when you do contact the bump stops. You lose the progressive nature of the uncut stock bump stop. Not exactly a good thing when you’re in the middle of a turn and you hit a mid-corner bump. Spring rate goes up a lot and it can upset the chassis of the car.

If you are using the springs from the later model year GTI’s with the lowered ride height or lowering springs with a mild drop (Eibach Pro-Kit), you might want to consider using the Euro bump stops versus cutting your existing ones. It’ll help preserve the progressive ride characteristics that the factory designated. The US GTI comes with 133mm rear bump stops and 70mm front stops. The Euro spec ones are 118mm for the rear and 55mm for the front. If you compare the two side by side, it’s like taking off one of the middle ribs.

The part numbers are :

Front: 1K0 412 303 F
Rear: 1K0 511 353 N
I already have the shorter front stop but was still running on the 133mm rear stop. I purchased the 118mm rear stops from urotuning.com to allow the rear a little more travel with the lower 2008 and up suspension.
A little unrelated but Urotuning sent me two different bump stops. One was the original part and the other is the Febi OEM equivalent. They feel the same but are two completely different colors. It’s giving me ocd. Urotuning assured me that they are the same though.

Auto Union Tuning – Great Indy Shop

I have a strong dislike of dealerships. They’ve managed to give me subpar work or service about half the time I go there. True that 50% of the time it’s correct but that’s too low a percentage. Oil level overfilled when it clearly states “DO NOT OVERFILL”, completely misaligned steering wheel after an alignment, work that was stated to be done but not really…yeah, not fond of dealerships. I’m a DIY kind of guy because I know that the final quality of work will be completely dependent on me and I like things done properly. A “good enough” kind of job will bother me. So for me, finding a good shop to stick with is hard. I always find something wrong or slightly off. Really quite an annoying condition. But enough of the cool stories, today I actually want to recommend (!) a really great shop in the Southern California/Orange County area.

If you recently read my timing belt post, I had the service done at Auto Union Tuning in Huntington Beach. I drove about 50 minutes to get there but goods shops are few around here. Dave was the person I dealt with. Really excellent service and all around nice guy. The shop is a brand new upstart, but Dave and his partner are VW/Audi certified. His buddy is Porsche certified as well, if I recall correctly. It’s a small shop, a two bay garage with a small showroom but clean and fully stocked. My timing belt service only took about 4 hours and that was with repairing a CV boot rip. Pricing is truly competitive and what I would call fair. The timing belt service seems to be something that a lot of shops love overcharging for. I’ve heard quotes go as far as 1000 and up. Ridiculous. They do aftermarket as well as dealership services.

Their website is now fully operational and it looks like they’re having some specials for the grand opening. Please check them out. I am not getting paid for shilling them, good service just deserves something back. Check them out at AUTUNING.COM.

Here’s the shop info: Dave is the one I dealt with as he specializes in Volkswagens

Shop Hours Mon-Sun by Appointment Only

Auto Union Tuning
7542 Warner Avenue Suite 107
Huntington Beach CA 92647

Please E-Mail, Call, or Text to Schedule an Appointment
service@autuning.com
Raz: (949) 285-3523
Dave: (310) 804-7298

“G” Revision PCV Valve Internals

I opened up my non-functional revision G pcv valve and took a few pictures, enjoy.

Revision G Check Valve - This one is broken

Revision G Diaphragm and Spring

Revision G PCV Internals

Blue Tinted Aspherical Side View Mirrors

Prefer a wider view of the road beside you? I know I do. My stock mirrors are setup following the process outlined here – How to Set Rear View Mirrors to Eliminate Blind Spots. Using this method, you can see pretty much anything around your car. I wanted to see just a little bit more than just the next lane though which brought me to purchase a set of aspherical side view mirrors.

These mirrors have been floating around ever since the MK5 generation was brought out. I think they’re standard items in Euro spec cars. I have no idea why they are not used here, maybe cultural preference. These mirrors show are much wider field of view than the stock mirrors and the last outer inch or so is angled even further. This angle serves as a built in blind spot mirror. If you’re not used to driving with the setup outlined in the link up top, it can take some getting used to driving with these mirrors. Someone used to the wide view setup will have an easier time picking this up.

The ones I picked up are not oem (most likely an oem supplier though) but the quality is nice for the price. I found them for 40 dollars shipped on eBay. Various other sellers in the US are selling these for $100 dollars and up. For $40, I took the chance. The rear mounting points are different from the stock mirrors but they fit well. I’ve heard reports of the non-oem mirrors not fitting correctly but these snapped in firmly. OEM mirrors would’ve been nice but they don’t come in a blue tinted form. I wanted to get a set not only for the wider view but for the glare reduction as well. The blue tinting helps tremendously with driving at night. Glare is cut by at least 50% and makes night driving with SUV’s and misaimed headlights around a lot more pleasant. It is slightly darker at night, but I have not had an issue with night vision yet. Keep this in mind if you have problems seeing at night though.

Visibility is excellent, particularly if you set them up properly. I can’t imagine driving without them now, they are really useful in daily driving.

Plus they have that cool blue color… =)

 

Ultra Racing Chassis Mid-Brace

Ultra Racing Mid-Brace (Part Number: UR-ML4-1193)

Sometime last week, I had the unfortunate luck of witnessing a pretty nasty accident on the nearby 5 South. There was a pretty large amount of debris and I didn’t see some on the roadway and ran right over it. It dislocated my downpipe, took out both the chassis mid-braces and scratched up a few of the plastic bits. I had to remove the mid-braces to straighten them, as they were bent and were actually what caused the exhaust to dislocate. Holding them in my hands to straighten them, they are not very strong pieces at all. They’re made of thin gauge steel and I can’t really imagine them doing too much, unless they are constantly in tension.

Compared to stock brace

Being slightly obsessive about replacing damaged items, I used the opportunity to buy a mid-brace from a company called Ultra Racing. I don’t really know much about them other than they are a Malaysian based company. They have a large number of products for many cars but I mostly chose them because their bracing looks like it might actually do something. GT Spec has a set of replacement aluminum bracing but it is a two piece design compared to UR’s design.

Installation is very easy, eight 13mm bolts and you are done. Fit is really spot on. The stock braces required a bit of pulling but I don’t know if that is because of prior damage related to the accident. This particular brace, part number UR-ML4-1193, is actually for the MK6. The MK5 has its own design for the mid-brace but I don’t like it as it attaches with only 4 bolt points as opposed to all eight of the stock pieces. I think the MK5 design has another UR brace that is supposed to attach there as well. The MK5 and MK6 share the same basic chassis and braces designed for the MK6 look better overall. The MK6 brace fits just the same.

Anyway, its all bolted up. Clearances are great, nothing rattles and it should be infinitely stronger than the flimsy stock braces. I bought it for $150 on Ebay. It shipped from Malaysia but got here in about a week and a half. That’s quick!