Koni Sports (Yellow) Damper Update

Per Tire Rack’s experience, the Koni Yellows feel like they have broken in some. My set has almost a month and a half of daily driven time now. Koni states that there is no break-in period but it certainly feels like the dampers have gotten smoother in their operation. After a month and a half of driving on them, they are absolutely great. Smooth body control and excellent ride quality.

I have now settled on 1/2 turn of adjustment on both front and rear dampers. They are just about perfectly dialed in for the type of roads that I see in L.A. I’ll save the discussion about rebound adjustment for an upcoming post.

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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.

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.

Koni Yellow (Sport) Dampers – Quick Look

If you have read any of my earlier posts, maybe a year or two back, I used to have a set of Koni Sport dampers on my car. At the time they were paired up with Neuspeed springs. I didn’t really care much for that combo because I hated the Neuspeed springs. They are soft and being progressively wound, they made the handling hard to predict. The Koni’s were used and I later found out one of them was leaking. I sold that set off and went back to oem.

The oem dampers are decent at what they do but they feel a little underdamped, especially at the rear. So I installed a set of new Koni’s and paired them with the stock springs. The result? Daily driving ride height with excellent damping. Body motions are much better controlled and the ride actually feels smoother. Chalk that up to the damping characteristics of the Koni’s. Koni’s (twintube construction) are typically less harsh in initial response (compared to monotubes). What’s nice about the Koni’s is that they are rebound adjustable and you can adjust the damping response to whatever spring rate you’re using.

I came across a surprise when I measured the stock damper against the Koni Yellow. The Koni’s spring perch is maybe 1/4″ or 1/2″ lower than the stock spring perch. I can’t really understand why, but the front certainly does look a little lower. Works perfectly for the slightly lowered 08+ and up springs. The front is a tad high compared with the rear and this setup brings them almost even.

A more detailed analysis and pictures are coming up after I spend more seat time with the setup!

Upcoming Articles

Just a few quick notes on some upcoming articles:

I have installed a new set of Koni Yellows (Sport Adjustables), some thoughts on them will be coming soon.

-Excellent shocks even for stock springs.
-Front struts may be shorter than stock (surprise)!

I’ll also have a few posts on alignment settings and aspherical mirrors along with a few pictures I’ve compiled over the past month or so.

Sit tight!

 

 

CV Boot Change

My cv boot was also replaced when I did my timing belt a few days ago. It was starting to weep grease right where the clamp was. I got to it right before it got a chance to completely tear and liberate grease all over my suspension. If you see the boot beginning to show signs of failure, it’s best to get it replaced as soon as you realistically can. This way, you can avoid having to replace the whole joint or axle. The remanufactured units are not the same quality and if you can save you original joints and axles, it is the better way to go. If the joint has been driven on without grease, it tends to go bad quickly. Soon it will begin to make noise (most often a clicking noise when turning or backing up) and you’ll have to replace the whole setup. Many shops only replace the whole axle because it’s easier and more profitable. Find a shop that is willing to do just the boot job. It should cost around $200. Parts are cheap but the labor gets you.

Here’s a post with some interesting pictures and a semi-diy.

Whiteline Anti Lift Kit – WALK Review

Whiteline Anti Lift Kit – KCA316

Overview

I fitted the Whiteline Anti Lift Kit just a few days ago. My stock rear control arm mounts were a little tired from the mileage. I would’ve waited just a little bit more but I had some work done (cv boot tore) that would’ve necessitated an alignment anyway. So I decided to knock two things out in one go.

The Whiteline Anti Lift Kit (we’ll just refer to it as the WALK from hereon) replaces the rear control arm mount on the front arm. It relocates the rear mounting point slightly lower compared to stock and replaces the rubber bushing with a polyurethane bushing design. The name is a little bit misleading because it doesn’t actually add any “anti-lift” to the suspension. It removes the built in “anti-lift” geometry built in from the factory allowing the suspension to apply more force on the tires. Anti-lift is engineered into the suspension to reduce the nose pitch under acceleration. Manufacturers design suspensions like this for comfort. It can reduce front end traction because some of the suspension loads are then transferred into the suspension arms. This kit removes some of that designed in anti-lift geometry to allow the suspension to work directly. On a car with lets say, 100% anti-lift geometry, the nose will not lift at all and 100% of the chassis loads will be absorbed by the suspension arms instead of deflecting to the springs. On a car with 0% anti-lift, there is nothing resisting lift and the suspension is free to work (in this case extend into droop). An excellent conversation with some general theory behind this is here. It’s a Subaru site but the theory still applies. Just read the information about how it works. Whiteline also has a PDF paper. Here’s a quote from the Whiteline PDF:

“A softer front suspension during acceleration and braking will even out the load on the
front tires, giving a higher total cornering load available or more front-end grip. This will
lead to less understeer when cornering under power or brakes.
Another way of looking at this is that under power or brakes the effective spring stiffness
is lower, reducing the front-end anti-roll resistance, hence reducing weight transfer at the
front and less understeer.”

The kit adds .5 degrees of positive caster. The MKV GTI is already a caster heavy setup and the WALK only makes it better. Steering effort is raised a bit. I like it as the extra caster also makes the car more stable and the heavier steering is a plus for me. Camber gain while turning is also increased as a result of the caster and reduced bushing movement.

I didn’t do this on the lift

Installation

Installation can be difficult if you don’t have the proper tools. You can be creative with what you have but it took me a lot longer than I thought it would take on jackstands. I did not remove the control arm for this. I just unbolted the control arm mount, pried the control down and levered the old mount off. Contrary to what I had read, that mount was on there tight. I used a flat metal bar to lever it off the arm but it took some time, WD-40 and a lot brute force. If I had to do this again, a gear puller might work perfectly to pull off the mount.

Inner Bushing and Mount

The Whiteline bushing is actually a two part design. One is pressed into the WALK’s mount and the smaller bushing goes into that. It prevents binding and is actually quite clever. The bushings have grooves that hold the grease in to prevent noise and to keep everything moving smoothly. The smaller bushing goes on first and then the mount goes over it. You have to press the mount in with considerable force to get it to go all the way in. The instructions say to let some air out at the one end to help align the bushings. There is an illustration but I didn’t really get what they were talking about until I installed it. Grease the control arm shaft first to make sure it’s easy to remove if you ever have to take it off for any reason. Once you are ready slide the main mount onto the smaller bushing, you have to push it on pretty hard. The poly makes an airtight seal and if the grease you use is thick, you have to contend with the excess grease push it out the other end. Once the holes line up or are near (you may have to use a pry bar on the control arm to help get it into position, bolt up the shiny new Whiteline piece. I used blue Loctite on the three bolts.

Grease Retention Grooves

I used a lot of grease, way more than necessary. Better to over grease now than to have too little. It will make noise if the grease runs out. Whiteline included a packet of moly grease but I didn’t use it. I used a polyurethane specific grease that I wrote about before in this post. This grease is extremely tacky and silicone based. It’s much thicker than the grease they supply. I’d recommend you find this grease or order it online. It’s washout resistant and should keep you noise free for a long time. It’s sold in small tear off packets or a grease gun cartridge.

Here’s a copy of the installation instructions straight from Whiteline.

Control Arm Mount Bushing – Control Arm Side

Driving Impressions

This kit changed the car’s handling in a very positive manner. I know it removes some of the anti-lift geometry but it feels as if there is less lift when you are accelerating. The steering effort definitely goes up. On the freeway, the car feels more stable due to the added caster but it is subtle. The biggest difference is in the turns. It’s so much more fun now. The front end has picked up a lot of grip and feels considerably more stable and planted. I feel like I can push the car harder than ever and it will keep gripping. It’s really eye opening when you take a familiar corner. The front now feels sharp and alive. I love it. Apply some throttle and the car just dives into the turn. Fun fun fun.

Much of the stability probably comes from the poly bushing. The stock GTI bushings are practically cut all the way around to keep NVH down. The A3/S3 gets a much stiffer design with only two small voids. There is much less play in the suspension, which helps provide the feeling of stability. Speaking of NVH, the new bushing adds only a very small amount at road speeds of about 20-40 mph. Ride comfort remains the same with no harshness.

You will require an alignment after fitting this as the toe will be pushed out a bit. I recommend you tell the alignment shop to keep front toe-in close to zero or at zero.

Here’s a great review from the MKV forums.

Inner Bushing

Downsides

Where would a mod be without the downsides? I can’t really point out any faults that I can back up with evidence. There is one person whose inner bushing fell apart after one track day (R32). I’ve seen one or two split inner bushings in the UK forum but that is it. I’ve read other people have tracked with the bushing and it held up just perfectly. The majority consensus is that they are flukes (maybe 3 cases). Still something to think about.

There is also the need for periodic lubrication. I don’t think the grease Whiteline provides is tough enough for this application. It is thin and looks like regular moly grease. Polyurethane specific grease would be much better. I don’t know how long mine will last until it needs relubrication, but I’m hoping the grease I used holds up for a while.

The stiffer rear bush also transfers more force to the front control arm bushing. I didn’t replace that one since it was still good. Only time will tell if the rear poly mount helps deteriorate the front rubber bushing. So far so good though.

Overall

I wish I had fitted this mod sooner. It affects the front end in such a positive manner. More grip, better steering feel, sharper. It makes me long for turns. NVH is not an issue with this modification and it’s rather pleasant to be able to feel some of the road surface again. The heavier steering is a plus for me. I thought it was too light at highway speeds before, now it’s perfect. This mod gets an A+ from me.