Product Test: GAINS Coilover Suspension

GEDC1210

Murphy’s law has done it again. Anything that can go wrong, will, and it did happen on Project Elantra when our Korean-branded coilovers gave up the ghost. Leaking ectoplasmic shock oil and basically doing nothing related to damping, the shocks clearly needed attention.

We of course had the option to have it rebuilt by our friends at Cruven Fairview, but the coilover’s damping settings were not adjustable, and the innards were shimmed to be rock-solid on compression – forget rebound. Repairing the shocks will just restore the crappy valving.

Last year, we were offered some coilovers that are now sold under the GAINS brand that happened to have an application for our silly Korean car. GAINS Coilover Suspension kits are available as well for other makes and models. Popular tuner cars like the Civic, Corolla and Lancer aside, they even have an application for unlikely cars such as Kia Prides, Mazdas, and yes, Elantras.

In the interest of full disclosure, we are now selling GAINS Coilovers at the kuhol.net online store. But before we became dealers, we were customers just like you. We’ll try to make the review as balanced as possible. We’ll leave it to you, our dear readers, to judge for yourself our level of bias.

Image credit: Gains Coilovers

What are Coilovers?

Many misconceptions surround coilovers. Fitting coilovers to a car will not necessarily improve its handling. Roadholding is ultimately determined by the tires. Stock suspension with gumball race tires will reduce track times more than a Php 200,000 suspension on stock, economy rubber. Well-tuned suspension upgrades merely “unlock the grip” from the stock suspension. Special emphasis on “well-tuned”.

The word Coilover is merely short-hand for “coil spring over shock”, meaning that the spring and shock is integrated as one assembly. Etymologically speaking, if your car is equipped with, say, MacPherson struts, you already have “coilovers”.

Coilovers as enthusiasts commonly know them are the same in form as the OEM component, but feature two distinct advantages in its basic form: the ability to adjust vehicle height and to easily change spring rates. What allows these are the spring perches. One, they are movable as they can be screwed up and down since the shock body they are on is threaded. Two, they are sized to accept springs with standardized inner diameters, which opens up a myriad of possibility (and several supplier’s catalogs) as far as spring rate selection is concerned.

Based on the definition above, there is no functional difference between the cheapo coilover sleeves that reuse the stock struts and you can buy for dirt cheap, and the “real” coilovers that the GAINS Coilover Suspension sets represent. If the preceding features were all you wanted, you can go with the coilover sleeves, change the springs to those with a rate that would achieve your set aims between ride quality and handling, and call it a day.

But of course, you want a “real”, “racing” coilover, don’cha? Real coilovers (pardon the term) will be expected to have a range of adjustability to allow the initiated to properly set up his suspension. Adjustments provided by the coilovers may include damping and camber, the latter done usually by pillow-ball mounts. A race-like anodized and powdercoated finish is also a must for these things.

Again, coilovers do not necessarily improve roadholding out of the box. It is the use of proper spring rates, wheel alignment and shock damping settings that would maximize the available grip from the tires fitted to the car. Unfortunately, discussion on suspension tuning is well-beyond the scope of this article. Maybe next time.

Old vs. new.
Old vs. new

GAINS Pros

Our old set of coilovers had a set of pillow ball mounts that were already a bit worse for wear as the pillow ball joint was contributing to so much kalampag, especially the rear pair. A fresh set came with the GAINS coilovers. The fronts were camber-adjustable like the old set. Additional camber adjustment on the GAINS was available via extra-large upper knuckle bolt holes on all four shock bodies, allowing for crazy camber angles, especially at the front axle. Stance guys will love these coilovers

Bigger holes on the upper knuckle for more camber
Bigger upper hole on the knuckle mount for more camber

The GAINS also had a single rebound damping adjuster. Seemingly, adjustments have an effect on compression too. As to what rate of crosstalk each click of adjustment provides, we cannot validate without a shock dynamometer. When we change the springs to a higher spring rate, we will take full advantage of that lollypop-esque knob on the top of the damper.

GEDC1205
The coilovers say DGR because this was an early set

They more or less bolt-on, but with one niggle. (See Cons below.) This was very important for us. We were almost considering to katay some surplus coilovers with adjustable damping to fit our car. At least we were able to find a local supplier for coilovers that had an application for an uncommon mod car like ours.

Speaking of which, GAINS coilovers are available for an impressive list of makes and models. Kia Pride, Proton Wira, Subaru SVX, Mazda 323, Toyota Supra, and other uncommon and special cars have GAINS coilovers to suit.

Rear coilovers. You can ignore the car's dual-caliper setup.
Rear coilovers installed. You can ignore the car’s dual-caliper setup.

GAINS Cons

The front shock body did not have a mounting point for the ABS sensor. For us it didn’t matter because we have deactivated the ABS anyway, but for a street car, it might be an issue for someone who wouldn’t just use zip ties and call it a day.

The Street-spec spring rates of 7kg/mm front and 4 kg/mm rear are too soft for our racing use. On intermediate tires, Project Elantra rolls around like a tipsy seafearer, even with the shock absorbers set on full hard on all sides. We desire a spring rate increase as soon as funds permit, as they can always be ordered from the supplier.

This is nitpicking, but we prefer it if the orange anodized finish of some components were blue instead, just to match the rest of the aftermarket components fitted to the car, like the Stivo Racing coilovers that we also sell. Otherwise we are agnostic on the color choice.

Conclusion

A quality coilover for the price. Of course, the car is not used everyday and thus will not have the same wear and tear as a street driven vehicle, so this is not a comment on longevity but on our actual use for motorsport, and a comment on its basic appearance and features. We will enjoy the car’s added adjustability and in the future tune both shock and spring to elicit the handling characteristics that we desire.

For a street-driven vehicle, we will not hesitate to recommend a set, regardless of the fact that we ourselves retail them. Instead on relying on surplus sets with unknown history of use and indeterminate spring rate and specification, might as well get a set of coilovers with a one-year warranty, local support, and vouched by us and several users that already have got a set.

The GAINS coilover suspension featured in this article was purchased for the site’s Project Elantra without any special or promotional consideration by the product’s principal. kuhol.net proudly sells GAINS Coilover Suspension. Check out The kuhol.net Garage online store for purchasing and other inquiries.

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