|240 Suspension Page
|UPDATED: April 24, 2021 CONTACT|
|D O M
A I N S
|Lowering your 240
||Struts / Shocks
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Thank you, Dave
a Volvo 240 fan who's owned and modified a lot of 240s going back over 30
years, I've collected a fair amount of suspension experience. This page
will try to address that.
Please take it for what it's worth. The way I have done things may not always be the "CORRECT" way. Over the past 30 years much of my experience has resulted from EXPERIMENTATION and CORRECTING MISTAKES, which I think creates more valuable experience than just doing what others tell you to do. So feel free to experiment with suspension settings and parts so you can find what works best for your 240 and driving enjoyment.
Back when i was fairly new into 240s, when I found the old rubber suspension bushings were suffering, I decided to follow the popular trend of replacing every bushing possible with polyurethane. And of course because I was diving in deep, some bushings got replaced with custom made solid rod ends, such as sway bar end links, torque rods and the Panhard bar.
My limited experience didn't consider just how much noisier a 240 could become when you eliminate so much rubber damping. I didn't mind the all of the extra noise and rattles that much.
Now, after many years, I've changed my mind on some of those preferences. I still think polyurethane bushings are just fine for MOST places when you want to improve responsiveness, and my current 240 still has a number of them, but not everywhere like before. For example, I removed the clanky solid end Panhard bar and installed an iPd one with poly bushings. And I'll be staying with rubber bushings for now on the front suspension lower control arms. I'm planning an installation of some Hybrid Adjustable Torque Rods from Kaplhenke Racing, which have rubber bushings on the chassis end. When that installation is complete, I'll include some photos in this page.
Here's a subject that needs some clarity. The 240 front strut housing was designed for the use of an optional bottom spacer, which was used when installing certain damper cartridges that were too short to fit without a spacer.
The first two photos below show a 1984 strut with NO bottom spacer. This style strut housing was used until 1989.
The strut damper cartridge seen in the second photo rests on the internal retaining ring you can see in there. The retaining ring is set in a groove inside the tube.
That is a DeCarbon gas damper in there if you're curious.
Here's a Blistein HD strut cartridge being fitted to an early strut housing. No bottom spacer is used for the Bilstein HD.
The top gland nut is designed to fully thread down into the housing, as in this photo below, where a cartridge fits correctly.
Spacer Volvo PN 1229423 (part NLA).
When a spacer is added to the strut (as shown below), the strut cartridge then rests on the spacer. The actual lift that this spacer provides is the thickness of that wide top rim, which is about 3.8 mm.
Since the factory Volvo spacers are no longer available, an option will be to try to find a used set. If that's not possible, a simple substitute could be used.
Spring steel shims with an outside diameter of 45 mm combined to a thickness of close to 3.8 mm are available. Try these 45 mm OD spring steel shims from McMaster Carr, available in multiple thicknesses.
1 mm Shims: https://www.mcmaster.com/98055A346/
or 2 mm Shims: https://www.mcmaster.com/98055A576/
If you try these, please send me an email on how they work out: CONTACT
Late 240 Strut Housings 1989-93
This permanent spacer makes installing some dampers a bit troublesome on a later 240.
Sometime during the 1989 model year Volvo made a change to the 240 front strut housing for late 1989 and all 1990-93 models.
This newer strut then came on future 240s with ABS. Volvo permanently added the spacer in the bottom (see photos above). It is not removable. Apparently Volvo thought 240 owners would no longer ever need to install gas dampers.
This photo below shows an attempt to install a Bilstein HD strut cartridge into a later housing. A Bilstein HD is too tall to be installed with a spacer in this housing. The top gland nut will accept a few threads, but it will not fully thread into the housing.
Here's a discussion thread with more photos:
It is known that the Koni Sport or Bilstein Touring strut cartridge will fit this later housing. Other cartridge brands are not known.
If you need a strut housing without the spacer, some later 240 owners have solved this problem by fitting early strut housings or by using coilovers which use early strut housings.
There are things you can do to improve the 240 chassis stiffness. Volvo thought of this too. Back in 1978 the 242 GT came with upper diagonal suspension tower braces.
The GT also came with lower suspension braces, which were similar in size to the upper ones. The lower brace bolted to the bottom of the cross-member at the front and to the bottom of the control arm bushing housing at the rear. It appears that this was an attempt to better stabilize that rear bushing housing. I'm not aware that it needed stabilization, but I'll take Volvo's word for it. The lower braces appeared on the GT for only one year anyway (1978).
Variations of upper and lower braces are available from a few Volvo performance parts places.
This article was originally published in the May/June 1997 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.
I built my own Trammel Bar more than 30 years ago after learning about it in the book How to Make Your Car Handle, by Fred Puhn.
I haven't had a reason to take a 240 to an alignment shop for toe adjustments since then.
A Trammel Bar can be very accurate and it's easy to build using scrap parts, and it's very easy and quick to use without needing a helper.
The bar I built below used an old u-channel extruded aluminum curtain rod part. It's very stiff, so it doesn't flex much. Total length is 60 inches. Plus I used a couple pieces of sheet metal and a metal ruler, all riveted together as shown below.
When I want to check toe alignment, I generally begin by finding a line in the tire tread (or you can scribe or draw a line with a marker while spinning the tire). Do this to both front tires and use those lines when measuring.
With the car on the ground, place the tool against the tires IN FRONT to measure the track width at those marks. One measurement is taken with the trammel bar forward of the tires and one measurement behind the tires. If you're setting your alignment to 1/8th inch toe-in, then the front measurement will be 1/8th inch less than the rear measurement.
Here are some similar Trammel Bars in use.
Even if you still plan to visit an alignment shop, a tool like this will get you set up just right after replacing a rack or other front end parts and then you can verify your work at the alignment shop.
Here a good page to read about DIY Alignment with more Trammel Bar pics:
And here's a similar method of someone using a very expensive professionally built Trammel Bar:
This looks like the bar he is using: https://www.amazon.com/Longacre-52-79620-79620-Toe-In-Gauge/dp/B001NNFZ2Q
There are other methods, such as a string alignment. Long video here:
Should you change the ride height of your 240? How?
This question comes along often enough. You have to decide if you like your car at the original ride height (because you drive on unpaved or flooded streets?) or if it looks better and handles better if it's a little lower. Sometimes the road conditions in your area will help you decide, since lowering a car usually creates a more harsh ride and less under-car clearance. If you decide you want to lower it, here are some options to consider.
Most available sport springs will lower your 240 about 1.25 to 1.75 inches and will stiffen the ride by a small amount (maybe about 30%). iPd Sport Lowering Springs are by far the most popular sport springs in the U.S. for a 240.
Other spring companies offering 240 sport springs: B & G Suspension, King Springs (Australia), Classicswede.co.uk (UK).
These springs will be the same diameter as stock springs (about 6.5 inches wide for fronts), except they will be noticeably shorter when you set them side by side (front sport springs will be 4 to 5 inches shorter). This results in an easier job installing them.
As mentioned, your ride will be a little stiffer with a sport coil, which can offer more responsive handling. It will be very important to use good struts and shocks, which will be able to control (properly dampen) a stiffer spring, or you'll suffer unsatisfying bouncing. Bilstein HD or Koni adjustable (yellow) shocks are considered a pretty good match to iPd sport springs. I'll include more information on dampers in the strut/shock section below.
It's important to note that other numbers have been published on iPd springs since then and some testing has also been done over the years, resulting in a range of rates. Other measurements of iPd springs have been given as between 130-190 for front and between 120-150 for rear, so use your best guess if you have them.
Here's a thread started in 2016 that began compiling measurements on many Volvo Spring Rates: https://forums.turbobricks.com/showthread.php?t=325739
This thread notes that ordinary STOCK 240 springs (not GT or HD overload coils) will generally measure about: FRONT: 80-95 lbs/in.; REAR: 90-115 lbs/in.
Here's some math nerd stuff: Due to the position behind the axle, a rear spring rate on a 240 may be adjusted by calculating a motion ratio of about 1.5, which means a rear spring rate of 200 lbs will equal to an adjusted rate of about 300 lbs. Real world "seat of the pants" feel may be quite different. Also the sway bar combination can alter the feel of springs to a point.
If you're interested in a good article on Calculating Spring Rates, click on the image below. This article was originally published in the May/June 1997 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.
Coil-overs are a GREAT choice if you have more money to spend on your suspension and if you want to be able to better tune your suspension.
These offer a wide range of adjustment, allowing the use of a variety of standard, off-the-shelf coils in many different stiffness settings. And the upright threaded sleeve allows for considerable adjustment of ride height. Most kits will use standard 2.5 inch ID front coils and 5 inch ID rears, all of which are available in various lengths from a number of manufacturers.
Choosing spring rates can be difficult for a beginner, so reading up on what others have done and what sort of uses they have planned for the car will help (street, track, etc.). If you plan to use springs stiffer than sport springs, keep in mind that you may lose your comfy ride. You can also ask a coil-over supplier for help if that supplier has experience with 240 springs. Coil spring sets are inexpensive enough that you can experiment and try something different if you change your mind.
Springs come in various lengths and your spring length must also be chosen. This choice will be affected a little by your spring rate choice and of course by the choices you make about your ride height. The most common FRONT length for a 240 seems to be 10 inches for spring rates between 200 and 400 lbs. Stiffer spring rates and a lower ride height may allow for an 8 or 9 inch front spring, although a shorter spring will more greatly limit suspension travel. A 12 inch length will also be possible for many rates under about 250 lbs. There will be lots of ride height adjustment possible on that 6 inch upright threaded sleeve.
Similar concerns will apply when choosing a REAR spring length. 11 or 13 inch lengths seem to be the popular choices for a 240. Again, there will be a few inches of height adjustment available with the threaded sleeve.
When I purchased the below coil-over kit for my 245 Turbo many, many years ago, I knew little, so I asked the builder for a spring recommendation. Based on mostly street use (it was a daily driver) and occasional track-days, the recommendation given to me was as shown below, which seemed to work very well for me.
FRONT SPRING: 2.5 x 10 inch, 200 lb. rate.
REAR SPRING: 5 x 11 inch, 175 lb. rate.
These spring rates were noticeably stiffer than the iPd sport springs that they replaced.
Barrel Shaped Springs
Some spring suppliers offer barrel shaped springs. This is something you may want to consider for your front coilovers for a bit extra clearance between the spring and the strut. I now recommend barrel shaped 2.5 inch front springs after I found standard springs had a habit of flexing enough to damage the threaded sleeve in the below photo. Using a barrel shaped spring will improve this clearance.
So, will a barrel shaped coil interfere with the wheel/tire? I don't think so. You can decide after looking at this photo.
Eibach and Hyperco (Hypercoil) both offer barrel shaped coilover springs in their catalogs.
BNE Dynamics (Kaplhenke Racing) uses only barrel shaped springs with their coilover kits.
Or if you're handy, you can build your own set of coil-overs. Here are some resources for the DIY builder:
240 Coilovers: The Kyote Way
DIY 240 Series Coilover Instructions
Search the Turbobricks forum for more.
There are people out there who will scream at you to never cut them! I think it's because there have been more failures from inexperience than great success. It can be a less precise solution for those on a strict budget. The key to getting it right is experience and getting it right is definitely possible (assuming your definition of right tends to agree with the stance of the above 245).
And for more info on cutting springs, you can read the following threads. You may want to pay particular attention to posts from Tuff240, author of the above spring cutting page. He has more experience cutting 240 springs than anyone else I know. This is the best information I know on this subject:
Calculating Spring Rates for CUT COILS
For those interested in calculating the new spring rates for cut coils, it's a simple math equation, assuming you know the original spring rate.
For example, a factory 240 FRONT spring appears to have 7.5 active coils.
Cutting off 2 coils (5.5 coils remain) will increase the spring rate by 36%. The math is: 7.5 ÷ 5.5 = 1.36. So if the original spring rate was 100 lbs, then the new rate is 136 lbs.
A factory 240 REAR spring appears to have 8 active coils.
Cutting off 2 coils (6 coils remain) will increase the spring rate by 33%. The math is: 8 ÷ 6 = 1.33. So if the original spring rate was 100 lbs, then the new rate is 133 lbs.
The source for this spring rate info is this article on Calculating Spring Rates, which was originally published in the May/June 1997 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.
Here is a factory high-pressure gas strut cartridge that originally came in a 240 GT, GLT and Turbo model. This was made by DeCarbon in France. The 240 Turbo also reportedly came with Boge high-pressure gas dampers, although the specific years is not known to me. These front struts were fitted in 240s without using a bottom strut spacer. These will not fit in a 1989 or later strut housing with a permanent spacer.
The Bilstein HD (B6) is the most popular aftermarket strut/shock combination when using sport springs on a 240. They will generally give pretty good damping with stock springs or with sport springs, however it was my experience that the rear Bilstein HD shock combined with sport springs was a bit too soft for the heavier rear of a 245. I had no complaints when using these with sport springs on a 242 or 244.
These front struts are fitted in 240s without using a bottom strut spacer. These will not fit in a 1989 or later strut housing with a permanent spacer.
Volvo 240 Front Strut Bilstein HD: PN F4-P36-0081-H0
Volvo 240 Rear Bilstein HD: PN F4-B46-0296-H1
The Bilstein HD is a high pressure gas damper. The high pressure gas chamber helps to prevent foaming of the damper oil, giving the advantage of more consistent damping during heavy use. The gas chamber is pressurized at 25 bar (about 350 psi) and this tends to force the shock toward the open position. This opening force is about 40 lbs, which may raise the ride height slightly compared to a non-gas shock.
The Bilstein HD has an internal bump stop inside the tube at the bottom. It can be easily accessed by removing the nut on the bottom and threading the rod out through the top.This way you can trim down the bump stop if needed for a very low ride height. There are a number of videos. Here's one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RU-p0qTNVIY
BILSTEIN TOURING (B4) NOTE: I have never personally used Bilstein Touring shocks, but most opinions I've read concluded they will offer poor damping when combined with any spring stiffer than stock.
Bilstein offers rebuilding and custom damping settings for their Bilstein HD's. https://www.bilstein.com/us/en/technology-and-knowledge/service/
If you plan to use springs in your 240 that are stiffer than typical sport springs, I would recommend either moving up to a higher level damper or having custom dampers created.
Koni Sport (yellow single-adjustable) struts/shocks are considered to be a higher level compared to the Bilstein HD because of their adjustable rebound.
These front struts must be fitted in 240s with a bottom strut spacer. These will also fit in a 1989 or later strut housing with a permanent spacer.
The single-adjustable Koni Sport (PN 8641-1245 for Volvo 240 front, PN 26-1129 for rear) is adjustable on rebound (upward suspension movement), with a range or stiffness. The adjustment on a Koni Sport will be made either internally (before installation) or with an external adjustment knob (depending on model). The Koni front strut for a Volvo 240 is externally adjustable using a removable knob at the top of the strut.
The compression (downward movement) stiffness is not adjustable on the Koni Sport. The Koni uses an external bump stop, which is placed over the small tube at the very top. It will fit inside a coil-over spring and can be shortened/trimmed down if it's needed for a very low ride height.
KYB: I had only one experience with a set of KYB Gas-A-Just struts/shocks on a 244 with iPd sport springs. These were considerably cheaper than Bilsteins and came with a few positive recommendations from other 240 owners. I can't offer a recommendation for these. The set was noticeably worn out in 11k miles and I then switched to Bilstein HDs.
Gazmatic International in the UK offers GAZ adjustable struts and shocks. Front GAZ GAI adjustable strut inserts for Volvo 240 offer an adjustment range for rebound only, similar to the Koni. Rear GAZ GT adjustable shocks are available in single adjustable (rebound only) or double adjustable. A double adjustable shock will adjust both compression (bump) and rebound stiffness from a single control knob on the outside of the shock body.
Compression and Rebound Stiffness
In simple terms, COMPRESSION DAMPING (or sometimes called bounce) will control the mass of the suspension as it compresses or closes the damper.
Koni will tell you it makes compression stiffness non-adjustable in their yellow sport dampers because the mass of the suspension doesn't really change.
REBOUND DAMPING controls the mass of the chassis as it extends or opens the damper.
If you stiffen the rebound stroke, it can increase the response of the chassis to steering inputs, however as rebound becomes stiffer, less traction will be realized. So moderation is needed. Rebound tuning can help refine the breakaway characteristics or the balance of the car:
There are also higher-level DOUBLE-ADJUSTABLE dampers that will allow compression stiffness to be adjusted too. Koni and Gaz both offer double adjustable options. Tuning the compression damping is generally done at a more advanced level. If you know what you're doing, you can closely match the damper compression setting to your spring rate to improve the mechanical grip of the tire, but it's easy to go too far and degrade traction. This kind of tuning is done in track settings and not really something for a novice. Most street drivers will not really need double adjustable dampers.
If you would like more reading on the subject of dampers, here's a good article originally published in a 1997 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.
Over the years I've compiled some useful info below.
If you can help improve or add to this information, please email.
This image from a 1990 iPd catalog caught the attention of many Volvo enthusiasts who wanted improved handling.
I have always considered a good set of iPd anti-sway bars to be a great first step in improving a 240 suspension. Every 240 I owned had a set.
You can call it better handling, better grip, better road manners, etc. If you want your car to perform better on the road, part of that is how well your car inspires confidence in the twisties. Whether the car has too much body roll is part of that. Just don't go too far. Keep this in mind; Reducing body roll for the sake of just reducing body roll will not always make your car corner faster, however in most cases it will.
One reason for doing this is that a flatter cornering car will most likely have more tire grip. For a 240, the front tire grip will usually be greatly improved by flatter cornering. This is because with the McPherson Strut front suspension design, the front tires lean over when the car does. Reducing that lean helps the tires to keep a better contact patch. Due to the live axle rear end, the grip of the rear tires on a 240 is not affected as much by body roll, but it can still be improved by reducing roll.
This is obviously not a 240, but the suspension is similar. This photo will demonstrate how front camber can be affected by body roll with a McPherson strut suspension.
So if reducing body roll is good, does a car with NO BODY ROLL corner even faster?
No. Your car has a suspension for more than one reason. Not just for a comfortable ride. Since roads are not perfectly smooth in the corners, your suspension needs to flex to even out the changes as your tires struggle to grip when rolling over bumps or other road surface imperfections. More suspension movement and more body roll will almost always also give the driver more information about when the car is reaching its limit. This can help explain why removing all of that body roll will usually make the car suddenly less forgiving as you meet or exceed the traction limit in a turn.
Even a far less-forgiving racing 240 had body roll, so the ultimate goal is to find the right compromise to serve your desired use and road surfaces.
Rubber tires help to even things out too, but their role in a suspension is small. The springs and shocks help the most with this, but there will always be bumps which will momentarily lessen tire grip in a corner, and an ultra-flat cornering car won't absorb those bumps as well and may give an unwelcome surprise.
Stiffer anti-sways bars will affect your comfy ride quality too.
A stiffer anti-sway bar (with poly bushings to boot) will make your car corner flatter, but it will also transmit bumps into the cabin a bit harsher than a smaller bar would, especially in a corner when the bar becomes loaded. In most cases, a slightly harsher ride is a very small price to pay for the improvement a stiffer anti-sway bar will offer.
If you would like to learn much more on the subject of reducing body roll,and how anti-roll bars are designed, here are good articles originally published by Grassroots Motorsports.
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