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Suzuki Alto Works – Suspension Refresh

The handling getting extra murdery prompted me to open my wallet and replace some more parts.

I know I have mentioned it before, “Murdery Handling”, but this is both part of the nature of the car, something I was used to, and something I didn’t like when it got worse.

Due to the super aggressive plate LSD, when on power, the LSD will lock and the Alto will want to turn both wheels together at the same speed. This goes against what the wheels want to do when going around a corner, where normally the inside and outside wheels turn at slightly different speeds.

This causes “murdery handling” as when taking a corner, if you come off the throttle and the LSD suddenly unlocks and allows the differential in speed that the wheels want to have, the car will instantly dart to the inside of the corner, which is usually pushing you towards the centerline and oncoming traffic. This is great for when you want to hit them apexes hard, but not so great when just tootling to work and back.

It’s a feature that the Japanese owner made note of after installing the LSD, and one that I was getting reasonably used to, until the other day.

It’s not possible with a 1.5-way, but the tuck-in that occurs when you release the accelerator in a corner that is unique to FF cars with a 1-way system works well.
The traction from zero start is 4WD-like acceleration, and you can drive safely even in the rain.

Japanese Previous Owner

I was driving back from work and suddenly noticed that even the slightest throttle caused the car to want to go towards the outside of the corner, and when you came off throttle the steering would suddenly react like the steering wheel was joined to the rack by a rubberband. This wasn’t the usual murdery handing, this was something more concerning.

When I made it safely home I jacked the car up and had a look for anything wrong. It didn’t take long. Everything seemed nice and tight until I grabbed the front springs and wiggled. The whole front struts were loose, with the LH in particular moving a lot. The top mounts were no longer holding the struts in place and they were moving about. This was likely causing a change in alignment when coming on and off throttle and then turning.

I don’t know why it suddenly got worse, but I needed to fix it. The first plan was to just replace the top mounts and reuse the rest of the suspension. I already have some Tanabe lowering springs to fit, and decided that since the shocks weren’t original to the car (they’re from a donor Works that had 50,000km more than my car as I didn’t want to deal with the adjustable suspension this car had when it was imported) and they visibly looked pretty average, I would replace them too as I didn’t want to find they were blown when I fit the new springs, and have to do the job twice.

It all snowballed from there. If I’m replacing the shocks, I may as well do the lower arm bushes too. But bushes won’t get me a new balljoint, so that means new arms. If I’m doing the arms I should do Ignis arms to get more camber. I don’t want to fit new standard mounts, I’ll get some uprated ones. Oh, the price of a pair of genuine shocks is about that of a full set of aftermarket uprated KYB shocks, well Man-Maths says I should do the set then.

This led to a whole lot of new parts being shipped from Japan. It all arrived the other day, so I got cracking.

I brought the Alto in out of the cold. It had been a long month of not driving it.

The tape measure was brought out to give me a baseline for ride height

Front – 62.5cm
Rear – 63.3CM

The QuickJacks were slid under and up we went

I started with the lower arms as I wanted to be able to remove the shocks and not have to remove the knuckles, or pull the axles out. I removed the wheels and started by popping the outer balljoint. I removed the clip, took off the nut and using a hammer hit the knuckle on the side, which popped the joint out. The arm won’t drop down so check it’s popped by pushing the arm down with a pry bar.

I then removed the two inner bolts from the arm and removed it. Do note, that the rear bush actually slides into a C-shaped slot, so needs to be removed and fitted from the front, sliding the arm backwards into place.

Excuse the blur…

During my hours upon hours of research I came across a piece of information that was interesting to me; The lower arms from a current shape Ignis are the same as the Altos, but are 10mm longer, pushing the ball joint out slightly. This results in an extra 1 degree of negative camber, without having to mess with camber bolts.

Part Numbers 45201-62R00 and 45202-62R00

These bolted straight up with no issues

I used my bottle jack to lift the knuckle to ride height, so I could torque the bolts up to spec

This process was then repeated on the other side

Next up was the main job, the front struts. These looked rough, with surface rust peeling the paint off, and the rubber boots falling to bits. The car they were from had obviously been undersealed at some point, as the shocks were covered in overspray.

I used some bungee cords to hold the hub in place so it wouldn’t drop down and pull the axle out of the gearbox. This is looped around the subframe mount.

The top nuts had been soaked in WD40 to make sure I had no issues removing them. These top nuts only hold the mount together and the strut in the car, it’s safe to undo them as they aren’t compressing the spring (that nut is below this one). You really do need an offset ring spanner for these as the shock shaft needs to be held with a hex key too.

With the top nut removed, the brake hose, ABS wiring and swaybar link removed from the strut, the two lower bolts were removed and the strut can be wiggled free

This is the big nut that has all the spring tension on it

And this big rubber thing on the top is what has compressed and no longer holds the strut in place

On this strut, the top nut was so loose I could undo it by spinning the top mount rubber. This nut should be about 50NM, so that wasn’t right.

As there is still a bit of tension on the spring, I employed a single compressor to let me safely remove the nut (by hand with no tools…)

And the bare shock. As it turns out, the shocks aren’t that bad. They still rebound when compressed, albeit a bit lazily. I was expecting them to be dead, like the rears I replaced previously.

The only reason to strip the shock down was to remove the top spring plate, which I forgot to order replacements for. A bit of a waste of time, but hey.

This is all the new goodies going in.

R’s Racing Service Reinforced top mounts (P/N S36-120)

KYB New SR MS (Works spec – P/N MS-5628BZ1267Z)

Tanabe FunToRide springs (P/N HA36SFK)

Oh and of course, the Project Mu stainless braided brake hoses (P/N BLS-020AG)

All other parts were genuine Suzuki items, which for interests sake, all superseded to Type 2 parts, which have small changes over the Type 1 parts from my car.

I put the two top mounts side by side and you can see just how compressed the old one on the right is compared to the new one

I had read that when lowering an Alto you should cut the bump stop down accordingly, so I whacked the bottom off it

The beautiful new shocks were then built up

The blue is such a nice colour

The newly built strut was then refitted to the car, including the new top mounts and plates.

Part of the Type 2 changes was the difference in the top plate for the mount. It’s been completely redesigned. Type 2 on the left.

They’re also fitted with cute little caps that the car was previously missing

Before wrapping this side up I also did the brake hose. The clips are a real pain, but a small pry bar managed to get them out.

The banjo fitting in the brake caliper was a surprise to me. I haven’t seen this style before. The bolt is solid, but has these ridges down the side that allow fluid to travel along its length.

The new stainless hose fit perfectly. I’m glad I went with the iconic teal instead of a boring colour.

Yes, the ABS wire should be in front of the strut, I corrected this later

The LH side is more of the same, with one small difference, the ECU needs to be moved out of the way. There are two bolts on the front edge of the ECU that allow you to slide the ECU off its mounting pin on the firewall, and rotate it up and away

Of course the bracket is still in the way to swinging spanners, so remove the two bolts holding that in place

Just as crusty as the other side (featuring correctly routed ABS wire)

All fresh newness

Hidden by the ECU

And again, nice fresh blue shock with teal hose

Both sides also got new tie rod ends, since I had to get the car aligned anyway, it was just a smart thing to do

They took a bit of tweaking. The change in camber had upset the toe, so when I first put the car on the ground again both wheels were pointing outwards. A quick eyelignment got them pointing somewhat straight again.

That was all the excitement for the front, so I moved to the back where I promptly removed my nice clean 2000km old genuine shocks

and springs

And fit new pretty new shocks and springs. I covered rear suspension replacement in a previous post.

It is a shame to be replacing the genuine parts since they’re brand new, but needs must

The rear brake hoses got replaced too. It turns out that the rears were still fitted with the previous owners Navic stainless hoses

It’s gotta be a matching set though

My wife gave me a hand to bleed the brakes and that was all the undercar work done.

Before lowering the car down, there were a couple of quick jobs I wanted to complete. The first was replacing the ZC33S Swift Sport coils with some “High Spark” coils. I’ve had a slight surge under boost since I got the car, and wanted to eliminate the coils, and a few people in Japan are running these High Spark coils with success (and to be fair, plenty run the ZC33S coils too).

I whipped the ZC33S coils out

I also removed a plug to check and all looked pretty good there

The High Spark coils bolt straight in

And lastly, I had a Blitz BOV that I finally wanted to fit

I got it cheap from Yahoo Japan because it’s missing the trumpet. I’m not bothered by that

The Japanese owner deleted the stock BOV when he had the CADCARS tune loaded, using an Rs Racing Service blank, as the standard BOV can’t handle more than the stock boost before leaking.

This worked, there are no leaks, and the turbo compressor surge noise it makes sounds great, but I’m both a child and want whooshy noises, and concerned about the longevity of the turbo.

The instructions say to remove the bumper to fit the BOV. I’m lazy, so I did keyhole surgery through the TakeOff vent

I ran a new genuine hose from the BOV to the intake

The solenoids had already been modified when the blank was fitted, so it wasn’t too hard to plumb in the vacuum line

This solenoid has to be moved from the turbo outlet pipe, to here, with the bracket that comes in the kit. This solenoid is left connected to power but has no vac lines going to it

So, with the BOV fitted, it was finally time to drop the car to the ground.

Immediately, I loved it.

It looks incredible. Dropping the height has really pumped up the attitude; it looks so tough now.

Can’t miss the extra camber in the front either

I tweaked the alignment so the wheels were straight, and then took it for a quick shakedown drive

The BOV sounds great, a good solid PSSSHHHH. It’s like having a 90s turbo car again. I’m in my mid-30s, I shouldn’t find it so amusing to drive around going psshhh psssh.

Upon returning home, I checked the heights again

Front – Now 60cm
Rear- now 60.5cm

So we’ve lost about 30mm all around, give or take. It’s right in the middle of the 25-35mm spec Tanabe lists, which to my eyes is bang on perfect.

To wrap the job up I had an alignment done. My eyelignment wasn’t too bad, it was a lot closer than when I first got the car and had it aligned.

It was amusing though, the guy that did the alignment pulled me aside when I went to pick the car up and was concerned that maybe the car had really bad CV joints or axles as the car knocked and shook when taking corners slowly “nah, that’s normal, it has an overly aggressive plate LSD and the oil is cold”. He also mentioned that the camber is out of spec and that they can fit camber bolts to bring it back in, but I let him know I added that camber intentionally. I commend them for their thoroughness though.

All that was left to do was take the car to work today.

I didn’t get a clean run around the fun twisty bits, but did my best. So far I’m really happy with the suspension.

The ride is nicer than with the OEM suspension. It’s less harsh on bumps (a point that often comes up when others replace the stock suspension), but is stiffer so there is less roll. It rides really well, so I’d say the Tanabe springs and KYB shocks are really well matched.

Most importantly though, we’re back to normal levels of murdery handling, and if anything it’s more controllable in corners as it feels more stable. I can’t wait to see what it does at the next track day; I’m expecting to smash those times.

I’m not sure if the coils fixed the surge under boost, I need to test that more and do some logging.

I can’t get over how the Alto looks now though, cutting the wheel arch gap down really improves its looks a lot.


And finally, a couple of photos I took on lunch today

The new cluster lens and center console trim really helped to bring the level of the interior up too

The seatbelt extenders are a game changer for lowered seats. I guess I didn’t realise how annoying it was to have the belt rub the side of your neck, but now it’s gone it’s much more comfortable.

Right, now I can finally get some more Ks on the car. I’ve really missed driving the silly little thing. It’s such a good laugh to drive.

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1 month ago

normal levels of murdery handling” love it.
It must be nice to work on a car where all of the parts are still available 🙂