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Discussion Starter #1
I got custom rear springs made by custom coil springs (COILSPRINGS.com) a few months back and just got around to installing them. I've learned a few lessons and am working out a few kinks:

Here is what I ordered

2004 Honda Element
Rear - coil springs - +2.00" trim height &
-10.0% springs rate &
+300# added weight
Pricing: $ 292.40 pair (changes constantly, I was also quoted $260 and $320 different times over the past year. I think it is based partially on stock prices.)



The front is 2" aluminum spacers (I measured the bolt holes on the front struts. they are not round or even. I then took a 1" drill to a 2" disk of aluminum based on a paper print out. I extended the struts with these (Which are captured by the spacer and shouldn't have any lateral stress)

I used all the normal camber stuffs. eccentric bolts for the front knuckle (one per side) and adjustable upper control arms in the rear. (man those things make bolting it all back together easier!)

I should have found longer throw rear struts for this job. I think (but do not know) that Ridgeline struts would cover it. Someone installed Ridgeline rear struts and springs on his element (also a whacky khaki) and his only complaint was that the springs were too soft (likely due to a more linear lift ratio in the Ridgeline rear suspension).



The added height of that 300lbs is more than I anticipated. I hope I can eat some of that up with a swing out tire carrier (which I for sure can't afford right now.) I hope this isn't in the zone where I'm blowing out CV boots left and right. It looks like its a little over 3" lift in the rear.

Pros: I love the -10% spring rate. I assumed that adding more length of spring and making them softer would smooth out the rear suspension. (don't know yet - read on). I was worried that it would add a dangerous amount of body roll and that did not happen at all. The rear sway bar is still doing it's job quite well.

I also shouldn't have a saggy rear end when I'm fully loaded and towing (which I do often enough and would like to do more of when we can swing an old 13-15' camper from the 50s or 60s.) I think that is a pro.

Cons: the ride is bouncy as ****. Where the struts sit at rest the shocks don't do much if anything at all. I've got some 1.5" stud extenders that I'm going to turn down to fit inside the strut hat bushings. I don't know how I'm going to space the bottom washer up, but I may be able to use the old strut bushing collar. I think I can do it all without dropping the suspension (in through the top, springs tensioned by a hydraulic jack.) If not, I'll make a topping plate that attaches to the chassis bolts.

mostly thinking out loud here... I'll report back when I get the struts worked out. I'd hate to have to reinstall everything with a different pair of struts, but that's the step after next. If I do that I may try to lop a half inch off the spring bottoms... we will see.
 

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I also shouldn't have a saggy rear end when I'm fully loaded and towing (which I do often enough and would like to do more of when we can swing an old 13-15' camper from the 50s or 60s.) I think that is a pro.

You might get a -slight- improvement in tongue weight capacity with the springs but remember that the hitch is still fastened to the same thin sheet metal as before. You're not going to get a huge increase just from changing the springs.
 

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Thanks for the shared info, I may explore slightly stiffer springs from them. My concern was always a damper that didn't match the spring rate.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
You might get a -slight- improvement in tongue weight capacity with the springs but remember that the hitch is still fastened to the same thin sheet metal as before. You're not going to get a huge increase just from changing the springs.
My hitch is bolted to the unibody through massive frame channel. It's rated for 350 lbs. I wouldn't try to exceed that myself.

So the CCS folks took quite a lot of convincing before they would admit fault. The error was that when Brock (or whatever that dude's name was) ordered factory ride height springs with extra capacity (also 300lbs I believe) they didn't have to figure the lift geometry so they just put a "1" into their system. When I ordered with a lift they assumed that the 1 in their system was accurate and didn't ask me to measure my suspension geometry. After measuring they say it's actually 1.5 (though it looks like Sparman's post suggests its closer to 1.75)

I spent a lot of sweat and money getting the springs on there (I couldn't get them on with a standard rental McPherson compressor so I put the car back together stock and drove it to a shop.)

Here's the ballast proving that the extra inch and a half isn't just the unladen ride height.


To fix the shocks (they were much too far out of their sweet spot.) I had to take everything apart again. Luckily I could use the rental McPherson once I lengthened the struts, so... that's good I guess.



I moved the spacer (that used to hug up on them bushings) to between the two washers. I turned down some M10 ATV wheel bolt spacers to the same size as the Honda collar spacer thing here:



You can see the spacer in the next one. To turn them down I just clamped an electric drill to the bench, chucked the spacer into the drill, tied it on to a slow to medium turn and hit it with an angle grinder until it was the right size. It isn't perfect, but it sure as **** worked. Once it's installed it only works as hard as it has to to push on the strut. It shouldn't mind the weight loss regime.



To keep the struts in the SAME sweet spot, I would technically want to divide my lift by 1.5 (or 1.75, depending on you believing sparman over the spring folks.)
The answer to those maths, bee boo bop, is 1.75-2"

Ride after installing the strut extenders was 90% better. Still a little bouncy. Great in tight turns on the interstate. I haven't lost any cornering that I was previously using, that's for sure.

Next part is the replacement springs and an idea to solve a problem with lifting our cars that has been bugging me.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
The synthesis for this idea was that I could water jet a new rear Dif bracket to lower the drivetrain and save the CV boots on my E.

Today I got the replacement springs onto the car from CSS (they are paying shipping at least) While I was under there I realized that there were more points of the rear Dif bolted to the car than I originally realized. The more I looked, though the more I realized that there weren't that many bolts into the frame from the subframe.

I'm 90% sure I could get nylon body spacers and drop the rear suspension 2" from the frame. That would effectively lower the rear dif by 2" putting my car into a more comfortable range for the CV boots, but it would also lower the entire suspension to compensate for the extreme lift angles. The lift does some weird things to the back wheel (see attached image). It pulls it towards the front of the wheel well. Looks silly. Clearance is an issue. I'm sure the control arms are outside of their engineered functioning range. Lots to like about fixing it.

Here is the thing: M12x1.25 bolts are hard to find longer than 100mm. The bolt in there is 73mm so I can only add about an inch with readily available bolts. And unfortunately, we won't benefit at all from the lift ratio we get from the springs (+3" lift would need 3" spacers to completely negate the geometry of the lift with relation to the control arms and the drivetrain. The longest M12 Honda bolts I can find is 154mm, so 3" is about the maximum available to us here.)

Other benefits are that this mod should push the back wheels out from centerline quite a bit more. (back to where they were at stock height, which seems to be about an inch pokier.) the front wheels sit right where I want them, but currently, the backs are in 1-2" from where I'd like them to be. 2" hub centric wheel spacers are spendy. This may be more affordable, weigh less (especially rotationally) and fix more than just the lack of sufficient "poke"

Anyway. I've found some bolts and spacers and think I can do it with less than $100. You could also do it with OEM Honda bolts, but it would cost closer to $250 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .

I'm not gonna risk that on the prototype. I'll let you know how it goes.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Here’s the specific bolts/parts that will need to be lengthened/spaced. All are M12. Not sure how much capacity the originals have for spacers. I think it’s a bit.
F49B1CF2-6AD0-48CF-981C-B5F9EB599BA1_1523165414273.jpg

I wonder what would happen if these bolts were spaced more or less than the rear subframe.
10EA4C9B-816A-4BB4-8351-70DC9CED0D74_1523165478653.jpg

No idea how much work it’s going to be to replace these: 8BEFDF9E-A193-4237-B21A-E477BB951972_1523165551280.jpg

These will need to be spaced half the thickness of the other 8. Should have plenty of OEM m12 x 1.25 bolts to choose from after replacing the others. 6D43BE33-F4F7-4F54-B396-20355E5D0F65_1523165642697.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Ok. I found a gut selling class 10.9 bolts on eBay that are 12 JIS 1.25 thread pitch and 120mm. They aren't flange bolts like Honda OEM, but it looks like a good fender washer or two solves that problem for me.

I tested the catch with the OEM bolts and I think you don't get much extra (if any at all.) Beyond the extra length of the replacement bolts you buy. That means 120mm bolts gets us just shy of 2" on the 6 subframe/rear Dif bolts and 2.5" on the front mounts for the rear lower control arms. I've purchased 6x 2" and 4x3" nylon body spacers and will cut them down to size on the bandsaw. It's just nylon, not rocket science.

Parts show up next week. I hope I can at least get the lower control arm spacers in next weekend to see what that does to the rear geometry. I'm hoping it moves the wheels towards the rear bumper a few inches without doing anything weird to toe in or toe out.

Parts list:

10x 120mm JIS 1.25 pitch M12 bolts (class 8 or higher)
10x 1/2" steel fender washers
6x 2" nylon body lift blocks (1.75" if you can find them)
4x 3" nylon body lift blocks (2.5" if you can find them)
2x 1" nylon body lift blocks (I ordered an extra 2" to cut in half)
2x M12 JIS frame bolts ~ 100mm (I'm assuming I can reuse some of the bolts I'm replacing with the 120mm bolts) and fender washers (unless you reuse your factory bolts.)

Install notes, results, and photos to follow.

Cheers.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
So it did what I wanted it to do and wasn’t the worst job in the world. If I had more tools at my disposal it wouldn’t have taken as long. This should make installing the longer rear springs/struts MUCH easier.

It took me 5 hours. At least an hour of that was me laying on the floor cursing at the Evap container. I ended up having to modify the mounting bracket slightly and now it’s just as easy to drop as before.

My assumptions going in:
Spacing the front of the rear control arm would move the wheels back significantly: false it might have moved them a half inch for the 2” lift I put on (before doing the rest)

Spacing the rear subframe would center the rear wheel in the wheel well: true. See photos

Spacing the rear sub frame would reduce stress on the CV boots: true. Everything looks happy down there (photos to come on next post)

Tools needed:
Long throw bottle jack (2-3ft would have been nice. I didn’t have this and regretted it.)
Tall jack stands
Long pry bar
Your preferred impact/sockets/what have you

Parts needed:
10 2” tall nylon body spacers (4x 2” diameter 6x 3” diameter)
8 120mm class 10 m12 x 1.25 bolts
2 150mm m10 x 1.25 bolts
10 Heavy duty washers
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
looks like I didn’t really explain what’s going on here very well:

I picked up a spring lift from custom coil springs. The first pair was off by about an inch and a half and I had to have them send me another pair. The second pair was still off, but closer. I’m happy enough with the second pair not to return them for a third. Honestly I just don’t want to install another set of springs. It’s tiring.

The results of the second set of springs are the darker photo. (First photo attached in this post.) the problem is that it’s still ~ a four inch lift. It should settle down an inch if weight is added to the rear (I fancy a full size spare bolted to the frame on a custom bumper. Probably no time soon. That would easily be 150lbs)

4” lift = lots of crazy geometry and a tough time for CV boots.
It also pulls the wheels forward a few inches and in towards the centerline of the car a few inches. I didn’t like either.

The second photo is after the rear subframe and lower control arms were given a 2” “body lift” the geometry is much more pleasant. I don’t think I’ll lose any CV joints and the other problems with the wheels are half as bad (2/4= half. That math might also be wrong.)

I was hoping I could add some extra space to the lower control arms and move the wheels back even further, but that didn’t appear to be the case. I started adding 2” to them and the change wasn’t noticeable at all.

It also appears that the geometry change makes the lift less severe. I’m seeing 3.5” rear instead of 4”. I don’t know enough about the factory geometry to understand if that’s possible or not.

In the end I’m happy for these three reasons:

My CV boots will last a lot longer.
The wheel isn’t so comically close to the front of the wheel well.
And lastly, the rear wheels aren’t so comically tucked under the car (I’ll likely still get some 20-25mm hubcentric spacers for the rear.)

For now, on to the next thing (which is either cab over lights or a cell phone holder that isn’t magnetic.)

The lighter photo above is how the car sits now. 2” front 3.5” rear (was hoping for 3” rear, so some of the slant is intentional.)
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Ok, so here is the "write up"

The basic idea is to swap out all 10 bolts in the rear suspension with longer bolts and spacers. There is no point in doing this if you don't already have a 2-4" lift on the rear.

Tools Required:
17mm socket
14mm socket
10mm socket
Some sort of socket pivot (or a 10mm crescent wrench to get to the last evap canister bolt)
big honking pry bar
big adjustable wrench for lining up your Lower Control arms
bottle jack that can reach your frame (not sub frame)
jack stands that can reach your frame
Jack that can reach your subframe
Angle Grinder or Hack Saw to modify the evap canister bracket
Drill to relocate mounting hole in evap canister bracket
Bandsaw to modify body spacers)

Nice to have: M12 1.25 thread tap (one of my holes was buggered from a past mechanic. I'm currently waiting on a tap and rolling without a bolt. Yes I'm nervous)

Parts List:
8x M12 1.25 120m flange bolt: Honda PN 96300-12120-08
2x M10 1.25 150mm flange bolt; Honda PN 90001-MEN-A30
6x 2" x 2"diameter body spacers (lifts4less on eBay)
4x 2" x 3"diameter body spacers (lifts4less on eBay)

Prep work: Cut 1/8" off of your 2" x 3" diameter body spacers with a bandsaw.

1:Start off supporting the front of your lower control arm with a jack stand. (blue arrow. First picture)
remove one bolt at a time and replace with 120mm M12 and a washer (red arrows, first picture). (17mm Socket)

2:Jack up the car until the 2" spacer will fit between your lower control arm and your frame (should be just before the lower control arm lifts off of the jack stand supporting it.)
Remove one bolt at a time and install a 2" x 2" diameter spacer between your lower control arm and the frame. (red arrows in photo 1).

3: Repeat on other side

4: remove 3 10mm Evap canister bolts to swing away evap canister.

5: remove 4 subframe bolts ONE AT A TIME and replace with 120MM M12 bolt (17mm) (see second photo)

6: Support the rear Dif with a jack stand (can use control arm jack stand if you like. that part is over now) Remove 2 Rear differential M10 bolts (both at once is fine. it's supported by the sub frame & stand)

7: Place bottle jack under frame (I jacked up from my rear hitch. There are other jack points) and lift frame until subframe is ~2" from body/frame.

8: Remove one bolt at a time and install 1.875" modified 3" wide body spacer

9: install 2” wide 2” spacer and M10 differential bracket bolts

10: cut sides of rearward outmost evap canister. bend to fit to new frame. drill hole for new screw placement (picture 2 - hole goes where red dot is)

11: Reinstall EVAP canister.

12: double check torque on all bolts.

13: Reset your camber with your upper rear control arms.

The result for me can be seen in pictures 3, 4, and 5. Looks like I'll have much happier CV boots and the wheel isn't in such a dumb spot anymore.
 

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That is an impressive amount of work! Looks really solid. I'll be keeping an eye out for updates on durability. Given any thoughts to making the spacers out of aluminum? Something about compressible material in those spots gives me pause....
 

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Discussion Starter #14
That is an impressive amount of work! Looks really solid. I'll be keeping an eye out for updates on durability. Given any thoughts to making the spacers out of aluminum? Something about compressible material in those spots gives me pause....
Yeah - I hear you, however these are the same spacers you'd use to body lift an F350 super duty. I guess the body might not exert as much stress seeing how the suspension is welded to the frame, but if you throw a full load in the bed you are doing something pretty serious.

You could absolutely do aluminum. 2" aluminum spacers wouldn't be that much from the local metal supply. They usually have 2" bar in the scrap bins. You could make them with a benchtop bandsaw and drill press. That's a pretty low bar to fabrication.

I personally trust the nylon because of the F350 assumption above, but by no means did I run any structural analysis. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
 

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Right, that makes sense about the fullsize trucks using them, so it shouldn't pose TOO much of a problem. And yeah, the aluminum spacers wouldn't be too difficult to fab up. Are you concerned with the stock shocks being under-dampened with the heavier springs?

I'm still weighing all the options for a 2"-ish lift. I've already killed my current set of dampeners off-road, so I'm considering the BC coilovers, if they can get the lift ratio sorted. The adjustable valving would be nice to have.

On the other hand, I'm thinking of just going with the sparman lift with aluminum spacers, but then I'd be stuck with stock-style shocks and springs, and possibly wear a new set out in short order.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Are you concerned with the stock shocks being under-dampened with the heavier springs?
Spot on. The thing rode like a covered wagon the first time I put them on. Then I "milled" down a stud extender and slapped it onto my strut to even the dampening out. I should have done a 2", but did a 1.5" and it's close enough to ride fine. I'm not taking those springs off a 4th time (first time to install. Second to install the stud extender, third to install the corrected spring length...)

I don't know what to tell you about the lift options. I'm happy now with my Custom Coil Springs. I asked for too much lift to begin with (3" + 300lbs normal load).

If you ordered a 2" lift with factory springs (or 10% softer to utilize your extra travel potential, like I did.) and have the stud extender milled down and cut to 1.33" you'd have a great setup.

Add an inch of lift blocks to your rear subframe and lower control arms and you'll have a pretty solid setup. (mostly retain factory geometry while adding 2" of lift and 2" of travel.)

Should all be less than the coil overs (even if you use factory parts. Putting together a B.O.M. for the black rhino lined eCamper guy on instagram.) assuming you install it yourself. The shop might want a lot to space the subframe. An offload shop would be able to do both without any problem though.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
Soooooo. I'm doing another thing here and here's why.

The stud extender can come loose and then you have to disassemble the whole strut to fix it.

It looks to me as though Ridgeline struts will solve this problem but create another one, The extended length is 1.5" too long, so the strut will be that much harder to put back in.

Below is a screen shot of what I found online, though numbers varied by sometimes as much as a few inches, so ... take it all with a grain of salt. *

So I'm solving the problem somewhere else where it's easier to make some changes. I ordered a pair of Monroe rear strut hats and am going to cut 1.5" out of them and shorten the mount. That will fix the OEM strut length with my 3" rear lift and allow me to keep using factory element parts.

One of the pros to this is that we have a few performance strut options and the Ridgeline has zero. Maybe I want KONI yellows in the future and cutting these mounts makes that possible for me.

I'm doing all this because the loose strut extender sounds like you are sitting on the inside of a spray paint can when its' being shaken. Not great...



#10 here. I just need the mount to be 1.5" shorter than it currently is. Taking out metal isn't the hardest fab job in the world. I'll see if my buddy would mind me hopping on his welder to get it done.

Cheers. I'll let you know how it works out. Still hotter than death here, so I probably won't take the suspension apart just yet.

*It looks to me like you could get OEM 2015 CRV struts and end up with an all OEM rear 3" lift (no spacers.) You'd have the same CV problems as everyone else, but whatever.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Final note on this: It changes the lift ratio a bit/ LOWERS TOO HIGH REARS

For every inch you space your subframe, you will loose .6" of lift. This is a great way to patch up those kits that didn't figure for the extra rear height.

Here's how the math works:

rear suspension spacer height (mine is 1.75") is 1:1 (you lift everything directly:)
Spring lift was 2.5" - spacer height (1.75") is lifting at 1:1.6 or ~3:2,
(so I got .75"*1.6 lift ratio = 1.2" lift total)

So that leaves me with a 2.95" rear lift now when I had a 4" lift before
(2.75" spring lift * 1.6" lift ratio)

My rear axles are also opperating as if I only lifted the car 1.2" instead of 3" (which is very bueno)
 

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Lifted Element

Hi Cursh, thanks so much for your very well-documented efforts in this thread. I'm impressed with your work! I'm having a 3" CCM professionally installed soon in my 2003 EX and was interested in what you think of the kit? Is there any way to get another inch of lift over the kit with extended struts, or some other parts? What would you recommend? I've just posted this question from my profile. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. P
 

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I agree, very impressive breakdown of parts and processes. Thanks for sharing it. I dream of an element with a little more of an offroad chassis and 4wd system... Looks like you are getting a little closer to that, at least chassis/suspension wise! :grin:
 
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