Making the Woo Respond

No one is going to mistake a Daewoo Lanos for a Race car. Race cars are fast and very responsive. This article is about making the Daewoo more responsive while keeping cash in my pocket. First off, a personal definition of responsive. To me a car needs to feel responsive in a few areas. Throttle response, braking, and handling. This article will focus mostly on the handling aspect. Keeping in mind this is a Daewoo, so keeping the budget to a minimum while not harming fuel economy will limit some of the results, but can also make for more interesting reading.

The most basic approach to improving a cars handling is lowering springs and large wheels with low profile tires. Below is a list of the things that can be done and how I will approach it.

Lowering Springs: Lowering the center of gravity is a great way to reduce body roll and keep the car on track. This is by far the most popular method and looks good too. The key is to match the lowering springs with a good set of struts to avoid a bouncy ride. Springs also run about $200 so unless I get a screaming deal on E-Bay, it’s unlikely the car will be lowered.

Larger Wheels and Lower Profile Tires: It is possible to go too big on the wheel and too thin on the tires. You need to find a good balance to fit larger brakes, but be small enough not to lose too much power. It’s harder to turn a larger wheel, hence the power loss. Also, you want some sidewall flex to aid in smoothing bumps and helping carve the turns. Now larger wheels are WAY out of budget, so I will be sticking with a 14″ rim I find from pick and pull and the best 185/60/R14’s I can find. The research I have done with Tirerack has sold me on a set of BFG Traction T/A’s. The rim needs to be a light weight spoke design that will be painted Bronze. Fortunately the Lanos has a 4X100 Bolt pattern so an older Prelude wheel or Miata wheel should work great. As a bonus a lighter wheel is going to help decrease the weight of the car while improving fuel economy, braking, and accelerating.

Steering Rack Bushings: A popular modification along the Subaru crowd. Makes for more responsive steering. Rumor has it the Aveo has more solid bushings, if that’s true and they fit, A set of Aveo steering rack bushings will be installed.

Motor Mounts: A great way to eliminate wheel hop. Well, that’s not an issue in the Lanos since it barely has enough power to turn the wheels, but I like feeling the engine and don’t want it dancing around in the bay. Aftermarket mounts are expensive and not available for the Woo, so I will try a $7.00 method. More on this later.

Larger Front Sway Bar: This is the main bar that keeps the car from leaning in the turns. It does so by tying the front suspension together with the body of the car. This makes it so if one wheel goes higher than the sway bar, the twisting of the bar will keep the lean to a minimum. I don’t know of any thicker bars available so I’ll be going a different route. I managed to get a set of middle polyurethane bushings for $1 from a pick and pull and picked up some end link bushings for $10. The polyurethane bushings are much harder than the rubber so they raise your effective sway bar rate by not allowing the sway bar to move around as much. The down side is they can squeak going over bumps. Some white lithium grease will help eliminate that. It’s important to note that a thicker swaybar will cause the car to understeer more.

Rear Sway Bar: Most front wheel drive cars do not come with a swaybar. The Lanos is no exception. It does have a semi independent suspension which basically works like a sway bar. The twisting of the axle keeps the lean down. The axle itself is a u shape with a bar in the middle. The bar in the middle makes the rear harder to twist. If it’s made even harder to twist that is basically the same as increasing the sway bar rate. I’m unsure what I’ll do as the car is currently very easy to oversteer with simple lift of the throttle.

Strut and Chassis Braces: Strut braces both front and rear stiffen up the chassis of the car making it more responsive. With inadequate chassis support the tops of the struts will move mid turn which messes up the geometry and can change the contact patch of the tire to half what you should have. I would like to purchase a front strut brace for the car and build some chassis braces to “box” the front and rear of the car. Realize the Lanos is meant as an economy car so chassis rigidity was not a highly regarded goal in the production process.

Front Air Dam: Surprisingly enough the Lanos actually comes with a small air dam. An ideal air dam will go all the way to the ground to keep any air out from under the car. Doing this will cause a vacuum under the car an help it stick to the road much better. I increased the lip about 2 inches which helps significantly above 40mph. I had a larger lip, but it looked funny and scraped on too many driveways. This one is subtle, yet effective.

That pretty much covers it. These methods can apply to ALL cars which makes working on the Daewoo so much fun. It’s a great test bed for parts fabrication and testing.