What’s the Best Method for Converting the Suspension of a Toyota Corolla AE86 for Drifting?

If you’re passionate about the thrill of drifting and have chosen the Toyota Corolla AE86 as your chariot of choice, this article is for you. We’ll delve into the best tactics for converting the suspension of your AE86 to boost its drifting capabilities. We’ll explore key aspects, including the selection of the right spring and strut setup, the handling of front and rear brakes, and the adjustment of the height of the suspension. Let’s get started.

The Importance of Suspension in Drifting

Before diving into the details of how to modify your AE86’s suspension for drifting, it’s important to understand why suspension is so crucial for this motorsport. The AE86, while a fantastic car in its own right, was not designed with drifting in mind. As such, the factory setup of the struts, shocks, and springs may not provide the steering and control required for safe and effective drifting.

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Suspension plays a leading role in the handling dynamics of your vehicle. It impacts how your car responds to steering input, how it behaves in corners, and how quickly it can transition from a straight line to a drift and back. With a carefully chosen and installed suspension setup, you can manipulate these attributes to your advantage, tailoring your car’s responses to your skill level and style.

The Spring and Strut Setup

The spring and strut setup of your AE86 can significantly influence your drifting experience. The springs control how the car behaves over bumps, while the struts determine how the car handles turns. In drifting, you need a setup that offers excellent control and predictability while still allowing the rear end of the car to break loose when needed.

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A common solution is to opt for a coilover setup, which combines the spring and strut into a single unit. This setup is highly adjustable, allowing you to tailor the ride height and damping characteristics to your preferences.

When selecting springs and struts for your AE86, consider their stiffness. Stiffer springs and struts can reduce body roll and make the car more responsive, but may also make it more challenging to control. A good starting point can be a setup that is slightly stiffer at the front than at the rear. This will make it easier to initiate a drift, as the rear of the car will be more likely to break loose.

Optimizing Brake Performance for Drifting

You might think that brakes don’t matter much in drifting, where the goal is to slide the car sideways rather than stop it. However, the reality is quite the opposite. Effective brake use is vital for controlling your drifts, and the wrong brake setup can make drifting much more difficult.

For an AE86, a common modification is to upgrade the front brake pads to a high-performance compound, while retaining the stock pads at the rear. This enhances the front brake bias, which can help to prevent the rear wheels from locking up when initiating a drift.

Another useful modification is the installation of a hydraulic handbrake. This allows for more precise control over the rear brakes, making it easier to initiate and maintain drifts. Make sure to use a dedicated brake line for the handbrake, as this will prevent it from interfering with the front brakes.

Adjusting Suspension Height and Alignment

The height of your suspension and the alignment of your wheels can also impact your drifting performance. A lower ride height can lower the car’s centre of gravity, which can improve stability and responsiveness. However, lowering the car too much can reduce ground clearance and cause issues with the steering and suspension geometry.

When adjusting the ride height, take care to maintain a good balance between the front and rear of the car. A lower front end can make it easier to initiate a drift, but if it’s too low compared to the rear, it can make the car unstable.

Wheel alignment is another critical factor. More negative camber (where the top of the tyre is angled inward) can help to increase grip when cornering, but too much can cause the car to lose grip too easily. A small amount of toe-out (where the fronts of the tyres are pointed outwards) can also help with initiating drifts.

Strengthening Your AE86’s Suspension Components

When prepping your AE86 for drifting, it’s important to remember that this activity puts a lot of stress on the car’s components, including the suspension. Therefore, strengthening these parts can prevent damage and enhance performance.

One recommendation is to install stiffer lower control arms (LCAs) to improve the car’s responsiveness and control. You can also add strut bars and sway bars to increase rigidity and reduce body roll.

In addition, consider upgrading your wheel bearings and bushings. These small parts play a big role in how your car handles, and upgrading them can enhance precision and durability. High-performance polyurethane bushings are a popular choice for drift cars, as they offer a good balance between performance and comfort.

Remember, setting up a car for drifting is as much an art as it is a science. What works for one driver might not work for another, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different setups until you find what works best for you. Happy drifting!

Selecting Sway Bars and Spring Rate for Optimal Performance

For a stunning drifting performance, the choice of sway bars and the spring rate are essential components to consider in your Toyota Corolla AE86. The sway bar, also known as the anti-roll bar, restricts the car’s body roll during high-speed turns, thus making your drift more predictable and easier to control.

Ideally, you need a strong front sway bar to stabilize the car during drifts. While the rear sway bar needs careful selection as an overly stiff one can make the car more prone to oversteer, which can be dangerous. The AE86 is equipped with a fairly decent sway bar, but for drifting, you might want to consider upgrading to a performance-oriented one. An adjustable sway bar gives you the flexibility to fine-tune your car’s handling to suit your preferences or the drifting conditions.

Spring rate, which is the measure of how much force is needed to compress the spring, is another notable factor. Typically, a higher spring rate means a stiffer ride, which can enhance responsiveness and reduce body roll in turns. However, very stiff springs can make the car harder to control in a slide. For a balanced ride on your AE86, it is advisable to go for a slightly stiffer spring rate at the front, while a softer one at the rear. This setup fosters easier initiation of a drift, as the rear of the car will be more inclined to break loose.

Installing Quality Brake Lines and Enhancing Roll Center

Drifting in a Toyota Corolla AE86 requires top-notch braking components, and upgrading your brake lines is a crucial step towards achieving this. The brake lines transfer the brake fluid from the master cylinder to the brakes themselves. For enhanced braking performance and reliability, it’s advisable to replace the factory brake lines with high-performance stainless steel lines. These are more resistant to expansion under heat and pressure, providing a firmer and more consistent brake pedal feel.

The position of the roll center, the theoretical point around which the car rolls during a turn, dramatically affects the car’s handling. When you lower your AE86, the roll center also drops. This can lead to problems with body roll and instability during drifting. To counteract this, consider installing roll center adjusters. These components effectively raise the roll center back up, improving stability and reducing body roll. They can be a bit tricky to install, but the improvement in handling is often worth the effort.


Drifting in a Toyota Corolla AE86 requires careful tailoring of the vehicle’s suspension setup. The suspension plays a significant role in how your car responds to steering input, behaves in corners, and how quickly it can transition from a straight line to a drift and back. Upgrading key components such as the spring and strut setup, sway bars, brake lines, and adjusting the roll center can greatly enhance your drifting experience.

Remember, each driver might have a different preference, so don’t hesitate to experiment with various setups until you find the one that perfectly suits your style. The thrill of drifting is when you can control the car to respond exactly as you desire. So, buckle up, rev up that AE86, and enjoy the ultimate drifting experience!