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FCP Euro LIQUI MOLY Sale

FCP Euro LIQUI MOLY Sale

The Porsche 996 has gone from hated to celebrated in the last few years as everyone slowly caught on to what they offered. As the cheapest 911s available on the market, more people became exposed to the light chassis, ample power, and sharp handling of the first water-cooled 911. Of course, when it debuted, the 996 was hugely important to the financially struggling Porsche of the nineties. It paved the way for Porsche to continue dominating the sports car market and race tracks worldwide. Now, twenty years later, it’s more popular than ever. 

The suspension fitted to the 996 is a straightforward design that presents itself well to the DIY’er. With simple tools and patience, you can turn your 996 into a canyon-carving, track-day-winning scalpel that feels just as capable in a daily driver role. Though, to do so, you need to understand what makes up the suspension and what’s out there. So, here’s everything you need to know.

 

Porsche 996 Suspension Design & Technical Specs

Porsche spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours engineering and developing their suspension packages for the 996. By the time production ended, the first water-cooled 911 was available with four specific suspension packages, all with interesting but confusing designations. Some of these packages weren’t offered in the US due to our DOT regulations. Fortunately, those components can be bought and bolted in without a fuss.  

FCP_Euro_996_Porsche_Suspension_Guide_996_GT3

The Porsche 996 utilizes a MacPherson strut front suspension with a lower control arm and thrust arm to create a lower wishbone. The rear suspension uses the same lower wishbone setup but ditches the strut for two upper control arms and a toe arm. A coil-over-shock that connects to the bottom of the knuckle controls damping in the rear. Both the front and rear use sway bars, and drop links connect to the knuckle. The GT3/2 uses a two-piece lower control arm adjusted by shims for static camber adjustment.  

The two-wheel-drive models—the Carrera and the GT3—share the same suspension architecture, which differs slightly from the all-wheel-drive cars. Both the sway bars and the shocks/struts are different for the all-wheel-drive models. Aftermarket suspension components can be even more specific, with varying spring rates between coilovers for a Carrera 2 and a GT3. Porsche did a typical job engineering their suspension packages, many of which will bolt in without significant modification. Here’s what Porsche offered:

 

Standard USA-Spec Porsche 996 911 Suspension

The US has different road and safety standards than Europe, which has caused Porsche to send every US-spec 911—since the sixties—with a taller ride height. A stock 996 may look fine on its own, but it makes its best impression of a monster truck next to a European model. But it’s not all bad; the 30mm taller ride height allows us to navigate around our terrible infrastructure without worrying too much about hurting the bottom of the car. The ride is relatively firm for average car standards but is a bit lacking when pushed hard. It makes for a great daily driver or weekend cruiser.

The Turbo arrived in the US as a 2001 model year, with the Carrera 4S arriving a year later. They share the same widebody chassis, suspension, and brakes. The extra weight from the turbocharged engine and larger body required different suspension settings than the narrow-bodied Carreras. Their spring rates are stiffer, the sway bars are thicker, and they sit 10mm lower than the Carreras.

US-Spec Standard Turbo Suspension

      • Sway Bars: 23.6mm-Front & 21.7mm-Rear
      • Spring Rates: 187 lbs-in Front / 340 lbs-in Rear
      • Struts/Shocks: Bilstein B4

US-Spec Standard Carrera Suspension

      • Sway Bars: 23.1mm-F & 18.5mm-R
      • Spring Rates: 146 lbs-in Front / 203 lbs-in Rear
      • Struts/Shocks: Bilstein B4
      • Ride Height: 157mm F / 158mm R (17” Wheels)  

 

USA-Spec Sport 996 911 Suspension

If you ticked the right box when ordering a 996 Carrera 2 or Carrera 4, the M030 Sport Suspension package would underpin the chassis. It gave the 996 a stiffer set of springs, dampers, and larger sway bars, but due to US DOT regulations, it retained the same height as the standard Carrera suspension. This suspension package is still very friendly for a daily driver but offers better roll control and tighter damping.  

US-spec M030 Sport Suspension

      • Sway Bars: 23.6mm-Front & 19.6mm-Rear
      • Spring Rates: 170 lbs-in Front / 260 lbs-in Rear
      • Struts/Shocks: Bilstein B4

 

Rest Of World (ROW) Sport 996 911 Suspension

This package is similar to the US-spec package but has a few more goodies. Porsche kept the same spring rates as the US-spec suspension but slightly reduced the spring’s length to give the car a lower center of gravity and a better look. The non-US spec also included different dampers for a better fit with reduced suspension travel. The ROW M030 suspension package will lower a US 996 20mm front and 10mm rear. 

ROW M030 Sport Suspension

      • Sway Bars: 23.6mm-Front & 19.6mm-Rear
      • Spring Rates: 170 lbs-in Front / 260 lbs-in Rear
      • Struts/Shocks: Bilstein B6

 

X73/X74-Package Sport 996 911 Suspension

Starting with the 2002 model year in the US, prospective buyers could dig through the options list and select the X73 (Turbo & C4S) or X74 (Carrera & Carrera 4) suspension package. Only equipped when specced by a customer, this option took the chassis into track-friendly territory by adding stiffer springs and dampers, matching up with the M030 sway bars. Porsche never did release the spring compression rates for these, but they are noticeably stiffer than the M030. The DOT homologated the packages and allowed the Carrera to be lower by 40mm in the front and 30mm in the rear; the Turbo and C4S dropped 30mm front and rear. Opinions of the suspension vary; some call it way too harsh for the street, and others call it an excellent dual-purpose setup.

X74 Package

      • Sway Bars: 23.6mm-Front & 19.6mm-Rear
      • Spring Rates: A true internet mystery
      • Struts/Shocks: Bilstein B8

X73 Package

      • Sway Bars:  23.6mm-Front & 19.6mm-Rear
      • Spring Rates: A true internet mystery
      • Struts/Shocks: Bilstein B8

 

GT3 Coilovers

The US received the 996.2 GT3 in 2003, four years after the world was introduced to the 996.1 GT3. It featured more power, revised aerodynamics, and adjustable suspension. Porsche fit it with a set of coilovers damped by Bilstein and sprung by H&R. They use an adjustable collar that rides on the threaded shock body to allow for height and preload adjustments. The sway bars are the thickest fitted to any 996 available in the US. Unlike the M030 setup, the GT3 bars require different sway bar drop links.  

GT3 Coilovers 

      • Sway Bars: 26.8mm-Front & 20.7mm-Rear 
      • Spring Rates: 228 lbs-in Front / 543 lbs-in(Progressive) Rear
      • Struts/Shocks: Bilstein Damper

 

Common Porsche 996 Suspension Problems

The only potential issue in a stock 996’s suspension system is the front wheel bearings on the all-wheel-drive cars. For whatever reason, they can wear themselves down prematurely, causing a humming or whirring from the affected bearing. Beyond that, however, there isn’t anything to report. Replace the components as they wear to have a properly performing Porsche.

 

Porsche 996 Suspension Upgrades

Porsche’s suspension design carried from the earliest 996 to the last of the 991s, nearly two decades later. It’s allowed the water-cooled models to be unshakeable street cars adored by many for their agility while also providing a platform that takes well to upgrades. Because of that, the 996 can be fitted with all sorts of suspension components from later cars, GT trims, and the aftermarket without an enormous amount of work.

 

Suspension Arms

The 996’s front suspension uses two arms for caster and camber gain per corner, while the rear uses five. The Carrera, Carrera 4, and the Carrera 4S use the same injected rubber bushings in all of their arms where ball joints aren’t present. They work great for street applications, absorbing vibrations and damping sharp hits to the suspension while being taught enough for a sports car. However, the rubber does wear over time and eventually cracks or delaminates, causing a vague and squishy feeling through corners. Push your 996 with worn rubber bushings; it’ll feel twitchy and nervous, moving around while you hold the wheel straight. 

The best action for street use is a new set of suspension arms. OE quality parts use stock bushings, keeping the suspension sporty but comfortable. We offer complete front and rear suspension arm kits that’ll completely refresh the way your 996 feels and handles. Companies like Elephant Racing offer just the bushings, but that’ll lay the car up for a while, as you’ll need to press the old bushings out and the new ones in. However, if you’re planning on using the 996 for track days or autocross as well as on the street, then Elephant Racing makes more sense. 

Along with offering stock bushings, Elephant Racing offers “Sport” bushings. They’re stiffer rubber for less deflection in caster and camber, giving you a sharper feel and a more consistent contact patch. The only downside to these bushings is that they require a unique tool to be pressed in. Elephant Racing offers it, but it’s just another expense. A slight step up from those “Sport” bushings are Powerflex’s polyurethane units. The poly bushings are offered in street and race stiffness, allowing you to choose how much you want to punish yourself. Both the Elephant Racing and Powerflex bushings are available for every bushing in the suspension, and both offer bushings with modified mounting locations for increased adjustability. 

The Carrera’s control arms are one-piece, whereas the GT3 uses a two-piece design. The GT3's inner bushing bolts to the rest of the control arm and uses shims to extend the arm’s length, increasing the available camber. These arms bolt in and use rubber bushings, providing an easy and streetable upgrade for any 996. If you’re building a 996 for some serious track time, you’ll want to look elsewhere. 

Road Sport Supply Rear 996 Suspension Arms

Rubber and polyurethane bushings are great for the street, but Heim joints are the top dog. Also called rose joints or monoballs, they use no rubber or polyurethane. They’re spherical bearings that allow articulation with no deflection; they’re metal on metal, translating every bump, crack, and dip through the suspension. Streetcars can use them instead of rubber, but there are some tradeoffs. Regular use will wear them quickly, and their increased noise will enter the cabin.

Tarrett, RSS, SPL, and SPC offer adjustable suspension arms with Heim joints instead of bushings. Their lower control arms all use Heim joints, while the track arm’s center bushing is a solid aluminum piece with multiple mounting points for greater suspension adjustability. The upper control arms are replaced with stronger aluminum pieces using threaded Heim joints at either end, providing increased camber and toe adjustability over the factory arms and their eccentric bolt. The track rods and thrust arms are also available with Heim joints. These components are not for the faint of heart. They turn any 996 into a significantly more aggressive and responsive sports car best prepared for the race track.

 

Springs and Dampers

Porsche didn’t change much when transitioning from the 993 to the 996. The front suspension uses a MacPherson strut with a tapered linear spring, while the rear suspension uses a standard shock absorber with a progressive spring. All 996 models used this design with variations in specific components. The US-spec models received different springs and dampers due to US DOT regulations, raising the stock ride height. US models sit about 20mm higher than ROW (Rest Of World) examples. The tall ride height and relatively soft spring compression rate make the 996 a great daily driver, even on rougher roads. Start pushing the Carrera harder, though, and you’ll find the stock suspension limited by some body roll and understeer. 

FCP_Euro_996_Porsche_Suspension_Guide

Reducing those effects is achieved by a stiffer spring, re-valved dampers, and different sway bars. There are many ways to fix the suspension, but the easiest is with Porsche’s OE parts. The ROW sport suspension, known as the M030 package, is a guaranteed fit for any 996 Carrera and is an incredibly popular choice among owners. It uses a set of shorter and stiffer springs on both ends with re-valved dampers to match. Round that out with the match swaybars, and you’ll have a Carrera that’s much better suited to twisty roads and the occasional track day while still being used every day on the street. 

Going for a more aggressive OE setup leaves only the X73/X74 package or OE 996 GT3 coilovers. The former package was a special order option—selecting it on a build sheet fitted the 996 with shorter, stiffer springs and re-valved dampers to match. The X73 (Turbo & C4S) and the X74 (Carrera & Carrera 4) setup received the same swaybars as the ROW M030 kit to round out the most track-oriented suspension available from Porsche. 

Avoiding an OE solution still leaves plenty of aftermarket parts on the market. Dampers are the easiest choice, as your options are limited to Bilstein or Koni. Bilstein is the OE damper from the Carrera through the GT2, though they offer three levels of damper that the spring choice will determine. The Bilstein B4 “Touring” strut is OE for the 996 and is used for the standard suspension and US-spec M030 kit. Stepping up from the B4 is the B6 “Performance” strut. The B6s are a perfect match for the ROW M030 springs, as they are made for use with OE components. They’ll work with standard springs, too, eliminating the floaty feeling at higher speeds and sharpening the bumps at lower ones. Anything more than a factory spring is best matched with the B8 “Performance Plus” strut. 

FCP_Euro_996_Porsche_Suspension_Guide

Koni offers two different choices of the strut for the 996, the Koni Sport and the Koni Special Active damper. The classic yellow-bodied Koni Sport is a single-adjustable (rebound only) damper best compared to the B6. However, it is adjustable, unlike the Bilstein, so its use does extend beyond OE springs and has a proven record of working with aftermarket lowering units. The Koni Special Active damper also referred to as the FSD, uses Koni’s Frequency Selective Damper technology to provide firmness and response over smooth roads and comfort over rough terrain. According to Koni, the FSD doesn’t work with certain lowering springs, so pairing them with an OE set would be best.

Choosing an aftermarket spring is where upgrading can start to get overwhelming. It’s hard to determine with so many options and opinions on the internet without experiencing them firsthand. With that said, only two companies produce the multitude of aftermarket springs; H&R and Eibach. Both companies offer proprietary springs and manufacture them for other aftermarket companies. Eibach makes the TechArt and GMG springs, while H&R makes them for RUF. Compare the springs to one another, and you’ll find that they all offer a 25mm to 30mm drop and very similar spring rates. The RUF springs are nearly identical to the Eibach Pro-Kit springs, save for some green paint. However, the GMG and TechArt springs are built to their respective specifications. Both use a firmer compression rate making them better suited to performance-oriented driving rather than looks. The TechArt and RUF springs are the highest priced of the bunch at around $750 for a set; the others run around $400.

All of these springs are best paired with the B6 or B8 shocks to maximize their potential.

 

Coilovers

When superior road handling performance is required, and comfort is an afterthought, a set of performance coilovers is the only choice. Porsche followed that same statement when they built the 996 GT3, as they fitted it with a set of coilovers from the factory. Using spring rates far stiffer than any standard Carrera, they helped the GT3 post a sub-8 minute time at the Nurburgring Nordschleife in 2003. However, the GT3 isn’t a pure race car, so they are still a streetable option. OE GT3 coilovers can be found reasonably easily on eBay and through forums if you’re looking for the best factory setup possible. Many owners have ditched them in favor of some other options more dedicated to the track. 

Aftermarket coilovers will all have significantly stiffer rates than any factory setup. Kits like Bilstein’s PSS10, Ohlins’ Road & Track, H&R’s Street Performance, and KW’s Variant 1 are popular aftermarket choices. They provide a spring and damper package tailored to match each other perfectly. Each manufacturer chose its specific spring rates to maximize the handling potential of the chassis during spirited street driving while retaining streetability. If you like to tinker, the Bilstein and Ohlins are adjustable, both using a single knob on each damper to control the compression and rebound. Other than H&R, each company uses its own damper technology; H&R uses a Bilstein damper. Ohlins is the most trick suspension of the bunch; using their Dual Flow Valve technology, or DFV, it’s regarded as one of the best dual-purpose coilovers for street and track use. Expect to pay slightly above $2000 for the H&R and KW, while the Bilstein and Ohlins are closer to $3000.

996s dedicated to track use as fully-caged and stripped cars should look elsewhere. Ohlins offers a coilover setup specifically for track-only vehicles, as do companies like JRZ, Moton, and MCS. These kits have race-spec damping and spring rates, external reservoirs for the shock fluid, multi-way adjustments, and adjustable camber plates. They’ll cost you, too, running upwards of $7000.

 

Sway Bars

A beefier set of sway bars is required to fully dial out the vagueness and understeer of the stock suspension. Porsche’s OE set of M030 sway bars are thicker than the base suspension and are non-adjustable, making them a perfect set-and-forget option for a streetcar. They’re meant for the ROW M030 struts and springs but can work with any aftermarket lowering spring setup with good results. 

The OE 996 GT3 sway bars are the next step up in performance. The front bar is 2mm thicker than the M030, and the rear is up 1mm, so body roll is reduced even more, and turn-in is improved. On top of that, the ends of the bars have multiple holes to make the bar adjustable. Moving the drop links to different positions on the bar changes its torsional rate, allowing more or less roll as desired. The adjustability makes them perfect for track days or autocross, where course variances require regular suspension setting changes. These bars pair well with a set of dual-purpose coilovers like the PSS10s. However, alternate sway bar drop links are necessary to get them to work on a standard Carrera. 

As with the other suspension components, aftermarket bars are easily accessible. Among others, H&R, Tarret, and Eibach offer sway bars in various sizes and adjustability. Many are cheaper than the OE bars and are built to the same quality, so smaller budgets won’t have to sacrifice. That said, you should also end up with adjustable drop links for the aftermarket bars. 

The drop links are what connect the sway bar to the suspension. Genuine Porsche links are all a certain length to set the sway bar at its optimum geometry for stock suspension. Lowering your 996 will change that angle, and the best fix is a set of adjustable drop links.

 

Tie Rod Ends

It is worth noting that the 996 does suffer from a large amount of bump-steer when lowered from stock. If you decide to slam your 996 or even lower it by more than 1”, it’s worth looking into bump steer correction kits. The GT3 suffers from this even at factory ride heights to some extent, and there is a large amount of stability and control to be had by making these simple upgrades. 

Several aftermarket companies offer tie-rod ends with an adjustable pivot point to eliminate the bump steer produced from extreme lowering and increased caster angles. Changing to these tie rod ends requires an alignment by a shop that understands how to adjust the ends to eliminate the bump steer. Motorsports-related shops will be the best place to do so as competition-only cars are all that run the adjustable tie-rod ends.

 

Porsche 996 911 Suspension Service Intervals/Maintenance

Suspension components don’t necessarily have a fixed service interval. Their wear is determined by the roads and conditions they’re driven on. Typically, the strut assembly components are suitable for 80,000 miles; any more than that, the car will benefit from a new set of dampers. Check the dampers for leaks every 15,000 miles or so, they don’t usually fail, but regular exposure to rough roads will shorten their lifespan. You’ll notice a clunking over bumps, and the car will feel like it’s floating down the road; the steering response will be vague and imprecise. 

The suspension arm bushings will typically last up to around 100,000 miles, but they’re all around 20 years old now, so replace them asap if original. The rubber in the bushings will crack and separate from the metal surrounding them when they start to go. Once they need replacing, you’ll experience a twitchy feeling throughout the car and a rattling or creaking, especially during spirited driving. Look to change the bushing material if you plan to drive the car more aggressively regularly. 

With all of this info, you’re ready to tackle your 996’s suspension. If there’s anything that you’d like to see added to this guide, or if you have any questions, leave them in the comments below. And, if you’d like to see and read more, check back here often and make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more in-depth guides and exciting builds!

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Written by :
Christian Schaefer

Car and motorsports-obsessed writer/editor for FCP Euro's DIY Blog. Constantly dreaming of competing behind the wheel or searching for another project. Owner of a turbo Subaru Forester and a ratty Porsche 914, neither of which are running.


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