By Mike Garrison
My wife tells me on the daily that I am a “classic overthinker”. I tend to worry and overthink everything from brushing my teeth in the morning to choosing what TV show to fall asleep to at night. During a recent practice day at the track, my car was working flawlessly. It was handling and performing exactly the way I wanted it to, and it was really fun to drive. After practicing for an hour or two, I was chatting with a friend when he pointed out to me that I had mis-matched shock springs both front and rear. Upon further investigation, not only did I have mis-matching shock springs, I had entirely mis-matching shocks. The week prior I had made a last-minute decision to swap my standard set of shocks out for my back-up shocks that I have setup using entirely different shock pistons, oil, and springs. Somehow in the rapid shock swap, I managed to get one front and one rear back-up shock mounted on my car, and apparently grabbed and re-mounted one front and one rear of my standard shock set as well. We laughed about my rookie mistake, and I began taking off the mis-matching shocks to replace them with shocks that matched the others.
That’s when my wife came back over and asked what I was doing. I explained the mistake I had made, and she responded with, “I thought you said your car felt really good. If it works, why fix it?”
Was she serious? You can’t run two different shocks on the front and two different shocks on the rear – that’s common sense. I replied to her very serious question by answering, “Come on newbie Ned, you can’t have one side of the car setup on way, and the other side setup the opposite.”
I continued working and finished matching my shocks on the car, and headed back out to practice. A few laps in, and it was apparent that using all four standard shocks was not working. I spent more time fighting the car and waiting for turn marshalls than I did driving. I brought it back in and swapped all four standard shocks for my backup shocks. This time I hit the track and found myself with the exact same problems. I once again pulled the car off the track and began analyzing the situation. I decided to rebuild my complete standard set with a middle-line setup between the two different sets, and try that. I headed up on the driver’s stand, Britani threw my car out onto the track, I made one section and traction rolled into the corner. She looked up at me and yelled, “Hey newbie Ned, maybe you should have left your shocks alone like I said.”
It was at this very moment that I realized all the people who warned me that after getting married “your wife is always right”…they weren’t lying.
Despite my better judgement, the lack of reasoning behind it all, and physics of how it could possibly work – I returned to my pits where I re-configured my car with mis-matching front and rear shocks. The car once again handled like a dream, and put together lap after lap of flawless fun.
The moral of the story today is NOT to mount completely opposite shock setups on the left from what you have on the right, but instead that as R/C racers we often tend to overthink things – especially our car setup. Sometimes despite what the pros, or the local fast guys, or all your closest buddies are running for setups on their cars, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work best for you. If everyone at the track runs slicks, but you like the feel of big knobby tires – run big knobby tires! If everyone at the track runs their ride height at 18mm, but you like the feel of a high lifter at 23mm – run 23mm!
In other words, there is no truly "right" or "wrong" way to setup a car, it is all personal preference. No matter how “wrong” you may appear to be in your setup, as my wife would say, “If it works, why fix it?”