The Internet. That great dumpster of Society’s mass of data, where beating the proverbial dead horse is a favorite pass-time. No matter the entirety of a consensus, there will always be someone who—either legitimately or through a desire to be a unique snowflake—will have a different opinion. Every subject, and especially the automotive world, has a series of topics which are argued to death. Usually, it is useless to voice your opinion, because it has likely been said, and all the arguments—which will be used against you, like clockwork—already developed.
Utterly, entirely useless.
Today I am sharing my opinion on one of the great debates in the car modifying world: are strut tower braces a useful effort, or merely a way to bling up an engine bay and provide a lean bar for your mechanic? Before I begin, a few disclaimers: First, for an in-depth look for on-track performance, Bimmerworld performed extensive testing, which can be found HERE. Second, my opinion is merely that; an opinion. My expert level is minimal on this subject, and the ‘result’ I give is from both experience, and research.
As with most debates, the genesis of this one is a perceived ‘problem’ which had to be fixed. The problem under debate is simple: metal, while being hard, is not an immovable object, and will flex and move under stress. Such stress can regularly be found under cornering conditions, when accelerative forces are being combined with cornering forces. The problem/question which must be solved is whether or not these forces are effective enough so as to require an engineered solution. Those that say yes will generally champion the installation of a strut tower brace as just such an engineered solution. Those that say that a car is strong enough generally view such devices as a waste of time. Due to these two schools of thought (as well as a few other outliers), the world is now the questionably-lucky parents of this little persistent argument.
My answer to this argument has always been a resolute yes, with very simple logic underlying it. Generally, manufactures do not like to waste money. In fact, every single part is looked at to see where pennies or halves of pennies can be shaved off, with the knowledge that the laws of economies of scale will easily multiply even the smallest sum of money into a measurable, noticeable amount. While not nearly every car is supplied with an OEM strut brace, the fact that some are—such as the above pictured Mustang—show that those companies, and more importantly the engineers employed by them, show a measurable benefit to including one.
While this may be an answer to the question, it is certainly not the answer. Even people who agree that yes, strut braces are worth it, will continue to argue and debate over various particulars. Generally, these can fall under two categories: when to use a strut brace, and which is a good one to use. The answers to these questions—predictably—are not simple, broad answers that can be applied to every car. To begin answering whether you even need a strut brace, as well as which one to use, requires easy research into your vehicle. Generally, the more expensive and newer the vehicle, the less impactful a strut brace—or improved strut brace if one is already stock—will be.
For instance, a 2017 Chevrolet Camaro features a stiff, masterfully engineered chassis. This imparts tangible benefits to the handling of the car, which decreases the tangible benefit of fitting an aftermarket roll bar. A 2002 Chevrolet Camaro on the other hand is a different beast. Produced during an era where design priorities were different (i.e. less sophisticated) than today’s vehicles, the 2002 ‘F-body’ Camaro is a flimsy platform in comparison. Proper aftermarket strut tower bracing could improve the handling of the car a noticeable amount to a driver.
Some vehicle makers have had a stellar reputation through the decades, and as such can be somewhat trusted to provide solid chassis to their customers to begin with. Again, these generally follow the cost of the cars, with Porsche, BMW, and Lotus (included due to how many OTHER people use Lotus chassis’), all making historically strong chassis’. More budget-minded auto makers such as Honda, Toyota, and (some) Fords are generally less-likely to be described as “sporting stiff”, and as such can benefit from bracing.
For anyone who makes it through the debate of whether or not even having a strut brace is worth it, further debates await them when it comes to buying it. I am of the opinion that you get what you pay for: simply put a cheap strut brace will more than likely be more for show, and driver’s feels, than for actual tangible performance benefits. The Mopar LX platform is a great chassis to compare aftermarket bracing on, because I own a 2007 SRT8 Charger and have experience with the platform, and that they do not come with any brace in any trim, despite desperately needing one.
The above pictures demonstrate how varied strut bracing can be. It also shows how properly choosing a brace—which goes hand in hand with the aforementioned research—can be the difference between feeling your investment, and merely seeing it when you open your engine bay. Something I always advocate when discussing strut tower braces is to also research further chassis bracing. While a good strut tower brace can be felt by the perceptive driver, full chassis bracing can dramatically change the characteristics of a car. Generally reinforcing various parts of the frame/unibody, these pieces can be wise investments for the driver interested in the handling of their car; although the same shopping considerations have to be taken into account.
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I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.