Many vehicles, including the Mustang, use a MacPherson strut system in their front-end suspension. This means that the strut is a part of the steering geometry of a car, and the simple MacPherson design is inexpensive while still offering a relatively comfortable riding experience. One of the disadvantages is that they transmit their load up through a strut tower, which can cause chassis-flex. Strut bars try to eliminate this problem by increasing the rigidity of your car's chassis to keep it from flexing when you're cornering.
What’s a Strut Bar?
Strut bars have a few different names. You may also hear them referred to as strut tower braces or shock tower braces. Essentially, these bars connect the two front strut towers under your hood, creating a point of unification that overcomes the shortcomings of the suspension and reduces chassis flex. On vehicles with a very stiff chassis, or on ones that don’t travel at high speeds, a strut bar doesn’t do much besides add a little underhood dress up. On vehicles that are light and nimble, it gives them new responsiveness, allowing them to handle speedy corners with greater ease.
A strut bar is also one of the easiest modifications to install and is one of the first choices for Mustang enthusiasts who have just caught the mod bug. It only takes two bolts to connect the strut bar and the benefits are evident immediately. It doesn’t hurt that strut bars are also relatively inexpensive.
Strut bars are different from sway bars in several key ways. One being that while strut bars are installed under your hood, sway bars are a bar connecting two wheels together. Connecting the front wheels increases understeer, and using a rear bar increases oversteer. Strut bars and sway bars are both designed to unify the suspension and improve handling, and using one doesn’t mean that you can’t use the other as well. Sway bars do a better job of reducing body roll.
Strut Bar Pros and Cons
Joining your shock towers together gives your vehicle improved handling and greater rigidity, two important upsides. This is more important for people who have upgraded their factory suspension to one with stiffer/harder springs than the original. Some performance-oriented packages include a strut tower brace with their springs because of the difference that it can make to a driver’s long term enjoyment of any suspension modification.
Better cornering and less body flex are two additional benefits that have a positive effect on driver experience and will help you really enjoy your Mustang. Even better, because strut bars are so easy to install, they’re equally easy to uninstall. If you dislike the feel of the ride, it’s easy to remove your strut brace. It’s a pretty low commitment modification.
The cons are that a strut bar adds a small amount of weight (really negligible), and they give the car a slightly stiffer feel that casual drivers don’t always find as appealing as enthusiasts.
Which Strut Tower Brace is Right for Your Mustang?
There are a lot of options out there for strut tower braces. If you’re buying a strut bar for a Mustang made before 2005 though, you’ll want to consider a triangular strut tower brace. This shape allows for additional stiffening over their straight bar counterparts. If you really dislike the triangular shape, Mustang drivers have reported significant performance benefits with either a straight or triangular bar.
If you have a Fox Body Mustang, you should absolutely get a strut brace. Because of the Fox Body’s lightweight and nimble build, it’s more likely to suffer from body flex than other model years.
The one group of Mustangs that should perhaps reconsider a strut brace are Mustangs that are specifically built for drag racing. Drag races are straight road races, and strut braces help with corners, so it won’t help much if at all, and if you’re trying to cut weight, it’s certainly one thing that can go. Of course, strut bars are easy enough to install and remove that you could always simply uninstall it pre-race time.
Installation for Mustang Strut Tower Braces
On new Mustangs, a strut tower brace comes with the GT Performance Package 1 and all subsequent packages. EcoBoost fans still have plenty of strut tower brace options though, and shouldn’t feel like they’re missing out significantly.
Installing a strut brace is easy, regardless of which model Mustang you have, and requires a very minimal tool list
- Measuring tape
- Torque Wrench
No need to break out the jacks for this one. This is an easy modification that works best if your car is on level ground. Go ahead and clean your shock towers prior to installation though.
Look at your strut mounts. There may already be drilled holes just waiting for you to install your strut tower brace. Or, you may need to break out your sharpie, measuring tape, and drill.
Once you’ve figured out where your strut bar is going to attach, go ahead and set your strut bar down in what will be its new home. Every strut bar is a little different, and so is every underhood, especially if you’ve already been busy doing modifications. Make sure the strut bar fits comfortably and that you can close the hood without any problems.
If everything fits, go ahead and drill your holes into the top of your strut tower. Measure twice, drill once as they say. Make sure you mark where the holes should be with a marker and double-check your work before actually drilling.
Once you’re finished drilling, you just need to attach the strut bar with the supplied hardware.
It’s best to do this on a warm day so that after it’s installed you can go ahead and cruise down your street with the windows down and the radio off while you listen for any unusual noises and test the steering of your car.
Underhood Dress Up
Because of the way strut bars cut across the engine bay, they’re pretty phenomenal for car shows, or really for anyone who spends a significant amount of time with their hood popped open and who likes to show off their hard work.
Strut bars are typically metal, so if you’d like to paint them, it’s recommended that you use a fine grade of sandpaper to give the paint some surface to adhere to. Make sure you use heat resistant paint since it gets pretty hot under your hood. Some people have even gone so far as to give their strut bar Shelby stripes to echo the ones on the hood of their car. This is best done with a lot of patience and some painter’s tape.
Some Mustang enthusiasts have wrapped their strut bars in 3M adhesive in a variety of amazing colors and patterns. In short, the only limitation to the design of your strut bar is your imagination.
Sources: Ezine | It Still Runs Image Credit: BMR Suspension | The Fabricator Series | Spohn