Q: "How will changing the original springs for a set of GoWesty springs change the way my Vanagon sits and rides?"
We get this this question a lot.
Height: All the height changes we advertise (up or down) specifically relate to the standard-height, Vanagon Westfalia models with pop-top. That is, our springs will change the ride height of these models by the amount stated, +/- about ½”. When fitted to non-standard-height pop-top models, or models without pop-top (hard-tops), the effect is different, as follows:
1990/91 Multi-Van: These vans sit about 2” lower than all other pop-top models, so you can expect these vans to sit about 2” higher than what we advertise: -2=0 (no change), 0=+2, +1.5=+3.5.
Hard Tops: When fitted to a 2WD Vanagon without the pop-top, you can expect your van to sit about 1” higher than what we advertise: -2=-1, 0=+1, +1.5=+2.5 (1.5” lifting springs not recommended for hard top models)
Syncro Hard tops: When fitted to a 4WD Vanagon without the pop-top, you can expect your van to sit about 1.5” higher than what we advertise: 0=+1.5, +2=+3.5 (2.0” lifting springs not recommended for hard top models)
Ride: All GoWesty springs are dual rate, whereas original VW springs, and all other currently available aftermarket springs, are single-rate (linear). A dual rate spring makes it possible to duplicate the original ride characteristics VW intended, with some added stability. All other springs on the market are forced to switch to another rate in addition to lifting or lowering the vehicle, thereby losing all connection with what VW undoubtedly poured significant resources into determining. A dual rate spring makes it possible to make a height change while sticking much closer to the original VW design intent.
In general, raising any vehicle results in more comfort and ground clearance, but will necessarily reduce lateral stability due to the increased center of gravity, and visa-versa, all other things unchanged. But in the case of GoWesty springs with dual-rate, it is possible to reduce the loss of lateral stability when increasing the height (travel), or reduce harshness while decreasing the height (travel). We designed these springs to behave very close to what all Vanagon owners are currently used to, with the original springs—on a flat road, going straight-normal loading. When the spring is compressed due to a sharp turn or higher loading, the second rate comes into play to maintain stability by controlling wheel movements and maintaining ride height. Basically: you can have your cake, and eat it too!
The basic rule of thumb is this:
Zero: If you don't need more wheel travel or ground clearance, which is a benefit for carrying heavier loads and/or off-road driving, or if you have overall vehicle height-related issues, you should probably select the spring that will maintain your current ride/vehicle height.
Lifting: If you like to go off road regularly, our lifting springs are probably the way to go—keeping in mind that it is unwise to lift your Vanagon without also upgrading to a 15" or 16" wheel/tire package and upgraded shock absorbers to counteract the reduced lateral stability due to the increase in the vehicle's center of gravity.
Lowering: If you do only paved, curvy roads—and wish to keep your center of gravity down low for improved handling and that rally-van stance, lower it!