I first heard about Körbach Frame Locks back in the middle of July 2004 in a post on an internet forum. What I gathered after reading the post and visiting the Körbach site, was that these "Frame Locks" would take the jolt out of potholes, help with turn in, almost eliminate understeer, reduce engine vibration, reduce front end vibration, take away the harsh ride my performance suspension has caused, and so on and so on. I was, of course, more than a bit skeptical...but I was also very curious at the same time. At this time Körbach was looking for beta testers, and they were offering a steep discount off the regular price of $245 for these testers. They also stated a 100% money back guarantee. Now, I have done quite a bit of work suspension wise to my car, and I was very curious if something as small and simple as these frame locks could bring about ANY of the results they claimed they could. Well, that curiosity got the best of me, so I went ahead and signed up for the tester program, but to my dismay, I received an e-mail from David Lawson at Körbach stating that they had run out of tester kits...but he did accept my application and put me on a waiting list. After a month or so their inventory was replenished, and my parts were on the way.
By the time I received my Frame Locks several other testers had posted up their reviews on a few different sites, and I was following all of it, but the reported results were just kind of unbelievable to me. Most claimed to notice an immediate difference in the way their cars handled: improved steering response, a decrease in the harsh ride of their lowered cars with stiff springs, improved turn in on corners, smoother cornering, and an all around "more solid ride." I also had a chance to read an article in Honda Tuning about the Frame Locks while mine were on back order. Again, these things got an excellent review, and my anticipation was building more with everything I read...but in the back of my mind, I was still a bit skeptical.
When the parts finally arrived, I became even more skeptical...what the UPS man handed me was a box measuring 2.5 x 10 x 21 inches, and weighing a mere four pounds. I asked myself how anything that fit in this box, and not weighing anything, really could provide the results that all of these people are claiming they do. I reflected on the money back guarantee for a moment, and then opened the box. Upon doing this, the overall presentation of the product was amazing. I could tell right away that Körbach really cared about first impressions by the way they packaged the Frame Locks. When I opened the box and lifted the piece of foam that covered the contents, I was greeted by the bright red components, with each piece press fit in their own special little place, smothered in a bed of a black felt type material. I almost did not want to take the pieces out...so instead, I
took a picture and then gave the hefty instruction manual the once over.
Now, if the packaging does not impress you, and I cannot see how it would not, the instruction manual is sure to impress. The thing is loaded with large images showing you exactly how to do most every step of the installation process. After reading through the manual, I took a look at the parts to make sure I had everything. I had all the left side pieces, all the right side pieces, and three sharp brand new drill bits to drill the necessary holes, simply awesome.
When I got to the point where I had time to install them, it turned out to be a complete breeze. The instructions you get are concise, yet in depth enough to explain everything adequately, and they give the proper emphasis where it is needed on certain steps. As I was installing these Frame Locks, I came to the conclusion that these things lined up and fit like they could be Honda OEM parts. That says a great deal about the amount of R&D that has probably gone into them, and it definitely impressed me. Also, for those that are the least bit wary of drilling holes in their frame, or anywhere else on their cars, the small break away pilot hole pieces make it 99.99% idiot proof once you have everything properly aligned. After I got the pilot holes drilled, with the supplied bit, I enlarged the holes with the other supplied bits, and then went to do
final assembly. Everything lined up perfect. Again, great R&D on the part of Körbach for including the break away pieces for the pilot holes. After that, it was simply following the steps I had already done once in the test fit phase, plus one extra step, then making sure all was torqued to the specs Körbach provided, then reassembly of the car. The complete install; along with disassembly of the car, removal of the stock intake resonator, taking numerous pictures, cleaning up my work area before starting, sweeping up all the metal shavings afterwards, and reassembly of the car, took me about two and a half hours. Actual work time installing the locks was probably about 45 minutes to an hour.
After completion I went for a short, twenty minute or so, drive, to get first impressions if you will. Just like the reviews I had read from others, I could tell right off that there was something different going on. See, my driveway has a large dip in it, then a small bump, to get onto the road. This usually jolts you just a little bit with my suspension setup, which we will get to in a bit, but it did not this time; I just kind of rolled over it and up into the street. However, I shook it off as my mind playing tricks on me and took off down the street. Now, my street is not riddled with potholes, but there is a boom of new home construction going on around me, so the road is not in the best condition either from all the heavy equipment punishing it everyday. During my short trip down my street with my new Frame Locks on the car just seemed more solid across the random bumps and dips the dump trucks and other construction equipment have caused. You will be hearing a good deal more of that, more solid.
I again shook it off as maybe a placebo effect, but this time with a bit of a smirk, because I felt good things were amiss. I continued my drive, and continued to observe that the car was simply more solid over small imperfections in the road; small dips, small bumps, tar seams, etc...I still felt all of them, but they felt different. The dampers simply seemed to be absorbing more of the impact. Instead of bumping up and down in my seat on some of them, I just felt the tire passing over them, that is really the only way I can state it. A bit further along my journey, I came up a sinkhole of sorts, where the foundation under the road has crumbled, and the blacktop has just kind of fallen into it in a nice rounded fashion, to a depth of about four to six inches. Now, normally I get myself into the other lane at this point on this road. If there is traffic, I slow down then move over. If I have to hit it, I kind of slow down, swerve a bit, and grit my...then flop around the cabin as I hit the damn thing. This time however, I put my trust in Körbach...and took it like a man. I still slowed down, I still gritted my teeth, but I did not swerve, and then I hit it, and did not get tossed around the cabin like a rag doll in the washing machine...wow. Did I feel it though? You bet your ass I felt it...this was a six inch deep hole after all. I hit it with a thud, and then it was gone. No bump steer, no tossing about, just "thud" and the "jingle" of the change in my change tray shifting, then I was on my way.
Needless to say, but I will anyway, I was impressed, and my confidence in Körbach shot up a great deal. Throughout this drive I kept noticing that I could still feel the bumps and dips in the road, but now the dampers seemed to be doing their job absorbing them a good bit better than they had been. Before we go any further, and while we are on the damper topic, let me brief you on the suspension modifications my civic had before installing the Frame Locks. First off, I roll on Rota Slipstream wheels in 15x7, wrapped in Falken Azenis sport tires in 205/50 pumped up to 38f and 34r; and these tires alone make bumps all the more apparent due to the very stiff sidewalls. Moving on to the suspension, I ride on JIC Magic FLT-1US dampers, which are valved pretty aggressively, and use linear rate springs which make things pretty stiff all the time, even with the fairly low spring rates of 7k front and 5k rear. I also have an Energy Suspension master bushing kit that adds to the rough ride. Kind of inconsequential in the ride quality area, but coming into play nonetheless in the next section of this review, are front upper and lower tie bars, and a rear lower tie bar. I am not sure how far from stock the car is lowered, but the stance is more for performance than looks, and camber is adjusted to a degree negative in front and two degrees negative in rear...still within stock specs.
Alright, now that you know I already had a car with the ability to handle fairly well, and ride pretty stiff, we will continue. We went through all that so we could properly address the next improvement I found...turn in. I had thought that my car turned in fairly quick before this mod, and it did, much better than stock at least...but with these Frame Locks installed, I nearly hit the curb on my first right turn at a low speed. I was pretty shocked and actually verbalized it with a quick "whoa" to whoever wanted to hear. After that I played with the steering a bit, and steering response had indeed increased. Wanting to test the combined effect of the increased turn in and the decrease in the rough ride, I set out for a few turns that usually toss me about the cabin a bit. These are both turns that take you off of one street and onto another, so they are fairly low speed turns. I went through the first one and the combined effect brought a smile to my face. I felt the bumps that usually toss me about, but they did not affect me anywhere near as much. I felt the tires rolling over them, but they were absorbed by the dampers and not transmitted into the cabin as jolting impacts. Same exact deal on the second turn I tested, which was actually the turn back on to my street, and a left turn from a dead stop at a stopsign. This turn usually seriously tosses you about, unless you take it very very slow, due to the ruts of sorts that the heavy construction machinery has caused. This time I did not take it very very slow, but also did not get tossed around.
I later got a chance to go around the first of those turns again, more than a few more times actually, coming from the other way. Coming that way, it is a sharp right turn onto a narrow residential street, off of a narrow residential street, with a nice drop off instead of a shoulder. The city was kind enough to put a patch of concrete where the streets meet to make a shoulder of sorts in the corner, but it is not even in the least, and there is a manhole cover that sticks up about a half an inch or so that the driver side tires hit every time. Go too fast and it is a pretty rough turn. Well, used to be a pretty rough turn at least. Where I would normally get into the other lane in the turn to avoid the manhole cover if nothing was coming, with the Frame Locks in place I purposely hit it, repeatedly, and every time there was no bumping about, and no bump steer. The suspension was simply able to do its job of absorbing the impact and keeping the tire planted firmly on the road surface.
Since that run for first impressions I have run into those same situations time and time again, and have been impressed time and time again. Where at first I could have written some of it off as a placebo effect, now I simply cannot do that...the effects on ride quality and handling provided by these small, insubstantial, bright red pieces of metal that Körbach calls the Frame Locks, are unmistakable. Throughout my continued driving, I have found out that I can now take speed bumps like a man...none of this first gear, cattycornered, crawling over the speed bumps crap, simply slow down and go over them. It is a speed bump, so of course you feel it, but you do not hit your head on the ceiling or get thrown into the window. You do not wince and feel sorry for your rim/tire/dampers either. I have also noticed that in a long sweeping turn, I can set my angle at the start, and just hold it, if the angle of the turn does not change; there is no longer a need to correct the steering. Even as I am typing this I am grinning a bit, because these claims still seem outlandishly like marketing hype...but these are the honest results I have experienced with the Frame Locks on my car, with my suspension setup.
I found myself speeding up a bit on sections of road I had been avoiding...just to see if there was an improvement. In all cases, there has been. I want to stress that you will still feel the bumps, gaps, holes, whathaveyou; but the car is more "solid" over them...meaning less vibrations throughout the cabin, less jolts up your spine, less bouncing out of your seat, etc... You will still feel the stuff...it just feels different...it feels better.
Here are my final thoughts on the Frame Locks. Going by the normal price of $245, I probably would not buy them simply for the way they affect normal ride quality over bumps and through dips. Although there is a marked improvement, that is simply not something I would pay that amount of money for, with the suspension modifications already done to my car. Simply put, I would not pay $245 simply to have a less bumpy, more comfortable ride. I do, however, feel that the ride quality effect of the Frame Locks would be much, much more noticeable with a stock suspension. It is my opinion, based on the results I have noticed with a stiff performance suspension, that these Frame Locks on a stock civic suspension would make it ride more like a caddy, as far as ride quality is concerned. That is just my opinion. Now, again going by the normal price of $245, I would most definitely, in a heartbeat, lay down that amount of cash for the difference this product makes in handing and ride quality combined. The combined results of the increase in turn in, the steering response, the ability to hold a sweeping curve with no steering correction, the, to me, uncanny handling improvement in turns across rough or uneven surfaces, the ability to stick it to those speed bumps, potholes, and crappy roads, and the overall "solid" feel the car has to it in all of these situations...are all worth that price to me. So, I most definitely give the Körbach Frame Locks my seal of approval. From the packaging and appearance, to the unbelievably idiot proof instructions, to the ease of installation, to going so far as to include good drill bits of the proper sizes, and especially the fact that they actually do deliver the improvements in ride and handling that Körbach claim they do, I just do not think you can go wrong. I got in on a tester price, but if I had not, and already knew the possible results, I would definitely pay the normal price of $245 for them.