There are several ways in which you can lower your car, they are:
- Air Suspension
- Spring Lowering
What Are Lowering Springs?
Lowering springs put simply, are springs that have a lower ride height and usually higher spring rates.
What Are Coilovers?
Coilovers will cover the entire factory strut and usually have height and damping settings.
Every car lowering system has its pros and cons, so how do you know which system is right for you? We know it’s a challenge deciding, so we’ve put together a short article to help you out.
Lowering Springs Explained
As we have briefly explained above, the lowering springs are designed to lower your car by using slightly smaller springs with significantly higher spring rates to compensate for the lower ride height. When using smaller springs, the whole vehicle drops down lower to the ground.
Not all springs are equal, and the saying “you get what you pay for” applies. Lowering springs are perfect if you’re on a tight budget and want your car to sit down lower without taking into account adjustments in damping. Nevertheless, if you’re planning to race at autocross competitions or track days, lowering springs may not be the best choice.
As most lowering springs use higher spring rates than OEM springs, the dampers must work extra hard to maintain the car’s control. It will basically make you feel like putting old shocks on your vehicle: you are going to experience jumping and a major loss of control over the body of the vehicle’s movement.
While you may not be able to tell on the street, your OEM dampers may not be able to stabilise your car at higher spring speeds. This issue is unique to each vehicle and springs, but it can occur with almost any car, particularly with low-quality springs that use overly high springs.
Do Lowering Springs Need To Be Higher Than My OEM Springs?
Technically speaking, the lowering spring does not have to use a higher spring than your OEM springs, but lower riding height means you have less suspension travel. With less suspension travel, you need a higher spring rate to prevent the suspension from bottoming out whilst driving over rough roads or large bumps.
What Happens If The Dampers Are Not Adequately Valved?
If the dampers are not adequately valved for the spring rate and the height of the drive, a potentially catastrophic situation may occur. Dangerous situations usually occur only when low-quality springs are used or springs are cut that force the dampers outside their optimal operating range for ride height and spring rate.
Apart from the extra hard work of your OEM dampers, without damping modifications, you can not fine-tune the handling. Lack of fine tuning is not a big problem for street use, but if you want to get to the track and get the best out of your vehicle, you need to make changes.
Many OEM dampers allow for rebound and compression changes, but manufacturers usually reserve adjustable dampers for very high-end cars that do not need heavy suspension modifications in the first place.
What About Height Adjustment?
Another problem with most of the lowering springs is the lack of height adjustment. Because most springs are designed to be a cheap alternative to coilovers, they are often really basic. There are several lowering spring sets, such as KW’s VTF Adjustable Springs, designed to implement height adjustment. Kits like this allow you to change your height while still using the OEM dampers that some people want (magnetic shocks, for example).
The only situations where lowering springs can be a better option of efficiency than coilovers are automobiles with factory electronically operated dampers. For electronically operated dampers, the increased spring rate is not much of a concern, as the damper has several settings that use stiffer or softer damping characteristics.
Coilovers technically correct the problem of damping described above by integrating a higher rate spring with a damper designed to operate correctly with that spring; however, this does not mean that all coilovers are better than the OEM suspension.
Low-End coilovers, which are usually available on eBay or Amazon but be aware that they may not be sold by a legitimate store. If they aren’t legit they will make the car handle much worse than stock, which occurs when the coilover is not properly tested on and off the track.
These types of super-cheap coilovers run simple spring rates that are often not suitable for use, questionable dampening, inadequate suspension movement, and many other issues. Many super cheap coilovers are not even checked on a shock dyno to verify their ability to withstand bumps.
So long as you stick with the purchasing of trustworthy brand name products, you’re not going to get any big, major problems.
Adjusting The Height
Some coilovers provide a way to make small changes to the spring rate, and other coilovers use a feature that allows the height and the spring rate to be changed independently of each other. Many coilovers also feature adjustable dampers that you can adjust on the top of the coilover via a rotating knob.
Changing The Damping
On some coilovers you can even change damping on the basis of velocity and rebound and compression damping independently. All this adaptability allows fine tuning, which is a must for extreme enthusiasts. Accidental adjustment of your suspension incorrectly is a common mistake, so taking your car to a suspension tuning expert is always a smart idea.
When you’re looking to attend some of the track meetings, a set of coilovers is a far safer investment than lowering springs. Adjusting the damping will allow you to fine-tune the handling of your car on a specific track. Plus, with dampers designed to operate at higher spring rates, you are less likely to encounter damper failure.
Higher spring rates will reduce total body movement, which will improve predictability, driver satisfaction and overall grip. Unnecessary body movement is a bad thing so here’s a great opportunity to do something about it by fitting the best form of lowering for your vehicle.
Air Suspension Explained
There is a third alternative that many enthusiasts often avoid because of costs and fears about poor handling: air suspension. Air suspension is more costly than a good set of coilovers, but it’s usually better quality (after all, you ‘re riding on air).
A properly engineered air suspension system can theoretically work just as well as coilovers, however, that will depend on the kit you buy, your car, and other changes you have made to the vehicle.
The main reason anyone chooses air suspension over coilovers or lowering springs is controlling the height. Air suspensions use bags that can be inflated or deflated, they adjust the ride to the correct height, which effectively enables you to park at the show and drop lower your vehicle with the press of a button.
Air suspension would also allow you to easily clear the driveways or speed bumps by inflating the bags.
Different Types of Lowering Springs
As you might have already learned, there are several different types of springs. At the end of the day, they are all the metal rods that have been twisted into a coil, but the tightness and shape of the coil affect the way the spring responds to the suspension movement.
What you’ll find in most OEM struts or lowering springs are “progressive” springs.
Progressive springs also do not have a defined stiffness. The spring rate rises as the spring becomes more compact. The progressive design of the spring rate ensures that bumps do not cause a lot of compression and can be absorbed at a higher spring rate , which means that the frame has less force acting against it.
In a high-performance spring or coilover, you are more likely to find a “linear” spring. Linear springs do not adjust on the basis of suspension motions. This means that handling is much more predictable, and damper tuning is much simpler, but at the expense of poor ride quality.
For street use, a progressive spring is nice as it gives a better quality ride, but for those who want the best output, a linear spring is a wonderful choice.
Twin Tube vs Monotube
These types of dampers look almost identical, but below, there are quite a few fundamental variations that alter the dampening efficiency.
A twin-tube configuration can be found on most OEM shocks, low-end coilovers and even mid-level coilovers are designed for street use. It’s by no means a bad concept. Twin-tube uses the inner and outer tubes. The inner tube contains the pipe, valve and oil of the piston. The outer tube contains damper oil and nitrogen gas.
The twin-tube configuration allows for more suspension stroke without increasing body height, offering improved ride efficiency.
High-performance racing vehicles and coilovers frequently use a monotube configuration. This configuration holds everything in one tube and separates everything with the floating piston. While this design is simpler than the twin-tube design, it allows for larger and stronger components, better heat dissipation and faster response.
What’s Right for You?
There is no right or wrong configuration when choosing the type of suspension. What’s right for you depends on how much you’re able to spend on the car and your intentions.
Lowering springs will do the job for street use, particularly if you’re on a budget. If you’re willing to invest a little more, a set of coilovers will give you much greater versatility and will be ideal for the track.
If you’re willing to invest a little more than a coilover, then air suspension is always a great choice.
Coilovers are a lot like the OEM strut that you will find on your car. The main body is a shock absorber. The coil spring is on the body of the damper, right over the shaft, with the top plate in front of the top mounting bolts. Compared to the old-school spring and shock pack, it’s much smaller. What makes the coilover so much better than the OEM strut its adjustability, weight, durability and overall performance.
The OEM strut is usually built to be very road-compliant, offering outstanding ride efficiency at the expense of reasonably poor handling. Many customers would choose the ride quality over exceptional handling, because most customers do not want to drive their cars to the limits of a mountain road or a race track.
Linear & Progressive Springs
Not all of the springs are made equal. When it comes to aftermarket coilovers, you will find two types of springs: linear and progressive. You’ll see a lot of high-end coilovers using linear springs, and most enthusiasts can inform you that linear springs are the way forwards, but in some instances that’s not the case. Linear springs are great for use on the track, and progressive springs are great for road use, to put it simply. Most coilovers come with progressive springs, since most vehicles are not devoted to track driving.
What makes linear springs so ideal for track use is their simplicity. One of the keys to a better track setup is very consistent handling. It’s a lot easier to push hard when you know exactly what the vehicle is going to do in every corner. With the spring rate constant, the damper is also very easy to tune. Unfortunately, the linear spring is going to be much stiffer than the progressive spring, as the progressive springs start out as being soft and then begin to stiffen as the spring is compressed.
What Are The Dangers of Lowering A Car?
The first problem is the method of lowering itself. Most auto repairs and modifications should be performed by a specialist. Automotive springs exert thousands of pounds of energy, and if you do not follow proper protocols when removing and reinstalling them, they may cause serious injury or death. You should leave your suspension to a professional mechanic.
But if you’ve had the job done correctly by a professional, what are the risks of lowering your car or truck? The most popular ones are:
- The lowering process may change the camber (at rest or when the wheel is elevated as over the bump) which, in turn, has two negative effects, reduced traction, especially for braking, and increased wear of the tyre.
- The steering geometry can be modified to a sufficient degree that the car can not be steered safely. This applies primarily to cars which have been lowered by several inches or more.
- A car that has been significantly lowered can bottomout at the entrances to the driveway or unable to clear ordinary road bumps. In the event that you’ll need to have your car towed, you can find that it can not be towed normally (a flatbed may be required) or that there is no way to do so without damaging the vehicle.
- Shock absorbers can experience more pressure (long or sideways) decreasing their lives.
- A lowered car can put additional stress on various other parts of the suspension and steering system, leading to excessive wear and even premature failure.
- Tyres may rub against the body of the vehicle or parts of the suspension, causing damage to both.
- The drive will almost always be harder, because most of the lowering approaches limited spring movement. It can be painful for you and your passengers, and it can also raise wear and tear when the vehicle gets bumped and bounced harder.
Most of these issues do not pose a significant risk to life and limbs. The exception to this rule is extreme camber adjustments, which can decrease braking efficiency to such an extent that they make the vehicle unsafe; there may be a “camber kit” available to avoid this effect, but it is important not to drive any vehicle whose camber has been massively changed from stock. Similarly, it is vital to ensure that the steering system functions properly after lowering. This is generally not a great danger if the car has been lowered by only one inch or two, but after that it will be necessary to make significant changes to ensure that the car is safe to drive.
Many of the other disadvantages can be minimised or avoided by taking reasonable steps; for example, having a wheel alignment after some suspension work, including lowering, can remove increased tyre wear. And if the tyre is rubbing the surface, it may be possible to roll the edge of the fender or quarter surface sufficiently to remove the problem. Ensure you have a spare tyre or space saver in case persistent rubbing causes a blow out or puncture and get it seen to as soon as possible.
Lowering springs are perfect if you want a cheap way to give your car a better position and improved handling. Depending on the car and the spring, however, lowering springs will affect the handling. Coilovers are a much better choice because they stabilize your car a lot better and give you a lot of adjustability.
It is important to note that while severe mechanical issues can be avoided, almost all methods of lowering your vehicle will result in a harsher ride and, as far as many people are concerned, a less comfortable ride, and most owners of lowered cars will experience increased wear and tear on various components.