Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

What Are the Dangers of Lowering My Car?

lowered car

It has become fairly common for car owners to modify their cars’ suspensions to make their car ride lower. Usually aesthetics are one of the most important reasons for reducing ride height — many people prefer the appearance of a lower car — but in theory there are other advantages:

  • Handling can be improved by lowering the car’s center of gravity, which tends to reduce body roll.

  • Lowering the vehicle usually reduces aerodynamic drag, which increases fuel economy, and sometimes reduces high speed lift, this making the vehicle safer. (These effects are usually quite small for realistic amounts of lowering.)

  • A lower vehicle may pose less of a rollover risk. (Most cars are extremely difficult to roll under normal conditions, so this is at best a minor consideration).

Some aftermarket suspension kits improve handling in other ways besides lowering the vehicle, so the lowering can just be considered an added benefit. That’s the theory. But what about in practice: is lowering a car a good idea, and is it safe?

It turns out that the answer depends primarily on exactly how one plans to lower the car.

How to lower a car

At one extreme are expensive (several thousand dollar) aftermarket kits (often of a coilover design) that are carefully designed for each car model for which they’re offered. Many of these lower the vehicle (though that’s not necessarily their main purpose), and well-designed kits that have been properly installed are safe.

At the other extreme are a variety approaches that involve replacing few if any of the existing parts. Instead, existing parts, typically springs or torsion bars, are modified.

Common modifications include:

  • Shortening or softening coil springs

  • Re-bending leaf springs

  • Changing the spring or torsion bar mounting points

  • Adjusting the torsion bar key (torsion bar suspensions only)

Unfortunately, these inexpensive approaches can be damaging to your vehicle or even render it unsafe.

How lowering a vehicle can cause damage

The first concern is the lowering process itself. Most automotive repairs and modifications should be done by a professional, but this is even more true of suspension work than almost any other kind. Automotive springs exert thousands of pounds of force and if you don’t follow proper procedures when removing and reinstalling them they can cause serious injury or death. Always leave suspension work to your qualified mechanic.

But assuming you’ve had the work done properly, what are the dangers of lowering your car or truck? The most common are:

  • The lowering process can change the camber (at rest, or when the wheel is raised as over a bump), which in turn has two negative effects, reduced traction, particularly for braking, and increased tire wear.

  • Steering geometry may be changed enough that the car can’t be steered safely. This applies primarily to cars that have been lowered several inches or more.

  • A car that has been lowered a great deal may bottom out at driveway entrances or be unable to clear normal road obstacles. Also, in the event you need to have your car towed you may find that it can’t be towed normally (a flatbed may be required) or that there’s no way to do so without damaging the car.

  • Shock absorbers may experience more force (along their lengths or sideways), reducing their lives.

  • A lowered car may put extra stress on various other suspension and steering system parts, leading to excessive wear and even premature failure.

  • Tires may rub against sheet metal or suspension parts, causing damage to both.

  • The ride will almost always be harsher, as most lowering methods reduce spring travel. This can be uncomfortable for you and your passengers, and can also increase wear and tear as your car gets bumped and bounced harder.

Most of these problems do not result in serious danger to life and limb. The exception to that rule is extreme camber changes, which can reduce braking performance so much that they render the vehicle unsafe; there may be a “camber kit” available to prevent this effect, but it’s critical not to drive any vehicle whose camber has been grossly altered from stock. Similarly, it’s vital to ensure that the steering system functions properly after lowering. This isn’t usually a great danger if a car’s been lowered only an inch or two, but beyond that it may be necessary to make substantial modifications in order to ensure that the car is safe to drive.

Many of the other drawbacks can be reduced or eliminated by taking appropriate steps; for example, getting a wheel alignment after any suspension work including lowering may eliminate the increased tire wear issue. And if a tire is rubbing the sheet panel, it may be possible to roll the edge of the fender or quarter panel enough to eliminate the problem.

It is important to understand that while the serious mechanical issues may be avoidable, almost any method of lowering your car will result in a harsher and, as far as many people are concerned, less comfortable ride and most owners of lowered cars will experience increased wear and tear on various components.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Post a question and get free advice from our certified mechanics.

ASK A QUESTION

More related articles

P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the P0052 code means This code is seen when the Engine Control Module (ECM) tries to control the...
P2422 OBD-II Trouble Code: Evaporative Emissions Control System (EVAP) Vent Valve Stuck Closed
Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC): P2422 P2422 code definition Evaporative Emissions Control System (EVAP) Vent Valve Stuck Closed Related Trouble Codes: P2441: EVAP Vent Valve Stuck Open EVAP trouble...
Auto Safety Tips
Driving is more than a way to get from point A to point B. Owning and driving a car can also be a highly enjoyable experience. Whether a person is driving...


Related questions

Q: What are the advantages of aftermarket suspension parts?

There are many advantages to using aftermarket steering and suspension parts over factory-made suspension parts on most makes and models. A lot of it has to do with being price competitive and having better than OEM (original equipment manufacturer) warranties....

Q: What is an adjustable suspension, and how does it work?

Car adjustable suspension could mean two things, either adjusting the ride height of the car or changing the handling characteristics. Ride height systems are usually added to the rear of vehicles to raise the rear of the car and bring...

Q: What Are the Drawbacks Of Lowering My Car?

While lowering a car or truck can make it look cooler, increase aerodynamics, and provide a lower center of gravity, more often than not there are downfalls to consider as well. This process can be done professionally but is sometimes...