Q: What Are the Drawbacks Of Lowering My Car?

asked by on November 17, 2015

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 done in less professional manners by heating the spring to weaken them or cutting a section out to reduce the overall height.

When lowering a vehicle, the first thing that comes to mind is the absence of the factory ground clearance that formerly existed. This can lead to bottoming out, even on relatively smooth roads. I have seen many lowered vehicles struggle to pass over average speed bumps. It is usually an extremely slow process, as they have to attack the bump on an angle and slowly crawl over the obstacle. Often, slight inclines when entering or exiting a driveway will also be a challenge to negotiate as well. You will also see these vehicles on the road going highway speeds when going over bumps and they will often bottom out, shooting sparks from the undercarriage. This can either be the exhaust hitting the ground or the frame itself, neither is good for your vehicle. I have also seen many lowered vehicles have difficulty just getting a standard jack underneath to change a tire in the event of a flat.

In fact, while I’m here let’s talk about the tires and wheel well area of the body of your vehicle. Now that the vehicle is lowered, the clearance in the wheel well is diminished and can lead to contact of the tire with the body, creating wear issues. The angle of the wheel assembly may also now be altered substantially from the manufacturer’s specification which can cause excessive wear leading to shorter tire life spans.

When trying to place the vehicle on an alignment rack, often times a special ramp is needed as the undercarriage can get hung up on the lift.

Next, I would be concerned about the handling characteristics that will be altered and the alignment angles which will need to be corrected in order to maintain proper handling. Excessive or uneven tire wear can also be a concern that you may now experience. Partially due to the change in wheel rim used or the excessive camber angle, the inward tilt of the wheel assembly, which are applied to allow the wheel assembly to clear the wheel well.

Depending on the suspension type: leaf spring, coil spring, hydraulic, or air ride system, the suspension can exhibit different kinds of fell issues when being set up.

Some leaf spring vehicles are lowered simply by removing one or more of the leaf springs from the assembly or changing the mounting position from above the axle to below the axle. The leaves can also be de-arced to reduce the lift but this actions will also reduce the springs weight capacity and performance.

When it comes to coil springs they can be swapped out for different or adjustable springs, or cut or heated to reduce the height. When heating or cutting the springs to shorten them, bear in mind that you are altering the springs basic metal characteristics. Another way to perform this would be by using or replacing the suspension supports with hydraulic or pneumatic air spring (https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/how-long-do-air-springs-last) elements. You will recognize these from any custom car show when you see the vehicles change height at the command of electrical switches or control sticks. They can raise and lower the front and rear of the vehicle together or independently which will even cause the vehicle to bounce or hop if done alternately. Installing these types of systems require battery packs which adds extra weight to the vehicle, they are usually mounted in the trunk for power. Other components that are needed include a compressor and plumbing lines to connect and supply the hydraulic fluid or air supply to the actual suspension unit itself.

One last thought is that most of these applications will give a much stiffer ride than the original setup, due to the loss of spring support. You could consider a body kit instead which would keep the original suspension intact and provide some of the same benefits. You may still be slowing down over those speed bumps, so remember look at the outcome before you start committing to your alterations.

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