Lowered Suspension Advantages and Disadvantages

March 27, 2012

Lowered suspension isn't popular for cosmetic reasons alone; there are performance gains as well. But there are drawbacks that need to be considered.

There are pros and cons to lowered suspension systems. Some drivers change their suspension systems so that the vehicle sits lower to the ground. Any kind of aftermarket suspension system or alteration has its own specific effects on a vehicle.

The Advantages of Lowered Suspension

  • Better aerodynamics. With a lowered suspension, there's less air going underneath the vehicle, and this can create a better outcome for wind drag on a car. That's why some sportier models sit a bit lower to the ground.
  • Improved traction and handling. In general, having the vehicle so low to the ground can increase the grip of the tires on the roadway and improve handling. However, this is not always the case, as lowering can in some instances cost handling issues.
  • Reduced rollover risk. When its center of gravity makes it a rollover risk, almost any vehicle benefits from lowering. The higher the vehicle sits, the easier it tips over.
  • Greater comfort.Some drivers report that they feel better with a lower suspension. Additional stiffness can be desired in a suspension, and this is one of the perks that some drivers mention after lowering their suspensions.

The Disadvantages of Lowered Suspension

  • Increased bottoming out. One of the most common problems with lowered suspensions is that the vehicle can more easily hit the road when it bounces. Speed bumps can also be problematic. Contact with the ground can cause parts of the underside of the car to be seriously damaged. The oil pan and exhaust system are particularly vulnerable.
  • Uneven tire wear. In some cases, a lower suspension can cause tires to wear unevenly, or cause extreme wear patterns. Drivers should look out for this consequence when altering their suspension in any way.
  • Potential conflict with other parts. An even more dangerous consequence of a lowered suspension occurs when elements of the suspension system come into contact with other vehicle systems. Low suspensions can get caught up in anti-lock brake apparatus, sway bars, or even with the sidewalls of the tires. An incorrectly set up suspension can actually chew on tires, causing some serious potential risks.
  • Lifting and towing problems.For those who like to use manual jacks to raise a vehicle for routine maintenance, lowering the suspension can make a simple job a lot harder. Think about your access needs before shifting your car's frame lower toward the ground.

All of these are important considerations for vehicle owners who want to mess around with the suspension system that came direct from the factory. Experts recommend paying extra for quality shock absorbers and other parts, and avoiding cheap aftermarket systems that can cause failure or other serious risks on the road

Lowering Suspension Kits

When it comes to modifying a vehicle, lowering suspension and ride height is often the first step many enthusiasts make.

For the best compromise between handling and looks, choose a kit that includes matched springs and shocks from the same manufacturer, with drops of no more than half an inch to an inch. This allows the spring rates to be increased with improved damping rates to match. Kits that include only lowering springs are cheap, but will generally have spring rates close to factory rates in order to be compatible with the factory shocks. What this means is that your suspension is lowered and travel is reduced, yet there is no increased spring rate or damping force to prevent bottoming out of the shocks. In the case of a rally suspension or suspension that will be used on rough, uneven roads, lowering should be avoided at all costs with attention paid to increased damping and spring rates. Lowered suspensions tend to work best on smooth roads, while excessively rough roads and uneven surfaces require near-stock ride height to function properly.

Coilovers
For the proper mix of lowering, suspension travel and damping, it is hard to pass up a full coilover kit. While these kits, such as the Tein type-Flex kit, run about $800 to $1200. Kits generally include shorter shocks and adjustable spring perches, which allow changes to ride height as situation dictates, without reducing valuable suspension travel. In addition, many of these kits are fitted with matched shocks that feature adjustable damping levels. This allows a reduced ride height while avoiding many of the problems that come with it.

Lowering kits from well known companies such as Eibach and Tokico are cheap and cost effective, while entry level coilover kits from companies such as Tein up the field in every respect at the cost of higher prices. For the cheapest combination, pairing Eibach Race springs with a cheap, adjustable shock such as the Tokico Illunima can allow you the choice of both spring height and spring rate in 25lb/in increments, without leaving behind changes in damping force. These available choices can help you fine tune your vehicle to perfection for the cheapest possible price.

End Links
The end links for the lowered suspension keeps several of the other components in place by securing the ends of the suspension frame parts. These links are crucial to the continued stability of the suspension kit and are available at most auto body repair shops.

Tie Bar
The tie bar extends across the base of the vehicle to secure several of the suspension parts in place as well.

Shocks
The single most important part of a lowered suspension kit is the shocks. Shock absorbers respond to the different terrain and driving styles to provide a smooth ride and to help prevent you from bottoming out.

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