When the first tuning wave washed the country in the 80ies, “car lowering” was a magic formula. The apparently simple lowering of the suspension turned standard family cars, cheap coupés and even vans and station cars into sporty racing vehicles. Yet, it soon became clear that lowering the car is everything but simple.
Tinkering is a recipe for catastrophe
Let it be clear: simply cutting the spring coils is prohibited. Not only is single-handedly shortening the suspension springs in order to lower your car illegal, it also makes the car unsafe for road traffic.
More specifically: the car is more than likely to end up against a tree. If the police takes it off the road in advance, you as well as many innocent traffic participants are lucky.
Lowering the car: Useful or practical? Not really
Apart from a changing the car’s look, practical advantages of lowering the car are few. It will not become any faster nor more economical. A professional adaptation with approved and tested components can lead to an improved road holding as the car’s centre of gravity lies lower.
The car sways therefore less when driving through a curve. Lowering the car slightly improves the dynamics. Nevertheless, other components have to be in tune as well, such as:
– wheel rims
– additions to the bodywork
Lowering the car is therefore part of a total concept which should be carefully planned and contemplated. Otherwise, the wrong decision will result in an inadequate and unsatisfactory solution.
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Don’t ignore the disadvantages
Before you plunge into an adventure of suspension tuning, you should be aware of the fact that this means a profound alteration of your car. The price for lowering is high:
– awkward car access
– diminished suspension
– impaired overview
– less ground clearance
– increasing repair costs
Getting into the car with a swing of the hips and strained spine is not for everybody. Depending on the model, getting in will become a downright awkward business in a lowered car. Once you’re seated, more discomfort awaits you: every manhole cover, pothole, every pebble will make itself felt by the driver. Back pains are more often unavoidable after longer drives with a lowered car.
Driving low, you will only see the fenders of other traffic participants. You hardly have a clear view around. On country roads it may enable you to drive faster, in urban areas you should move all the more carefully.
Every bump in the road makes itself felt but also heard. Bottoming out could damage the exhaust and the oil pan. Shorter suspension struts wear quicker, eventually causing loud knocking noises.
All this is not conducive to a long life span for many components. Broken tailpipes, destroyed catalytic converters, worn strut bearings and even leaking oil pans are a frequent part of driving with a lowered car.
Expertise gets you there
Suspension tuning will most likely go wrong when performed without the necessary expertise. Therefore this alteration should always be undertaken with extensive advice from a professional. A competent sales consultant can provide you with the right combination of suspension struts, tyres and wheel rims specifically suited to your car. Always take the advice into account; otherwise you will only lose money without attaining the desired result and you might even end up with an illegal car. Careful planning of the tuning, considering all necessary measures is therefore strongly recommended.
Different lowering methods
|There are three different ways of lowering your car:
– shortening coil springs
Cheap and quick: shortening of coil springs
Shorter coil springs are the cheap solution for lowering the car. Installing them is legal and relatively easy. Provided you have the proper tools, the installation of sports coil springs can even be executed in the home garage.
Caution: Coil springs breaking as a result of using the wrong tools can cause serious and even mortal injury.
A coil spring which is tensioned with inappropriate tools, can release extremely high forces when breaking off.
Therefore: always work with a professional coil spring tensioner!
Replacement of the standard coil springs by approved, shorter versions requires removing the shock absorber. This is an occasion for checking this part. It is recommended to install new strut bearings as well. These components come under higher strain by lowering the car. New strut bearings will hold considerably longer after lowering the car.
After replacement the car should be realigned. This can only be done in a professional garage with the right equipment. A set of coil springs for lowering the car is available, starting from 300 EUR (± £263).
A package deal for adequate results
If you consider investing a little more, sports suspension is the appropriate choice. This suspension consists of shock absorbers and suspension struts. Generally, these sets include bearings and other installation components.
The installation of a sports suspension is equally difficult or easy as installing a new suspension strut. Here also applies: always work with professional tools and don’t skip the necessary realignment.
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DIY works on the suspension require sufficient expertise. It might look easy; however a lot can go wrong. If you do not have the right knowledge and experience, the installation of a sports suspension is better left to the professional garage.
The luxury version: the adaptive suspension
The adaptive suspension offers maximum sportiness whilst largely maintaining the original driving comfort. This is possible thanks to electronically controlled shock absorbers. Damping is adjusted and applied every millisecond thanks to electromagnets and a highly sensitive control unit.
And what is more: adaptive suspension offers adjustment options for a softer or a stiffer bounce.
Nevertheless, retrofit adaptive suspension comes at a price: it will set you back no less than 3.000 EUR (± £2.630). There is not a lot you can do yourself, here. Installing, programming and adjusting is a job for the professional garage.
Conclusion: Well-advised for an optimal result
Lowering the car is an indispensable part of the tuning scene. A lot has happened since the 1980ies and even cheap solutions can offer interesting results. A lowered car nowadays not necessarily turns into a user-unfriendly vehicle with a stiff bounce.
Still, lowering the car is part of a total package of measures which should be taken into account. Only after a careful consideration of the costs and profits, lowering the car should be commissioned.
With an optimal combination of tyres, wheel rims, a lowering set and a body-kit with the matching paint you make sure of the right attention for your car.
Foto: Andrus Ciprian, socrates471, Cepheia, SHINPANU, chanonnat srisura, kitzcorner, Solcan Design, Digital Genetics, Andrus Ciprian / shutterstock.com