There’s no denying how much better cars look when they sit long and low to the ground. The simple act of dropping some lowered springs into a car can transform even the ugliest cars into something.. well.. a lot less ugly. There’s other benefits to be had, too, so why wouldn’t you do it?
Car suspension technology has come a long way over the past 20 years or so. In the past, cars were either set up for comfort and rode on high suspension which leaned through turns and wobbled across imperfections, or they were set up lower and stiffer for a more ‘sporty’ ride. For cars belonging to the former category, fitting lowered suspension was seen as a fantastic way to transform a vehicle’s handling and improve on the setup the manufacturer provided. But a lot has changed since then.
Today, cars generally strike a much better balance between ride quality and handing. On average they sit lower than they used to, whilst still providing good ride comfort and handling. Car suspension setups are always a compromise, but it’s this compromise that helps you live with them day to day.
Manufacturers spend millions of dollars in research and development to try and achieve a perfect balance between ride quality and handling – so the question as to whether you should throw all that out the window and fit new springs and shock absorbers to lower the vehicle is suddenly a much more difficult proposition to accept. Firstly, let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of lowering your car:
- Lower centre of gravity. Like the name suggests, lowered suspension lets your car sit closer to the ground and increases stability through turns or during emergency manoeuvres.
- More aerodynamic. With the car sitting lower, there’s less air going underneath, which can reduce the amount of drag imposed on the vehicle.
- Improved handling. Generally, a lowered vehicle will handle better and sit flatter through turns. However, this may not always be the case.
- Increased visual appeal. There’s no denying lowered cars can look fantastic. It adds a great deal of visual appeal to your vehicle.
- Reduction in ride quality. Depending on how much the car has been lowered and the type of springs and shock absorbers used, there will either be a slight or dramatic loss of ride quality. The car will be more jiggly and you’ll notice new bumps in the road – which previously would have been ironed out by your standard suspension doing its job properly.
- Increased wear and tear. Lowered suspension inherently has less “give” or travel available, meaning your car will hit harder and slam into pot holes or other road imperfections. This increases the chances of damaging your wheels and increases wear on other suspension components. The increased wear and tear also applies to your car’s interior, which will create an ever increasing amount of rattles and creaking noises over time, as the fasteners used to secure components gradually loosen. This will eventually make your vehicle feel ‘older’ than equivalent vehicles that are still riding on standard suspension, potentially impacting resale values.
- Increased bottoming out. We’ve all seen it – drivers of lowered vehicles entering driveway ramps at ridiculously low speeds and also on angles, in an attempt to reduce the chances of scraping the front bumper, rear bumper or underside along the ground. Contact with the ground obviously causes damage to the car, ranging from wear marks on the front or rear bumpers, through to damage to the exhaust system or the underside of the engine.
- Potential Handling problems. Lowering a car can potentially increase handling, but only if the road is perfectly smooth – which are rare to non-existent. On roads with imperfections you might actually end up cornering slower, as the car hits harder and skips across bumps. It’s the suspensions job to keep the tyres in contact with the road at all times, and lowered suspension can’t always do a good job of that.
- Uneven tire wear. In some cases, lowered 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.
- Rubbing on bodywork. Lowered cars are also at an increased risk of having their tyres rub on the guards or inner wheel wells while driving. The risk is more pronounced when going over bumps or whilst turning – or when both happen at once. This can result in damage to your tyres and also to the vehicle itself.
- Reduced practicality. Lowering a vehicle makes almost everything more difficult. Whether its carrying a heavy load or simply trying to fit a jack under the vehicle to lift it up for routine maintenance, having lowered suspension can make a simple job a lot more difficult than it should be.
So, should I lower my vehicle?
As you’ve probably noticed, there are a few benefits to lowering your car, but there’s a hell of a lot of drawbacks that come with it! So the real answer to this question depends on you.
If the most important thing to you is how the vehicle looks and you don’t care one bit about the ride quality or other associated problems, then you’ll probably love having a lowered vehicle – but bear in mind this might not always be the case. With time you may grow tired of your car’s fidgety ride and the constant scraping as you simply try and drive around day to day. This will eventually start affecting your experience with the vehicle and may result in you selling it sooner.
Alternatively, if you hope to hold onto your vehicle and enjoy it for longer, I’d highly recommend not lowering it. The increased wear and tear that you’ll inflict upon it with lowered suspension makes it a questionable proposition long-term.
Suspension systems in modern cars mean they’re actually faster in the real world in comparison to lowered vehicles. Our roads are never perfect, so why should you drive a car that’s been setup for that?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.