Are you thinking about lowering your car? As exciting as this project seems, there are a lot of unknowns. In fact, you might not even know all the reasons why someone would want to lower a vehicle. In this guide, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about your car’s suspension. I’ll start with some definitions then explain 9 reasons why you would lower a car suspension, followed by 12 drawbacks of doing it.
A lot of the benefits of lowering your car have to do with the lowered center of gravity. It grants your car better handling, improved aerodynamics, better gas mileage, and a truly unique driving experience. The process itself is easy enough, and you’re left with a personalized car that immediately looks sportier.
What Is a Car Suspension?
The whole suspension system is comprised of your car’s tires, shock absorbers, springs, and a number of linkages. Combined, their goal is to absorb energy from the road and keep your car steady the whole time.
When you drive over a small bump in the road, the suspension will move around so that your car will feel like nothing happened. Without any springs or shock absorbers, you will feel every crack, rock, and bump in the road while you drive.
The springs will compress and extend to make this possible.
Each car’s suspension can be set up a little differently. Some cars use leaf springs instead of coiled springs. A leaf spring is a collection of thin pieces of metal that act like a spring when they’re stacked on each other.
At the end of the day, the comfort of your ride is largely due to your car’s suspension.
Make Sure You Know Which Suspension You Have
There are four major types of suspensions that you might find on your vehicle. It has to do with your vehicle’s weight, drivetrain, and how fancy the manufacturer wanted to be.
In general, your car probably has a MacPherson strut system. This is largely what I’ll be talking about in the following sections.
If you have an AWD or 4WD vehicle, understand that your suspension might be different. There is one system that uses a central spring in the middle of your car. For this system, it’s not possible to lower your car just by swapping out a coil.
How to Lower a Car Suspension (Quick Guide)
Most of the pros and cons of lowering your suspension revolve around understanding how the process works. To help with that, I put together this quick guide. Don’t use this as a means to lower your car, but just use it as a way to understand what’s going on before starting the project.
I’m assuming that your car has a coil spring suspension. This means that a metallic coil is connecting your tire to the structure of your car.
Start by raising your car. You should lift up the front half, use jack stands, and put tire chocks behind your rear wheels.
Remove the front tires and locate the strut assembly. This is where your coil is housed. There will be fasteners at the top and bottom that need to be removed in order to lower your suspension, so remove those now.
To remove the spring, you’ll need to compress the spring enough then use a pneumatic power tool to remove the top nut and release the spring. Put in your new springs, strut, and then install the assembly back into your car.
My Advice: Don’t DIY the Drop, Use a Kit
As part of the lowering process, you can DIY a lot of it. Some people will use a cutting tool to simply cut the length of the spring then reinstall the assembly into their car.
This comes with a lot of problems. For one, your strut will be incorrectly calibrated. Basically, the strut is calibrated based on the length of the spring. A longer spring will accept more force, so the strut can do less work and has more time and distance to dampen the impact.
With a shorter spring, you could be cutting off the final dampening of your strut. Your strut thinks you have ten inches to work with, but there’s really five. As a result, your car could bottom out if you hit a big enough dip or bump in the road.
Instead of DIYing the project (cutting the springs yourself), you should opt for a pre-bundled kit. This kit will include the spring and strut all packaged together. More importantly, the strut is already calibrated to the exact spring on the assembly.
It also makes things easier when it comes to installing the new kit. After removing your current spring/strut assembly, you just install this new kit.
The big downside is the price. A premade kit could be nearly a thousand dollars for all four assemblies. You’ll find options online for just springs, but that comes with the same risk that I was just talking about. If your strut wasn’t designed for a specific spring, you could run into some big issues.
This Is All About Classic Drops, not “Carolina Squats”
I also wanted to clarify that I’m only talking about traditionally lowering your car’s suspension. This is when you lower all four springs at the same time.
There’s a trend where people will only raise or lower one axle of their car. It’s called a “Carolina Squat” and it’s commonly done on trucks. None of the 9 benefits I’ll be discussing are true for a Carolina Squat vehicle.
Clarification: There’s No Mechanical Need to Do This
I made a similar clarification when I talked about removing a car’s muffler. There’s no mechanical need to lower your car’s suspension.
In other words, a mechanic would never tell you that your suspension needs to be lowered in order to fix a problem that you’re having. It’s strictly a cosmetic change. That shouldn’t influence whether or not you lower the suspension, but it should clarify that there’s no need for this change, just a strong desire.
9 Reasons Why You Would Lower a Car Suspension
Here are 9 of the biggest reasons why you might lower your car’s suspension. If you resonate with them, maybe you should consider lowering your car.
1. Better Aerodynamics
Aerodynamics is the science that describes how air flows around something. In this case, it’s how the air goes around your car.
If your car is highly aerodynamic, then it will cut through the wind with very little resistance.
By lowering your car, you’ll have better aerodynamics. This means higher fuel efficiency, better car performance, and a higher top speed compared to a vehicle with poor aerodynamics.
2. Improved Traction
Since your vehicle is now lower, your car’s center of gravity is lower. This is the balancing point of your car (if you were to balance it on a finger, for example).
When the center of gravity is lower, then the car has better traction and stability. This is true even without changing how grippy the tires are.
If you’re a football fan, it’s the same science behind short, stocky running backs. Since they’re lower to the ground, they have better traction and stability.
For your car, improved traction means less skidding or losing your grip on the road. It still won’t help if the roads are completely frozen over, but it will help more in everyday situations.
3. Lower Rollover Risk (Safer)
Since the car is lower, it’s also less likely to flip over. Rollovers aren’t especially risky in standard cars, but this will lower the risk.
For reference, a rollover is when a car flips sideways, typically after getting hit on the side. It’s more common on taller, narrower cars like the Jeep.
You’ll have a safer vehicle after lowering your car’s suspension.
4. Better Handling
If you have a car that has better aero, better traction, and lower rollover risk, you’ll have a car that handles better than it used to. That’s the case when you lower your suspension.
This means that you can take corners better and maneuver more freely.
In casual driving, this difference won’t be incredibly noticeable. However, it will be blindingly obvious if you take your car on the track.
This is why you’ll see a lot of rally cars and racecars that are dropped really low.
5. Provides a Unique Driving Experience
If you’ve driven a Miata or motorcycle, you know what I mean when I say, “unique driving experience”. In either of these vehicles, it feels like you’re in a UFO, not a car.
When your car is really low, you start to perceive things differently. Driving becomes more of an adventure and you feel upset when you’re sitting in a standard sedan after.
6. Looks Really Cool
Some people lower their cars strictly for aesthetics, and I support that. Lowering your car’s suspension will make it look a lot cooler. I know that’s a very opinionated thing to say, but I believe a lot of people in the car world agree with me.
With a different driving stance like this, you might get more people taking pictures of your car as you drive down the road. It turns your vehicle into a head-turner, no matter what model you started with. Even an old Camry or Civic looks cool when the suspension is dropped.
7. Vehicle Won’t Bottom Out Over Bumps
There was this nasty dip near my childhood home that we would call the “belly burner”. If cars went over it fast enough, the underside of the car would scrape on the road and little sparks would fly out behind the car.
That’s because a traditional suspension system is there to absorb the impact slowly and gracefully. It means that there’s a lot of play in the suspension and it’s easier to bottom-out over a bump.
With a lowered and firmer suspension, this isn’t as common. It seems counterintuitive since the car is so much lower. It’s really a difference in the springs themselves. They have less play, so you won’t have all the wave-like bounces after a pothole or bump in the road.
8. It’s a Way to Personalize Your Ride
It’s uncommon to see a car with only a lowered suspension and no other modifications. Lowering your car is just one way to personalize your ride, and it goes hand-in-hand with a car wrap, tinted windows, and sporty modifications.
You won’t have to worry about pacing around a parking lot looking for your car. You’ll be able to spot it quickly due to its unique and sporty look.
9. Better Gas Mileage
I mentioned this idea earlier, but I wanted to specifically mention that lowering your car’s suspension will typically achieve better fuel efficiency for your car.
It goes back to the added traction and better aerodynamics of your car. You aren’t wasting extra energy trying to grip the road under you or fight the air in front of you. Instead, more fuel will go into powering your ride.
It’s hard to predict exactly how many mpg you’ll gain, but it’s nearly inevitable to get better mileage (depending on your make and model).
12 Drawbacks of a Lowered Car Suspension
As great as it is to drop your car, there are a few drawbacks. I want to spend some time discussing these before wrapping this up.
1. A Less Comfortable Ride
Since the suspension is going to be tighter, you’ll notice a less comfortable ride. Bumps and potholes that you never noticed before might become shocking now.
Your previous suspension had a longer length. This allowed it to more gradually accept bumps in the road and absorb them. With shorter shocks, they need to quickly absorb the energy and will make the ride feel stiffer.
On a typical highway, you probably won’t notice a difference. On a backroad, however, things can get pretty uncomfortable.
2. Rough Roads are a Nightmare
If you ever have to drive over an unpaved road or a construction site, you’re in for a bad time. Driving a lowered car over rough roads might end with you having a migraine and sore back (I’ve been there, so I can attest to this).
For me, it got to the point where I would completely avoid an area just because their roads were so bad.
3. Tires Can Wear Quicker
The downside of enhanced grip on your tires is that they’ll wear down quicker. A good analogy comes to mind if you think about sandpaper. If you lightly push a piece across sandpaper, it will wear down a little bit. If you push it with a lot of pressure, the part will wear down quicker.
Essentially, your tires are getting pushed down harder into the road under them. Scientifically, that’s not exactly what’s happening, but it’s a good way to describe the process.
4. Forget About Curbs, Speed Bumps, and Ramps
When your car gets lowered, the front is also lowered. Why do I bring this up? Well, the front of your car is going to determine your clearance height.
Simply put, the clearance height is how tall of an obstacle you can drive over without scraping your bumper or undercarriage on.
If your car is exceptionally low, you might only have a few inches of clearance. This means that curbs, speedbumps, and ramps could be a nightmare for you.
I’ve gotten stuck in parking garages before when the incline was too high, and I’ve scraped against a number of speed bumps in my days.
With some experience, you’ll learn how to clear these obstacles. For example, driving over speed bumps at an angle tends to work better than approaching them head-on.
5. Your Tires Might Rub on Your Car
Since your car was designed to have your tires a certain distance away from the body of your vehicle, you might experience some unwanted rubbing. With your body dropped, your wheels could rub against different parts within the wheel well.
6. Might Require Wheel Well Alterations
Due to this problem, you might have to alter your wheel wells. If you’ve ever seen a car with wheel wells that bulge out and have metal fasteners all around them, you’ve seen this idea in action already.
There are aftermarket kits that will bump out the sides of your vehicle, allowing your car to be safely lowered without rubbing against anything.
Even if your tires look like they fit, they might rub when they’re turned all the way to the left or right. Just do a little testing before you hit the road for the first time.
7. Potential Issues with Your Warranty
Whenever you undergo alterations with your car, you risk voiding your vehicle’s warranty. The warranty is a financial guarantee made by the auto manufacturer. For example, Ford is saying that they trust their product so much that if anything goes wrong in a certain number of miles, they’ll fix it for free (amongst other conditions).
With lowering your car’s suspension, there’s a good chance that some of your warranties will go away.
To avoid this issue, you can just wait until after your warranties expire naturally before lowering your suspension. Alternatively, you can just do the lowering anyway if you don’t mind losing the warranties.
8. Your Standard Jack Won’t Work Anymore
A standard car jack is built for a car that has a standard level of ground clearance. Since your car is now lower, there’s a chance that you won’t be able to get your trusty jack under your vehicle.
It’s going to be harder to access the framework of your car. This is the part that you rest your jack on while raising your car.
9. It Can Be Pretty Pricey
The actual process can get pretty pricy. The key is to use high-quality parts and an experienced mechanic to do the project for you.
Once you say “high-quality” and “experienced” in the same sentence, you should know that a high price is unavoidable.
If you do the project on your own, you should understand what you’re getting into. It requires a lot of different mechanical skills and general prowess to do the job right. I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t do it, just that it’s not a walk in the park.
10. Towing Your Car Becomes More Difficult
In addition to difficulties jacking your car, you’ll also have trouble towing it. A standard towing hook won’t work.
If your car is getting towed on a flatbed truck, then you could have some issues getting it up the ramp. I’ve seen guys use long planks of wood to get a less steep angle in order to get their car on a truck. This is pretty dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing, so be careful.
The best option is to get a specialty tow truck that can move its bed until it’s basically on the ground.
Lowering your suspension also eliminates the ability to tow your car behind a truck. If the tow truck tries doing this, your rear bodywork will get shredded during the process.
11. Your Rated Payload Goes Down
Another thing to worry about is your car’s payload. This term refers to how much weight you can put in your car before things start failing.
Car manufacturers will give each vehicle a suggested payload value. For most sedans, you’re looking at a value between 800 and 900 pounds.
When your car gets lowered, your suspension becomes weaker. It can accept less weight before your car bottoms out on the road and you start scraping your undercarriage. In technical terms, the rated payload value goes down.
Since the auto manufacturer isn’t lowering your suspension, there’s no way to get an official payload rating for your car after you do this alteration. My advice? Play it safe and don’t try loading up your car to help a buddy move to a new apartment.
12. Selling Your Car Could Be Tougher
You probably already know that buying a car isn’t an investment, but that doesn’t mean that you should sacrifice your car’s resale value. As a reminder, the resale value is how much your car is worth after you drive it for a bit and go to sell it on your own.
When you lower your car, you’re narrowing the market of potential buyers. Not everyone thinks a lowered car looks as cool as we do. That means that fewer people would be interested in buying your car.
In the free market, supply and demand are going to dictate how much your car is worth. Since the demand is lower, you’ll probably have to lower your price in order to finally sell your car.
At the same time, interested buyers are going to be even more interested than usual, since your car already has the mods that they were looking to get. It’s hard to predict if your resale value will go up or down, but it’s almost guaranteed that the selling process will be tougher.
Should You Lower Your Car’s Suspension?
After reading through the last two sections, you might be a little disheartened. I only mentioned 9 good reasons to lower your car, but I talked about 12 disadvantages of doing so.
I would say that it’s less about the number of pros and cons and more about the weight of each category. If you’re asking me personally, I would almost always recommend lowering your car’s suspension. For me, the added style, performance, and better driving experience are definitely worth it.
However, it’s up to you. If some of the disadvantages really stuck with you, maybe you shouldn’t lower your car.
I would just urge you to carefully think through this decision. It’s really hard to undo the process after lowering your car. More importantly, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to get your money back if you change your mind.
I just covered 9 benefits and 12 drawbacks of lowering your car’s suspension. I know that was a lot of information, so feel free to drop a comment below if you have any questions or want some clarifications.
If you’ve lowered your car, let me know how much you liked the end result. Personally, I love a lowered car and I’m willing to accept all the negatives that go along with it. Check out my site if you want to learn more about car mods, and peruse my list of useful car items.