A lowered suspension is a rite of passage for all keen car modifiers. Not only does it make your car look sleek and sporty, but it offers greater aerodynamics while driving. As well as enhancing performance and reducing weight transfer when braking or accelerating, it can also significantly improve how a car handles on the road.
Lowering a suspension does have its downsides though. Domestic cars can be lowered by around 40mm, normally without issues. However, lowering a suspension even further is likely to affect drive quality and how quickly tyres wear out. Not only that, you’re also likely to scratch or damage the underside of your car, especially on uneven ground or when driving over potholes.
Choosing the wrong setup is also likely to affect the way your car drives, possibly removing some of the enjoyment for you and your passengers. This is normally where the debate between lowering springs and coilovers comes in. And, for some cars, the wrong choice can have drastic consequences, leaving you and your passengers feeling every bump, stone, and painted line on the road.
Lowering Springs vs. Coilovers: What’s the Difference?
It’s no surprise that there’s a rivalry between lowering springs and coilovers within the petrolhead community. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple case of right and wrong. In most circumstances, it depends on what benefits your car the most and the type of performance you want to achieve. Budget and finances also play a huge part.
As its name suggests, lowering springs naturally decreases the amount of space between a car’s underside and the ground after they’ve been installed. They’re designed to replace the original coil springs fitted by the equipment manufacturer to create a lowered ride height.
As they’re shorter than the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) coil springs, lowering springs offer an increased spring rate which leads to a much firmer ride. Lowering springs are ideal for anyone trying to achieve enhanced performance, especially as you’ll need to change the shock absorbers here too, but you’ll need to consider the cost implication here. The downside is that most lowering springs bottom out once the car has been lowered by 45mm, meaning ambitions of driving even closer to the ground are scuppered.
Ideal for petrolheads seeking premium performance and improved handling, coilovers can be fitted to a vehicle, once again, to reduce the height. Many choose to fit them on their cars to experience a lowered centre of gravity and stiffer suspension.
Unlike lowering springs, the coilover and shock absorber come as one unit prior to installation, meaning an all-in-one solution for greater ease. Depending on the quality, fit and type of coilover, you could lower your car by up to 65mm and, in some cases, you might be able to go even further. Coilovers also offer greater adjustability and support at every wheel, but they come with a hefty price tag.
Lowering Springs vs. Coilover: Which One is Right for You?
Before we enter this debate, it’s worth noting that build quality and poorly fitted parts are likely to affect how your car runs, handles, and drives. Simply buying the cheapest part isn’t necessarily the best option. Trying to lower your suspension yourself could also be costly.
The cheapest parts on the market are not necessarily produced by reputable brands that have a proven track record. Fixing any part to your car that has been produced by an unknown manufacturer could enter you into a game of roulette, where you never know what the outcome will be. Without professional help, you could also be putting yourself and your car in danger if you attempt to fit the part on its own. You might even end up damaging other components on your car. To get the best out of your machine, it’s recommended to get work completed by a professional mechanic.
The discussion about lowering springs or coilovers has caused a social media storm amongst car enthusiasts. Naturally, some petrolheads claim lowering springs are better whereas others swear by coilovers. Unfortunately, if you’re trying to avoid one over the other, it might not always work in your favour. It’s not actually possible to determine which lowered suspension setup is right for your car. In fact, there’s no stock answer dependent on your car and model type either. Choosing which option works best for you relies on two key factors: budget and performance.
It’s worth looking at your budget and what you want from your car’s performance before selecting either coilovers or lowering springs. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Other car owners of similar makes and models will be able to share what they have done too, so take advantage of online forums before making that final decision.
What are the Pros and Cons of Lowering Springs?
|Don’t affect adaptive damping so can work with existing parts||Shock absorbers will work harder over time, so expect to replace these|
|Cheaper than coilovers||Coilovers offer up to 65mm of lowering. Lowering springs only offer up to 45mm|
|Improved aerodynamics as less air flows underneath the car, hitting the tyres||Chance of bottoming out which can lead to damage underneath the car|
|Less weight is transferred when accelerating or braking||Incorrectly fitted lowering springs could increase uneven tyre wear|
|Less risk of rolling as the centre of gravity is lowered, making the car easier to control around corners||Bottoming out could cause damage to the front bumper when driving on uneven surfaces or inclines|
What are the Pros and Cons of Coilovers?
|Completely adjustable ride height||Could affect adaptive damping at first|
|Offers adjustable dampening and rebound||Higher cost and price tag, especially for more renowned brands|
|More controlled ride and handling compared with lowering springs||Improper configuration could lead to a stiff and uncomfortable ride|
|Better for daily driving than lowering springs||Cheap coilovers have the potential to fail during certain types of driving, such as driving on inclines or in tough conditions|
|Enhanced aerodynamics, especially on track days||Coilovers can take up a lot of space underneath the car|
|Lasts between 20,000-50,000 miles||Improper fitting could lead to issues with coilovers coming into contact with other components, causing further damage|
What Else Should Be Considered When Lowering Suspension?
Those who love modifying cars will know that lowering a suspension isn’t a decision taken lightly. A vehicle’s suspension simply can’t just be lowered. The right research needs to be done first.
Cost of Labour and Parts
Settling for the cheapest parts and completing the job yourself could be a recipe for disaster. Not only could you completely lose the performance upgrade you hoped for, but you could easily damage the underside of your car. Investing in more reputable brands is one way to ensure your car can be lowered without the hassle. Otherwise, you risk fitting your vehicle with untested and problematic parts.
Additionally, DIY projects could also cause your expectations to fall short. Professional mechanics are likely to spot any issues early on and address them too. Without this knowledge and experience, you could end up causing more damage to your car.
After fitting coilovers, it’s possible that the ride quality might feel a little different and take time to adjust to. You’ll need to get the damping balance right to ensure you have the performance experience you desire. Too much damping could restrict how your suspension moves, making it uncomfortable to drive. Too little damping could be dangerous, causing your car to feel unstable as you’re driving.
The closer you are to the ground, the more likely you’ll hear an increase in road noise. Whilst it can be rewarding to listen to your car as you drive, too much road noise can become a hindrance. You might end up completing some acoustic-enhancing features, such as door soundproofing mats, within the cabin to counteract this, or just improve the speaker system.
Naturally, lowered cars are likely to attract attention, especially as their design can often be quite polarising. Such bold vehicle statements are always going to turn heads, including the police. That’s why it’s essential to keep all records of modifications and roadworthiness, such as an MOT, up-to-date and on hand. It’s not illegal to lower your suspension, but if it hinders your capability to steer and control the vehicle accordingly, it will be classified as dangerous. Drivers could be slapped with three penalty points and a CU code (construction and use offence), such as CU20, on their record.
Need Specialist Insurance for Your Modified Car?
Any car modification is likely to attract attention and it’s not always a good thing. A car with striking qualities such as a lowered suspension, could catch the unwanted attention of thieves. That’s why specialist car insurance is vital. At Keith Michaels, we offer you peace of mind and a policy that feels secure for you and your vehicle. Get a quote today.