How To Lower A Car

How To Lower A Car

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  1. Back in the good old days of mini-trucking, we enthusiasts used to lower our trucks by heating springs with blow torches, cutting off coils, removing rear leafs, and cranking down torsion bars.  All in the name of getting our ride in the weeds.  Those days we didn’t have the onslaught of after market companies that have specialized in creating products to lower a car and help our vehicle to handle while still making it look good.

    Springs – Any number of mechanics will tell you that cutting the coils or removing the leaf from a spring will change it’s rate.  This change in rate may make your vehicle unpredictable under load.  Heating the coils is a recipe for disaster.

    The years have been kind to automotive customizers in that, we now have almost unlimited possibilities.  From airbag systems, racing springs, coil over shocks, specialty strut systems, dropped spindles, custom control A-arms, torsion keys, leaf spring flip kits, and the list goes on.  It has become such a science that deciding how low to drop it, is just a matter of which method do you wish to employ.

    Different systems cost different amounts, so be sure to check around.

    Shocks – It probably will not surprise you that I list shocks as separate.  Again the after market has created a list of masterpieces that rival anything we had in the mini-truck days.  Anything is possible now.  From shorter gas charged shocks to give you a Cadillac ride on a nub of a spring, or computer controlled valving to help your Mustang launch better in the quarter mile.

    Again check into the different systems available for your ride.

    Hydraulics – This word tend to scare people who consider themselves to be "normal" enthusiasts.  Which good reason.  You mention hydraulics and the first image that comes to  mind is a ’67 Impala jumping six feet in the air. 

    But hydraulics can be employed for much more sinister ideas.  Do you know what a fifth member is?  It is a part of a dirt track car suspension that is adjustable to control the pinion angle of the rear end.  Adjusting the pinion angle of the rear end can loosen or tighten your bite or traction on a dry slick (a dirt track condition from using the track so much during a night that it is now nothing more than slimy mud on top, comparable to driving on ice) track.  This trick can be used with hydraulics, electrical actuation or pneumatic adjustments to quickly change a car from ‘hard launch’ drag racing to drifting, at the touch of a button.

    Air Bags – A misunderstood concept by many.  This is the same suspension that the big trucks have used for years to control the heavy loads down the interstate.  It is an old technology.  Lincoln, Cadillac and many others have used air bags on their suspensions for years. 

    For the import or hot rod enthusiast, an air bag system is a cost effective way to drive our beast to the show and them drop it on the pavement when we get there.  And the myth that air bags hurt a cars handling, well I would like to quell that myth right now.  I had a bone stock Lincoln Mark VII LSC that I used to auto cross with.  I used a well known trick to dial down the sensor that controlled the ride height and leveling system, in effect, lowering "Lead Sled" a full 1 3/4 inches.  This trick helped my elapsed times at the tracks and more effectively controlled the body roll.

    Frame and Body Modifications – Now for the expensive news.  Any frame or subframe can be altered for performance or ride height.  This is definitely one of the more expensive options and I would not recommend it for your daily driven ride.  Any number of mount moving adjustments can be made. 

    Also if you are planning on tucking those 22" wheels in your fender wells, you better be planning to cut some parts to make it fit.

    But possibly the biggest expense is the body drop.  The floor pan and all of the frame connection point are physically removed and the whole vehicle’s body is dropped where you want it then the mounts are rebuilt.  A very expensive maneuver, but very pleasing in the final effect because your suspension can still travel at the original movements without binding.  You will not have the "low rider bounce" going on, though for the life of me, why lower the car if you can’t handle the side effects?  The bounce is part of having a lowered vehicle.

    So whether you want the aggressive look or the performance or both, lowering is a handy and effective way to get the attention and handling you want for your ride.

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