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A lot of people believe their vehicle will automatically handle better after being lowered, but this isn't always true, especially in vehicles that don't have a performance handling package.
A lot of vehicles come with these packages, but the average car, truck or SUV does not. Taking an everyday driver and making modifications to the suspension can improve your handling, but sometimes other modifications need to be made in order for those new suspension parts to effectively perform as suggested by a manufacturer. Will the vendor selling you the modification parts tell you what needs to be done in order to gain maximum performance from a aftermarket performance package? Probably not! These people are there to make a sale, even though some will tell you about the added performance your vehicle will gain when purchasing the part, most will not tell you the pitfalls of installing a suspension part, without the proper mods made first.
Lowering coil springs is one way to lower your car, spring compressors are another way. When replacing your coil springs make sure the vehicle will respond correctly to a suspension upgrade. You may find your vehicles ability to handle has been depleted a bit. Adding the correct modifications, such as performance shocks and/or struts, can help with the stability and traction. Adding performance brakes, rotors, coil over springs, leaf springs and other suspension parts will most definitely improve your vehicles performance when it comes to handling. Weight distribution plays a huge role in your vehicles handling and traction.
One of the most common suspension upgrades are left coil springs lift kits and/or coil spring spacers, typically accompanied with upgraded shock absorbers and/or upgraded shackles. Also, add in the tires and wheels that have been swapped for a much larger size, and you will find yourself riding high. But riding high can cause handling problems, so make sure you make the proper mods there, as well.
Sometimes traction control can hinder the vehicles ability to handle, and when your riding in a vehicle that has been lifted or raised the traction is diminished, especially without some type of upgraded traction control. There are many ways to upgrade a 4x4 vehicle's suspension and lift, just make sure your vehicle is fully able to take those extreme off road conditions before making the trek to the nearest mountain or mud pit.
Coil springs are the most common type of car spring. They also look just like they sound - like a large, heavy duty spring. The spring is super strong and compresses and expands to absorb the motion of the wheels when they hit large or small bumps on the road. Without the car springs, all of the wheel motion would be transferred directly to frame of your vehicle. Because they are the most common, coil springs are also the easiest to replace. They are also an auto part that, when upgraded, will signifigantly improve the driveability of your car.
Take eibach springs, for example; they are specifically designed not only to improve the smoothness of your ride, but also your ability to take corners. Coil springs out of the factory may not be providing you with the handling that you want - spend some money on an upgrade and experience driving on a whole new level.
Leaf springs are made up of long flat pieces of metal that are bound together in a long, flat but bowed unit. This type of car spring was used on most cars and trucks until the mid eighties. They are still used on trucks and vehicles used for heavier duty application since they are particularly effective for that use. Most leaf springs are made out of steel, but today some are made of especially strong composite material. You can get new replacement leaf springs for your vehicle, but you can also probably find leaf springs in decent repair at your local junk yard.
Until the 70's, Eibach only produced springs for industrial applications. When the German tuning companies began cranking out Autobahn burners, Eibach stepped up to supply high quality suspension components.
Today, Eibach Springs makes high performance suspension components for dozens of production vehicles past and present. They supply springs and other goodies to professional race teams, and can always be found at the top of the leader board. You can't really go wrong with Eibach components supporting your car.
How do you know when you need new springs? Well, car springs are a very long lasting car part, typically they will last 80,000 to 120,000 miles, which in reality is longer than most people will actually keep their car. But, if you keep your cars for a long time of you buy used cars, bad springs may be in your future. Here is how you tell - if you find that your car is bottoming out in normal driving or if you throw friends into the back seat and your rear end is scraping, you need new springs!
So your springs are shot and you have to replace them, what do you do? First of all, unless you are an advanced home mechanic, it probably isn't worth the stress and the time of working it out. Go to your trusted mechanic, but don't replace your springs with factory parts. Yes, that's right, in your older car, using the same car parts that came in it are not necessarily the best shot. Go for new springs and your handling and overall drivability will improve so much, you will wonder why you didn't do it before!
Torsion bars use a similar concept to coil springs, but in a different application. One end of the torsion bar is anchored to the frame of your car while the other end is secured to a “wishbone” or control arm. The control arm takes the force of the vertical motion of the wheel when you hit a bump and transfers the force to the torsion bar by acting as a lever. This levering action twists the torsion bar (like a coil) to absorb the energy. Like a coil, the torsion bar has "memory" and wants to return to its original shape - it is this resistance that helps it absorb the energy from the vertical movement of the wheel.
So you want to lower your car, but can't afford a $4000 hydraulic or air system. What to do?
Don't think you can just lob off a few spring coils to drop your ride. Not only will you throw off the steering and suspension geomotry enough to damage parts, but the car's ride will be destroyed.
Play it smart and buy a purpose-built kit. Depending on how low you want to go, you may need to purchase special lowering springs, short travel shocks, or modified spindles to correct steering geometry. You can get at most two to three inches off your ride height before handing and tire wear are affected.
Air springs are also just what they sound like. They are made with a metal air tight cylinder that holds the air and uses its compression to absorb energy from your wheels. They can be used in place of conventional coil springs and can be used by custom car makers to raise or lower a vehicle on demand. Air springs are also a popular aftermarket auto part as they can be installed within coil car springs or between the axle of your car or truck to give lift support for handling heavy loads within the vehicle or for towing heavy trailers.
Off roading can be an uncomfortable ride and finding ways to make the ride more pleasant on and off the road can be tricky at times. If your truck or SUV has a coil spring lift kit or uses an air ride system, adding the extra suspension will increase the ride tremendously. But, not everyone understands the importance of your vehicle's suspension when traveling off road, especially those who only go off road on an occasion.
When off roading, know your vehicle's capabilities, as well as its weaknesses. You may have more horsepower, but without the suspension needed for extreme terrain, you may find your self stuck, literally. Having a great suspension with very little horsepower may result in the same, but horsepower isn't always needed, especially when taking it slow over rocks, in the mud or climbing a hill. Even though horsepower is a plus when off roading, your suspension is what counts.
There are two ways to get your car 'in the weeds'.
You can go old school and use hydraulics, but these have always suffered from the pitfalls of poor drivability and the need for frequent maintenance.
Over the last 10 years or so, a few companies have developed the other method - reliable 'air ride' systems which are cleaner and involve less plumbing than hydros. Air systems do give up some of the speed of hydros, but set up correctly, they will give a very cushy ride without the issues of traditional hydrolic systems.