31 Mar Part 3: Lowering Springs
Part 3: Lowering Springs
Installing lowering springs on your car is generally the most cost effective way to lower your ride a couple inches to give a descent and aggressive stance. Most aftermarket suspension spring kits cost a few hundred dollars. As with most products, it is best to go with a brand name, such as eibach, Bilstein, Tien, and H&R. Springs from these vendors have had serious money in engineering and testing to properly work with your car’s suspension so the handling will be improved, predictable, and balanced.
Most lowering springs, depending on their vehicle application, will lower your car anywhere from ½” to as much as 1 ¼”. Springs are manufactured from a certain grade of steel that has memory or elastic properties and is known as `spring steel.’ One full circle or 360 degree of turn in a spring is known as a coil. Most springs are wound at a certain number of coils per inch or foot. Typically the more coils per a given distance, the stiffer the spring will be. The stiffness of a spring is determined by its resistance to movement, such as 300 pounds per inch. Choosing the right spring kit is tricky, because if its too stiff or soft for your desired use, it will be an expensive replacement. Most manufacturers don’t advertise the spring rates of their kits. If possible, its best to contact the manufacturer and inquire of their kit’s spring rate before purchasing. There is also the “set it and forget it” factor. This is great for many, but some may desire more or less stance than the springs provide. If you are a discerning vehicle owner, then we recommend going towards more expensive coil over or air ride suspension options.
Progressive rate springs, such as those from Eibach, have their coils wound in a varying or `progressive’ rate. The appearance of progressive rate springs will typically have large spaced coils on one end and closely spaced coils on the other. Progressive rate springs are meant to provide a varying degree of stiffness in response to mild and aggressive driving. They are meant to be a compromise between standard non-jarring stock suspension feel when driving normally and provide an aggressive hard feel (more resistance) under spirited driving. The draw back with progressive rate springs is that the varying degree that the springs are wound requires a lot of research and testing to get it right. And the ‘getting it right’ part is the opinion of the manufacturer, not the car’s owner. In our experience, this has been a hit or miss issue, where some enjoy the springs’ road response and others disliking it. We recommend them for the more casual driver and those who want to lower their car without too much jarring as the car transverses bumps and depressions in the road. Also, progressive rate springs are more common on the market now as various manufacturers have improved on their designs. More people seem to be satisfied with these springs than in the past. Coil Over Suspension kits designed around progressive rate springs have had much better results. I will elaborate on this in the coil-over article of this series.
What about the shocks and Struts?
We often get asked by customers to install the lowering springs on their car that has high mileage cars and then they get a little unsettled when we recommend that they install new shocks and/or struts. Most shocks and struts don’t last longer than 100,000 or 8 years. The issue here is that when choosing to install stiffer lowering springs with old shocks, the life span of the old shocks will rapidly shorten, and you will find yourself having to redo the suspension work in a short matter of time in order to replace the old shocks and struts. The old shocks just don’t have what it takes to contain the movement of the stiffer springs.
Bilstein and Koni tend to be the most popular brands. Sachs and Boge are the OEM replacements for many European cars, but can be sometimes taxed by the increased spring rates of the lowering springs.
Here is the catch, when choosing to replace the old shocks and struts along with the lowering springs, the parts cost can often rise to surpass that of some coil over kits. Be careful. As nice as it may seem to purchase a low cost coil over kit, I would strongly discourage it. You truly get what you pay for in the suspension market. Very few people who desire a proper handling car have been satisfied with the low priced coil over kits that are on the market. The choice translates into a lot of sacrifices in quality and performance.
Next Article – Part 4: Coilover Suspension
Other Articles in this Series: Lowering Springs Vs. Coilovers Vs. Air Ride
Part 2: Will cover, the suspension basics of lowering for performance versus lowering for style and review the point at which point the handling of your car will become affected adversely.
Part 3: Lowering Springs
Part 4: Coilovers
Part 5: Air Ride ( Air Suspension )
Part 6: Conclusion and bringing it all together.
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