Lowering Car Without Sacrificing Ride Quality

By November 5, 2020Coilovers, Lowering Springs

Unfortunately for us, lowering car and ride quality never come hand in hand – it’s always one or the other. But with the right choices and minor tweaking we can lower our cars while still being comfortable enough for daily driving. These are things like getting the right spring rates, rebound and dampening control for your coilovers or springs. 

In this article, I will list all the things you could do to lower your car but still keep it comfortable enough for daily driving.

Ways To Lower Cars

Before we dive deep, how do people lower their cars anyway?  As far as I know, there are 3 ways to do so (maybe the only ways). They are:

  1. Lowering Springs. This means replacing your stock springs with ones that are lowered. This is the best option for most enthusiasts because they are cheap and will not make your car super stiff. Suitable for daily driving.
  2. Coilovers. This means replacing your stock shocks and springs with coilovers. Coilovers are more suitable for more seasoned enthusiasts because they are adjustable and much stiffer. You can adjust things like ride height, rebound control and dampening depending on the occasions. The downsides? They are much more expensive and can make your ride very uncomfortable.
  3. Trimming Stock Springs. You want to lower your car? Just trim off some of the stock springs to make them shorter. You could DIY and they don’t cost much. Sounds pretty good huh?
    Except they are not! I don’t recommend this because many things can go wrong in the process – it’s not worth it. You are better off spending $300 on good lowering springs than DIY and deal with the potential headaches.

In this section, I just want to cover the methods to lower your car briefly. If you want a more detailed explanation about lowering springs or coilovers, you can read my other article here. Are Coilovers Good For Daily Driving?  

Now that we know how to lower cars, it’s time to discuss how to do it without sacrificing ride quality. Hint: It’s all about purchasing the right parts with the right specs. I will cover all of them now – so read on! 🙂 

Oh wait, another thing – when I mention ride quality, I don’t just mean the stiffness of the ride. Ride quality means everything you experience when you drive. This includes comfort (stiffness), steering, accessibility and some others.

Image of lowering spring and coilover
Lowering springs. Cheaper and more comfortable but not customizable.
Coilovers. Can be fully customizable but much more expensive and stiffer.

Coilovers

1. Get The Right Spring Rate

Spring rate controls the amount of force needed to compress a spring – higher value means you need more force to compress the spring. This is great for handling because your car will not sway as much when you take a corner, allowing you to corner at a higher speed. 

But the downside is higher spring rate means your suspension will be very stiff and uncomfortable. You will feel every bump, pothole and imperfection on the road. 

To have a comfortable ride and still have improved handling at the same time, I recommend to go with coilovers that have a spring rate of 280 front / 160 rear. This information should be included in the description of the coilovers you want to buy. If not, ask the seller. If they don’t know the answer, find another shop! 

Also worth mentioning that spring rate is not adjustable – no matter how expensive the coilover is. Some people have the misconception that changing spring preload changes the spring rate. This is not true. So make sure you get coilover with the right spring rate from the get go!

2. Get Right Rebound & Dampening Control

  • Rebound – How fast weight moves away from your tires
  • Compression – How fast weight moves towards your tires 

To have a comfortable ride, you need to soften both rebound and dampening. Thankfully, coilovers allow you to easily adjust the rebound and dampening – just turn the knobs on the coilovers and you are good to go. 

It could be tricky to find the right rebound and dampening that suits you. After all, coilovers don’t have a digital number that tells you what’s the current rebound and dampening. 

To find the rebound and dampening settings that suit you, I suggest you start from the lowest (most stiff) level and then work your way up till you reach a point where it’s comfortable enough.  This means you have to go through a trial and error method. Not the best way, but it works 🙂

Do note that not all coilovers provide this adjustability. Entry level coilovers only provide adjustable height. You need to fork out more cash to buy coilovers that provide rebound and dampening control. 

mono ss coilovers
You could use these knobs on coilovers to control rebound and dampening.

3. Don’t Go Too Low On Ride Height

Don’t go too low on your ride height – it looks strange and you can’t even leave your driveway without scratching the pavement. 

I recommend your ride height to be around 13.5” all around. This is low enough to have that aggressive look but still high enough to survive through common speed bumps and pavement. (Although it really depends where you live…)

13.5 inch car height
Car rides at about 12.5″ front and 13″ rear. (Picture by Scott Howard)

4. Bring To Realignment

Every time you adjust your ride height with your coilovers, you need to go for a realignment. This is because changing ride height will change the pressure points in your tires when you drive or specifically take corners.

To prevent uneven tire wear, you need to bring your car for an alignment to adjust the camber. If you don’t yet know, camber controls the inward and outward angle of your tires. Also, it’s a common occurrence that camber changes when you adjust ride height.

So, remember to realign your tires when you adjust the ride height. This is important to ensure you have the best ride quality. You don’t have to realign the tires everytime you adjust the coilovers. 

Just realign when you change the ride height or when you first install the coilovers. Other coilover adjustments like rebound and dampening level can be done without realignment. Realignment is more related to actual ride “quality” than comfort. 

I cover more about this topic in this article. Should You Get An Alignment After Coilovers?  

5. Get Good Quality Coilovers

For the best performance and ride quality, it’s also important to install only good quality coilovers. Cheap coilovers do not equip the right springs and shocks – causing them to ride much stiffer and malfunction quickly.

Oil leak, squeaking noises and blow shocks after just 2 months are quite common among cheap, brandless coilovers. What’s worse is the fact that these coilovers do not come with any warranty – leaving you feeling stranded every time. Not the ride quality you want right?

To get the right coilovers, make sure you only get them from reputable brands like KW, Eibach or H&R. They provide the  best performance and come with good quality springs and shocks. I cover my go to coilovers at a later section, so read on. 

Image of KW Coilovers
High quality KW Coilovers.

Lowering Springs

1. Progressive Spring Rate

Unlike coilovers that only come with linear spring rates, many lowering springs come with progressive spring rates. Which means that the spring rates vary from the top of the spring to the bottom, allowing the spring rates t. o increase as you compress the spring.

This means when you drive on a straight road and the spring is not compressed, you will have close to stock spring comfort (spring rate is slow at the top). 

When you take corners and the spring is compressed, the spring rate increases. Then only will the spring become stiff and give you the handling improvements. So in short, the car is comfortable when you drive straight and only become stiffer when your corner. Pretty cool huh?

If you don’t understand, refer to the image I have below and read the captions.

progressive spring rate
The spring rate at the top is lower. This provides comfortable ride when going straight.
The spring rate at the bottom is higher. Spring becomes stiff and improves handling only when its compressed (when cornerning).

In conclusion, if you want to lower your car with lowering springs and still want that comfortable ride then make sure your lowering springs have a progressive spring rate! This should be easy. A lot of lowering springs come with progressive spring rates.

2. Suitable Drop Rate

Drop rate means how low your car will become. Lowering springs cannot be adjusted – which means your ride height is fixed, depending on the drop rate. 

And as I said above, to have the best ride quality, make sure the drop rate is not too much. A drop rate of 1 – 1.5” is good. Remember, the goal is to have your car riding at 13.5” overall. So do the measuring before you purchase the lowering springs!

3. Get Good Quality Springs 

This is the same reason as coilovers. If you want the best performance and ride quality, get only good quality lowering springs. They are actually not that expensive – about $250 for good quality ones.

Which muffler is your car right now?

Nothing much to say here. Don’t save that $100 and have to deal with all the problems and disappointments that come with cheap springs.

My Recommendation

If you only care about lowering your car, then just go for lowering springs. They are much cheaper than coilovers and will provide you exactly what you want. Also take note that coilovers will ride much stiffer than lowering springs no matter the brand and adjustment.

This is because lowering springs have the progressive spring rate that coilovers do not. And also coilovers are more suitable for enthusiasts who are serious about handling improvement. 

I have an article here where I talk about what you should look for when getting lowering springs. There are many factors like spring rate, drop rate, warranty and material. Check it out for an in depth discussion. Best Lowering Springs: Which To Get And What To Look For? 

If your are still dead sure about getting coilovers, then you could also do that. Coilovers are guaranteed to ride stiffer than lowering springs. But by following the tips I just gave, you can adjust it to be comfortable enough for daily driving.

Here’s an article I wrote about what to look for when buying coilovers. Give it a read. Best Coilovers: What To Get And What To Look For? 

Ifandi S.

Ifandi S.

Passionate about everything mechanical. Ifandi has been involved with motorcycles and cars since the old days - in his family's auto parts shop. Want to keep in touch? Scream "STRAIGHT PIPEEEEE" at the top of your lungs and Ifandi will show up.

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