How a Low Ride Height Impacts Your Car's Handling
And if you're not careful, lowering your car can mean more impacts with the road.
For many, lowering a car is about aesthetics. It just looks cool. If done right, however, lowering provides handling benefits, as well. We outline the advantages and disadvantages below, plus what you need to know before lowering your vehicle.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Lowered Vehicle
As mentioned, cars tend to look more aggressive when lowered. Perhaps that’s because lowering the suspension decreases the amount of space between the tire and the wheel well, which not only looks cleaner, but mimics the clearances favored by sports and race cars. Unfortunately, this does reduce overall suspension travel and, if taken too far, can cause rubbing and other unwanted contact between the tire and body. The driver may also need to take more care when driving over speed bumps or dips in the pavement to avoid scraping the lowest parts of the vehicle, often the front fascia.
On the dynamic side, though, lowering a car’s suspension lowers the vehicle’s center of gravity. The lower the center of gravity, the easier it is for the vehicle to transition from one direction to another. It also helps in limiting body roll. By extension, the car will ride flatter through corners, benefitting grip and overall stability.
What to Know Before Lowering Your Car
Some manufacturers give buyers the option of a lowered suspension from the factory. Porsche, for example, offers to reduce the ride height of its Porsche 718 and Porsche 911 sports cars by 10 or 20 millimeters. An advantage of choosing the OEM-engineered solution is that you know the automaker thoroughly tested the suspension, so there should be no rubbing or interference, and the vehicle’s basic warranty will cover it.
Something to keep in mind, though: Automakers tend to pair low suspension options with stiffer spring and damper settings to compensate for the reduced travel and provide a sportier experience. This means the car will ride a little rougher than the stock setup.
Many manufacturers equip their vehicles with an adjustable suspension, which the driver can raise to clear bumpy terrain or lower for better highway aerodynamics and improved handling. This is a good compromise, as it keeps the vehicle relatively comfortable in its normal setting while offering as-needed suspension travel suited to both on-road and off-road performance.
There are suspension-lowering kits available from the aftermarket, as well as a dealer’s parts department. Again, going with a setup engineered by the car’s manufacturer provides some peace of mind and shouldn’t void your warranty. For out-of-warranty vehicles and those that don’t have an OEM solution, however, there are lots of options from tuning and racing companies. These can vary in workmanship and engineering, so be sure to do some research and confirm that your desired kit is not only compatible with your vehicle, but built well, too.