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Complete Guide to Lowering Options

If you drive a car or truck, chances are great that vehicle has coil springs, possibly both up front and out back. Many vehicles have coil springs front and rear, save for some trucks that use leaf springs. Coil springs work together with your vehicle’s front and rear shocks to deliver ride and handling characteristics either desired by the auto maker, or you, if you have swapped the factory coil springs for aftermarket versions. Whether you are looking for a factory coil spring replacement, coilover springs, or lowering springs, we can help you pick the right coil springs for your needs.

What Is the Purpose of Coil Springs on A Car?

Coil springs provide ride and handling characteristics for any given vehicle. They are designed to store and release energy, support the vehicle’s weight (also known as the sprung weight), and are usually mounted between the body or frame and the vehicle’s suspension arms. They are typically made of hardened steel, and work in concert with a vehicle’s shocks to control ride height and quality. Initially, vehicles used leaf springs, either parallel to the frame or parallel to the axle, and many vehicles still use leaf springs. Leaf springs are big and bulky, while coil springs are more compact and reduce unsprung weight. Replacing the leaf springs in many applications was done by using upper and lower control arms, Panhard bars, torque arms, etc., to locate a front or rear axle and make the whole suspension system more compact.

What Are the Different Types of Coil Springs?

Coil springs come in a several different versions, which have a big impact on ride and handling characteristics. Generally, when it comes to automotive applications, coil springs come in specific and progressive rate models. Specific, or linear rate, coil springs have a constant spring rate. This means the spring’s rate does not change as it is compressed. Progressive, or variable rate, springs, however, become progressively stiffer as the spring is compressed further. For a daily driven vehicle, progressive rate springs will give you a better ride, while specific rate springs are more for a weekend car/handling-focused ride. Some applications may provide linear front coil springs with progressive rear coil springs, depending upon the desired handling needs.

What Spring Rate Do I Need?

Coil springs are rated for an application using a pounds per inch rating (lb/in) by their manufacturers. As an example, let’s say a spring carries a 350 lb/in designation. What this means is that spring will compress 1 inch for every 350 pounds of applied load. The higher the spring rate, the stiffer/less compliant your vehicle’s ride becomes. Many factory performance cars feature spring rates of up to 600 lb/in, while there are also spring rates about 150 to 175 lb/in for racing applications.

When it comes to circle track racing, trial and error will tell you what spring rate your chassis will work best with. In this type of racing, it is very common to have a different rate spring at every corner. Many circle track racers run a softer right front spring compared to the left front, unless the car in question is destined for the high banks. In that instance, a stiffer spring is needed to keep the car from bottoming out. A softer right front spring tends to improve turn in by allowing the right front to compress, improving traction through the corner. At the same time a softer right rear spring improves traction coming out of the corner. This is referred to as spring rate split. Spring rate split is when a right side spring is different than the left side spring rate.

In road racing you do not typically see the type of spring rate split like you will with a circle track car, regardless of if it is a dirt or asphalt car. In a road racing application, the car needs to be more neutral, so a spring rate split is not in play here. Often in a road race or autocross suspension setup adjustable shocks are used as tuning aid along with spring rates, but that is a whole other product category and discussion. Regardless of the spring rate you are looking for and the application, we have the ones you need to improve your street rod, muscle car, or race car’s handling characteristics and give you the performance you are looking for.

What Are Lowering Springs?

This question does seem basic, but to the new performance enthusiasts that may not be the case, but we are here to help! Simply put, lowering springs, or drop springs as some would call them, lower a car’s center of gravity by changing a spring’s construction properties such as height, diameter of the coil’s wire, and the like, to deliver a lower ride height. The lowering springs you choose depends on how much you want to lower your vehicle. Many direct replacement lowering springs will lower a vehicle between 1 and 2-inches at the most, so if you want to go lower, coilover springs are the way to go. If a static in-the-weeds look is what you seek, coilover springs might be preferred, as they offer infinite ride height adjustability by mounting the coil spring right on an adjustable shock body. This allows for user adjustment after installation versus a fixed lowering rate of a regular direct-fit lowering spring. Note that lowering springs may have a negative impact on ride quality, as the lower you go the less suspension articulation you will have.

How Do I Know When My Coil Springs Need to be Replaced?

In many cases, coil springs will rarely degrade to the point of needing replacement. However, there are times when they do wear out, but usually that only happens in truck applications where a lot of towing/hauling takes place. The enemy of coil springs is the same enemy of the rest of the vehicle, which is corrosion. Rust issues can cause a coil spring to weaken, lowering its spring rating and potentially even failing (spring breakage), which has a huge impact on a vehicle’s handling. So, if that happens to you, do not drive the vehicle until the coil springs are replaced.

However, if your vehicle starts to sag, become bouncier, has increased clunking noise over bumps, or handling becomes degraded, it may be time to look at your coil springs. It is generally a good idea to replace springs as a set. Meaning, if you replace your vehicle’s front coil springs, replace the rear coil springs as well at the same time. Many coil spring replacement kits include both front and rear coil springs under one part number, and as a matched set, to deliver a desired ride quality and the desired ride height.

Are Lowering Springs Bad?

Inherently, lowering springs are not bad for your vehicle. Purchasing the wrong springs for the application or desired use/stance is the biggest problem we usually see. Cutting coil springs down is probably not the best idea if you want a compliant ride. Yes, cutting coil springs will get your car or truck in the weeds, but doing so will degrade your vehicle’s ride quality immensely. Cutting, via a torch or high-speed cut-off wheel, may lower the spring’s overall height, but it increases the spring’s rate, making for a very harsh ride that literally could put you in a ditch. What you do want to get is the right springs that will make you want to drive your vehicle more often, not the other way around. If you want to maintain acceptable ride quality, do not use “race” springs in a street application. Many coil spring designs are a compromise of some sort, or another. If a spring design delivers great ride quality, the drop may not be as much as you want. If you find a 2-inch lowering “race” spring, chances are those springs are not going to deliver the ride quality you want in a daily driver, so know what you want out of your vehicle and choose your coil springs accordingly.