Tuner freaks and mechanics get this question asked probably on a daily basis. There are many car enthusiasts out there whom are willing to lower their car either form aesthetics or performance, but don’t really know how to proceed. There are two main ways to go when you are willing to drop the height of your car:
1. Lowering springs
2. Coilover suspension
Although both process provide the same result, a lowered height of the car and a bumper closer to the ground, there are quite a few notable differences between the two options.
What are coilovers?
Usually, springs are attached to the front of the car near the shocks, or in some cases, the shock goes right through the middle space of the spring, connecting further down to the rest of the suspension system. Coilovers feature a spring coiled around the shock, working as a single element instead of two separate mechanisms, as in regular suspension. In other words, you get a coil that’s sitting directly over the shock or strut.
There are various brands providing coilover systems for vehicles, prices ranging between a few hundred dollars to way up over the thousand mark. Of course, the more money one pays for coilovers, the better quality he shall receive. Many coilovers offer adjustable height for better customization of the overall suspension.
Types of coilovers
There are four main types of coilovers that can be bought on the automotive parts&accessories market.
First of all, there are coilover sleeves. These are basically the first element that’s more advanced than lowering springs. They can be height adjusted and although they usually fit on stock shocks, it is not recommended to use them in this combination.
Next up, there are non shock adjustable coilovers. These usually come pre-assembled, and while the height value can be adjusted, elements such as shock rebound and stiffness are at a fixated value.
Shock adjustable coilovers push performance a tad further. Unlike the non-shock adjustable coilovers, these ones allow for full customization of the rebound time, stiffness and compression of the shock. Top mounts are usually included in the package.
At the very end of the premium zone, there are shock adjustable coilovers. It is one of the most balanced suspension upgrade, providing adjustable shocks as well as camber kits, sometimes even for rear cambers. The great part is that you do not need to acquire a separate camber kit when mounting the suspension.
What about lowering springs? Are they any better?
If your goal is solely to lower your vehicle, then lowering springs are the cheaper and facile option. A slight increase in cornering performance may be felt, but it won’t go anywhere near a proper set of coilover set. Still, this is not the end of the discussion. Indeed, coilovers offer better stability on the track, but you will prefer standard suspension or lowered springs at best when you are driving on the street. Here’s why.
Coilover shocks are done to be stiffer in order to increase performance and stability. This means that there will be a smaller rebound on the shock, making it a potential danger on potholes found on the street. When shocks can’t rebound enough, the bumper may hit the road and get damaged.
Finally, lowering springs or coilovers?
Such a decision is totally up to the driver and should be taken considering where the car spends most of the time. If the car is purposely built for circuit laps, then a set of advanced shock adjustable coilovers is recommended; it may cost premium, but the increase in stability over tight turns and high rates of speed is worth it.
However, if the car is a daily driver, lowering springs should be used at most.
Video about the differences between lowering springs, coilover sleeve kits, and complete coilover systems