If you want to lower your car, there are typically two popular options to choose from, the first being lowering springs, while the second is coilovers. The former gives your vehicle a lower ride height and a higher spring rate at an affordable price, while the latter replaces your entire strut and gives you the ability to adjust your ride height and damping but at a higher price point.
While there is a clear difference between the two each one has its own pros and cons to consider before you buy them. With that said here is a quick guide to help you out, as we know it can be tough deciding between the two.
Finding the purpose
Before you commit to either lowering springs or coilovers you must first determine what the purpose of these suspension upgrades are for. Here is a quick general overview to help you figure out which will give you the best results for your intended purpose.
If you aren’t going to use your vehicle on the track or for racing and just want a nice lowered look that still has a relatively good ride, then a good set of lowering springs along with a good set of shock absorbers should do the trick. This can especially hold true if you are on a budget. For daily street use, you will not need the level of precision and customizability that coilovers offer. With that in mind, lowering springs are ideal for those who just want their vehicle to look lower and handle just a little bit better.
If you plan on bringing your vehicle to the track and race. While a good set of lowering springs and shock absorbers is enough to give you a thrilling race experience, if you further want to maximize what your car can truly offer then coilovers are the suggested suspension upgrade. A good set of coilovers will give you the customizability to set up your vehicle to the track as well as your driving preferences and to your tires.
Generally speaking, a set of coilovers will give you a better and adjustable ride quality compared to a set of lowering springs. This is because coilovers allow you to lower your vehicle and center of gravity while still giving you the feeling and handling that you are used to with your car. If your goal with your car is to get a lowered ride while still maintaining as a smooth drive as possible then coilovers are your best choice. It is important to note, however, that tuning will be required to get a smooth and pliant ride, as such there might be an element of trial and error involved. Another thing to note is not every kind of Coilover will offer you a smooth ride, as such pick wisely and make sure to research for options that best suit your needs and your driving style.
In terms of pricing, lowering springs offer you a more affordable option in order to get your car lower to the ground without touching any other components in your car’s suspension. That said, in order for you to maximize the results you are after you may have to spend on a set of shock absorbers that will complement your lowering springs. This in turn makes coilovers a better option, however, these are typically more expensive and can be more difficult to install. With that in mind, if you are on a tight budget, lowering springs will still get the job done and at an affordable price.
When considering the price, remember that you get what you pay for, an entry-level set of lowering springs will get you lower quality springs and a spring rate that may not properly match your vehicle. In some cases, these might even be softer than your stock springs and may even give you rubbing and bottoming out issues while on the road. The same can be said for entry-level coilovers, as an entry-level set will offer you very limited adjustability and may even give your car a stiffer ride than before, the metal used may also be a lower quality resulting in the struts breaking, so keep that in mind before buying.
If you do go for the top-of-the-line lowering springs you can expect a spring that is made of better quality and a spring rate that has been tested to match the weight and specifications of your vehicle. What you get is a spring that will give you the same ride comfort as your stock set without it negatively affecting your vehicle’s handling. The same can be said for coilovers, more often than not the higher price will grant you access to more adjustability options as well as a better build quality overall. Higher tier models will even offer you more customization options when it comes to the springs and dampers giving you a far better range of adjustability and fine-tuning. Some manufacturers will even provide you extra springs for your coilovers if you want a wide choice in terms of spring rates. Ultimately you have to do your own research to find which one fits you best and which one will fit your budget. Just keep in mind that cheaper doesn’t always mean better and the higher the price may give you diminishing returns.
Now that you know what should look out for when buying coilovers or lowering springs here are a few things that you should know about them.
For lowering springs, as the name suggests, these are springs that are designed to lower your car. These springs come with marginally higher spring rates to compensate for a lower ride height. By using smaller springs, it lets the car sit lower to the ground thus also slightly lowering its center of gravity for better handling.
Buyers be wary because as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for” when it comes to lowering springs. While lowering springs are great for those on a budget, do your research before you buy a set. Make sure to note their spring rates as having it close to your vehicle’s stock settings may negate the possible benefits that they could bring.
If you plan on racing your vehicle lowering springs alone may not be the best option. The reasoning behind this is because the springs use a higher spring rate compared to the OEM setup. This in turn makes them work harder to keep the car under control. A similar effect to this would be like putting old shock absorbers on your vehicle. While they do give you a little bit of control the ride will end up being bouncy and you will experience a significant drop in control over your vehicle’s body movement.
While you may not be able to initially feel the difference on the road, your stock dampers may not be able to control your car with higher spring rates attached to them. If the dampers do not match your vehicle’s ride height, this may cause your vehicle to bottom out. It could also make you end up in a dangerous situation as the dampers will be working outside their ideal operating range for the ride height of your vehicle. Aside from this, lowering springs will make it hard to fine-tune your vehicle’s suspension to your liking especially if you want to bring it to the race track. It can also limit you in terms of adjustability as the springs will only give you a predetermined ride height according to the spring and its spring rate.
Where lowering springs can be beneficial to a vehicle is in the instances where a car has electronically adjustable dampers. This can help bring out the most in the spring without affecting the handling of the vehicle as the computer does all the work for you. That said, for regular vehicles, it’s still best to find a good shock absorber to pair with your lowering spring to get the best handling outcome possible while still maintaining the lowered ride.
Coilovers essentially fix that problem of damping by combining a high spring rate with a damper designed to work with that spring correctly. However, this doesn’t mean that these are better than the engineered OEM suspension that comes with your vehicle.
While coilovers are generally better than lowering springs, it’s still important to beware of cheaper options on the market. Not all coilovers were made equal and as such some may even cause your vehicle to handle worse than they did before. Cheap coilovers will run basic spring rates and will often be matched with a spring rate that is not ideal for the application. As such, these will give you a bumpier ride.
This is why doing your research before you buy a set of coilovers is very important as they can make or break your vehicle’s ride and handling. If you do find yourself a good set of coilovers that matches well with your vehicle then you are in for a treat as they will offer you a wide range of adjustability options. Unlike lowering springs that only lower your vehicle to a fixed height, with coilovers this can be adjusted and even fine-tuned to your specifications, this is because some come with spring rate and damping adjustments that can further enhance your car’s handling characteristics. This is done by decreasing the total body movement of your vehicle which will improve its predictability and overall grip on the road. Make sure that you take your coilovers to a professional so that they can be properly tuned and broken in.
What to look for in coilovers
Here is where things get a little complex as some of these factors will depend on how you want your vehicle to handle. That said, this quick checklist will help guide you as to what you should look for in a coilover set.
While these may change from manufacturer to manufacture and from car to car, all of these customization options will help you out in the long run for getting the handling you want out of your vehicle.
Aside from coilovers and lowering springs, there is also a third option that will help give your vehicle a nice lowered look. This comes in the form of air suspension. While this too is dark art as it is an expensive option that gives you the best of both worlds. It lets you lower your car to the ground while still giving you the option of a comfortable ride. However, it is important to note that this is a far more complicated option that will require you to add air lines and a compressor to your car. It’s another step in your vehicle’s maintenance as well, as the air lines will need to be properly maintained, and spotting leaks will be very difficult to find.
What you should get?
This will all depend on your needs and the intended purpose for your vehicle. If you want a nice lowered look to your car without worrying too much about its handling, then going with lowering springs is your best bet as it is the more affordable option. You can even add a set of shock absorbers designed for lowering springs to further enhance your ride and handling.
However, if you want to fine-tune your suspension and you plan on bringing your vehicle to the track, then coilovers are your best option as it provides you with multiple ways to adjust the handling of your car’s suspension. It even lets you adjust your car’s ride height and the corresponding damping without the need to buy another set of shock absorbers. That said, these are more for the enthusiasts out there who want to eke out all the handling capabilities that their vehicle can offer. It’s a great all-around package to go for if you want more customizability with your vehicle, however, it is the more expensive option between the two choices.