There are numerous methods of lowering a car’s front end when equipped with control arms and coil springs. They can all be dangerous if you’re not careful, because coil springs are installed under tremendous amounts of spring pressure. If you’re not careful, working on them can cause serious damage to your car and extremely serious injury to you.
There are a few accepted ways to lower this type of suspension. Some feel that it is okay to cut and shorten the coil springs currently installed, or you can order coil springs specially designed to lower your car the amount desired, without sacrificing ride quality and handling. Installing a drop spindle is another way, and we’ll touch briefly on each of these methods.
Cutting The Stock Coil Spring
Cutting coil springs can cause controversy, as some feel that it is not a safe practice, and can ruin the spring. It is true that excessive heat will remove the temper from the spring, so we do not recommend using a torch. That leaves a cutting wheel or band saw. Keep in mind, you are probably cutting an old spring, so there’s no way to ascertain how much normal wear and tear has affected the strength of the steel. This means that cutting the spring can weaken them to the point of collapse. Another issue is that it is hard to get the cuts even from one spring to the other. We’ve seen people work on this all day and still end up replacing the coils.
If done correctly, cutting the springs can save you money. However, there is only one type of spring that should be cut to lower your car — the Tangential-end spring. This type of spring has the end of the last coil just ending, instead of being curled upon itself (pigtail type) or flattened against the previous coil (square end coil). If you have to cut, use a cutoff wheel or quality hacksaw blade as it’s too hard to control the amount of heat transferred to the spring when using a torch.
Install Special Order Coil Springs
Special order coil springs are designed so that they fit your car, and provide the amount of lowering desired. They take the guesswork out of lowering your car. This type of coil spring is known as a reduced rate spring, because the spring rate (the amount of spring motion), has been reduced in order to lower the car.
But, reduced rate coil springs do more than just lower the car. They help the handling characteristics. This happens because they are stiffer than the stock springs, and since there is less suspension travel, the suspension is stiffened, making the car handle better at speeds.
When you change your car’s ride height by modifying the springs, don’t forget the alignment is going to change. As the car gets lower to the ground, the top of the tires tend to pull in, causing negative camber. To an extent, this is good for handling at highway speeds. However, after completing the work you should take the car to a shop and have it checked. If the camber is out by more than a couple degrees from spec, it should be adjusted so it is within the specified range.
Dropping In New Drop Spindles
The spindle is the part that sticks out from the side of the car with the wheel off. The wheel bearings rotate on the spindle. Although it’s the most expensive and time consuming way to lower your coil spring front end, it’s also the only way that’s guaranteed to not change the alignment much.
The spindle is the component that the steering system pushes and pulls against to direct the wheels left and right. Stock knuckles/spindles usually have the hub axle centered vertically in the knuckle. Moving the hub axle up towards the upper ball joint pulls the body down and keeps the suspension angles stock.
Working with Coil Springs Is Dangerous
No matter which method you choose to lower your coil sprung front end, please remember to work safely. Always wear safety glasses and gloves, and always use the proper tools.