Lowered Suspension - The Lowdown On Lowering

A Dozen Tips, Tricks, And Suggestions For Giving Your Chevy A Slammed Stance

Damon Lee Jun 1, 2000 0 Comment(s)
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As long as hot rods have existed, hot rodders have been modifying them for a lower stance. The trend goes all the way back to the '30s, when tall and stubby roadsters were given sleek and rakish makeovers by swapping on different wheels and tires and altering suspensions. Soon after, hot rodders realized that lowered cars not only looked cool, but could also be more stable around corners and at high speeds, thanks to a lower center of gravity. This combination of style and substance has kept the low and lean look prominent on both the race track and the street for the better part of seven decades.

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Cutting coils has long been common practice in lowering Chevys. It's acceptable for fine-tuning ride height, but we wouldn't suggest it as a primary means for dropping a car several inches. Cut small increments at a time using a cut-off wheel or hacksaw, not a torch or plasma cutter.

These days the stance on the street is sinking even further as enthusiasts push the limits of lowering with aftermarket products ranging from low-profile tires and dropped spindles to air springs and completely re-engineered subframes. Such slinky stances are some of the surest ways to eliminate the snooze factor of any Chevy, as they offer otherwise average rides an extra bit of attention-grabbing attitude. But the low look can have consequences. Rubbing tires, increased tire wear, reduced ground clearance, and improper suspension geometry are all potential drawbacks that can cause inconvenience and possibly lead to unsafe driving conditions if you aren't careful.

So before you go dropping your Chevy in the weeds by whacking away at its coil springs (or worse, heating them with a torch until they collapse), we suggest doing a little research first. Ask yourself some questions, like whether you're lowering your car just for looks or if you're looking for all-out handling performance (there is a difference, but there's also some middle ground between the two). What kind of ride and handling do you want, and how much time, effort, and money are you willing to spend to get the look you're after? Finding the best method for lowering your particular ride will depend on your answers to these questions, as well as the car's suspension configuration. We can't pinpoint all the variables or make the final decision for you, but we can help clear the air with some suggestions and considerations pertaining to the most common street machine suspension alterations. Check them out to see what you think would be best for your car.

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If you're going to cut coils, it's wise to slice the correct end! Some coils have one open-or "wild"-end (left) and one "ground" end designed to sit flat. Always cut the open end. This way the spring will still fit properly in the frame or control arm.

Cutting Coils
This is probably the most time-honored method for lowering the front (and sometimes rear) of a Chevy, but that doesn't automatically make it the best. It basically entails removing the coil springs and cutting off a coil or so, making the springs shorter. This not only lowers the car, it also alters the spring rate (the amount of force required to deflect the spring) slightly. Cutting coils typically increases the likelihood of bottoming out either the suspension or the chassis (like when your crossmember hits the pavement), and that potential is exaggerated with older coils that are already suffering from fatigue. In general, we aren't big proponents of coil cutting as a primary means of significantly altering a car's height. Instead, we recommend it for making minor ride height adjustments (an inch or less). We should also note that you can't cut coils that are tapered on both ends (like the rear springs on '67-and-later A-bodies, as well as some other Chevys). If you're going to cut coils, we suggest using new (or relatively new) springs and cutting them in small increments (1/4-coil at a time) on the open, or "wild," end. In addition, front springs should be left long enough so they won't shift or slip out of the spring pockets when the suspension is at full droop (completely unloaded). An air-powered cutoff wheel, hacksaw, or chop saw are the best tools for cutting springs.




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