When it comes to lowering your car, chances are you will be deciding between coilovers or lowering springs. While some will say one is better than the other, it is not so clear cut and dry as both choices have pros and cons, and there are some essential differences between them.
For example, is this vehicle exclusively driven on the street, or does it spend some time on the track? Likewise, is it a daily driver or a weekend toy, and what is your budget?
Suffice to say, it makes a difference.
In simple terms, coilovers and lowering springs achieve the same goal of lowering your ride, improving handling, and adding aggressive looks. Beyond that, it becomes a question of which is more important, better handling or a more comfortable ride as improving one usually comes at the expense of the other.
So what are the differences between them? Let’s start with lowering springs, as they are the simpler of the two. As the name implies, they are nothing more than factory-style springs that are about an inch or two shorter (and typically stiffer) than the original units installed in your vehicle.
On the other hand, coilovers are an integrated shock and spring assembly that look relatively similar to the front strut setup on most modern passenger cars.
Read on, and we will go into more detail about the differences between them and help you decide which one is best for your vehicle.
Coilovers For Street Use
Generally speaking, coilovers can be thought of as a complete package, whereas lowering springs are just one component. Likewise, many manufacturers allow you to customize the spring rates and revalve the shocks to match your vehicle and driving habits better.
In addition, things like ride height, rebound, and damper settings are adjustable without removing the assembly from the vehicle.
As they are performance-oriented, coilovers can be overkill for a vehicle that never sees any track use. Since they are usually equipped with stiff springs, you can expect a harsher ride.
At the same time, even though the ride height is adjustable, coilovers will typically decrease your vehicle’s ride height by 1.5-inches or more, which can cause driveability issues on the streets.
Lastly, there is cost, and coilovers are considerably more expensive than lowering springs, and on average, a good set will cost between $1,000 to $4,000.
Coilovers For Track Use
For track use, there is no doubt that coilovers are vastly superior in just about every way. You can pair them with an infinite number of springs and shocks, along with fine-tuning the ride height, rebound, and compression for each event.
For this reason, track cars use coilovers, not lowering springs, as they offer a complete package.
Granted, it takes some time to make the adjustments and usually involves lifting the vehicle off the ground and removing the wheel, but that can be the difference between winning and losing a race.
Simply put, there is no getting around coilovers when it comes to race day.
Coilovers For Ride Quality
The harsh ride of coilovers is the biggest drawback for street use, and you will feel bumps and potholes more often. Sure, you can pair them with softer springs, although at that point, your money is better spent on some lowering springs and good shocks.
The second issue with coilovers is ground clearance. You have to be more careful when going over speed bumps or pulling into a driveway, as you are more likely to bottom out—likewise, having to worry about scraping your bumper every time you park near a curb.
When choosing between coilovers and lowering springs, the best question to ask yourself is this for a track car, a weekend toy, or a daily driver? For the latter, do you (and your passengers) mind the harsh ride and the driveability issues that come with coilovers?
For a car that you only drive on the weekends, it is less of a problem.
Coilovers Pros And Cons
- Shocks and springs can be paired for optimum performance
- Adjustable ride height, rebound, and damper settings
- Better handling than lowering springs alone
- Parts can be changed out without replacing the entire unit
- They are considerably more expensive than lowering springs
- A harsher ride
- More issues with bottoming out
- They can be difficult to set up properly
In simple terms, lowering springs are factory-style springs that are about an inch or two shorter. However, they are typically stiffer to prevent the vehicle from bottoming out. While that, in turn, translates to a harsher ride, it is not to the extent of coilovers.
With that said, like coilovers, a lower center of gravity translates to less body roll and improved handling.
For a street-driven vehicle lowering springs are the way to go. Unless you go for an aggressive two-inch drop, you will have better ground clearance than you would with coilovers.
Granted, you must still take care when going over speed bumps and driveways, although you are less likely to bottom out. In addition, they can be paired with a good set of performance shocks for improved handling.
Unless you are pushing your car to the limits every day, this is a solid setup and considerably better than what originally came on your car from the factory. Not to mention, substantially cheaper than coilovers.
Lowering Springs For Track Use
As noted above, there is no comparison between the two when it comes to track use. Even if you pair lowering springs with some performance shocks, you will not have the ability to fine-tune your suspension as you would with coilovers.
However, that does not mean a good set of lowering springs and shocks cannot handle some track use. It will still be better than the factory setup and sufficient for some auto-X and open track events.
Not to mention a smoother ride quality for 95% of the time you spend driving on the streets.
With that said, lowering springs trade high-performance handling for improved ride quality. Unless you plan to compete or have a second car you can drive every day, lowering springs are the way to go.
Lowering Springs For Ride Quality
While they will not offer the handling of coilovers, lowering springs are a good compromise of performance and ride quality for street-driven vehicles. Likewise, you can further the gains by pairing them with a good set of shocks without sacrificing comfort.
Sure, it will be a stiffer ride than stock, but it strikes a good balance between the two.
Also (aggressive springs aside), you will have fewer issues with bottoming out and scraping your bumper on curbs. Unless you plan on pushing your car to the limits, you are better served by the combo mentioned above.
Not to mention, your back (and wallet) will thank you later.
Lowering Springs Pros And Cons
- Better handling than stock
- A smoother ride than coilovers
- They are cheaper than coilovers
- No need to make adjustments
- Settings cannot be fine-tuned like coilovers
- They do not offer the same level of performance
- Can wear shocks out faster
- Parts cannot be interchanged
What’s Best For You?
Keeping in mind this is a simple breakdown, it comes down to how (and where) you drive your vehicle. If this is a track car or weekend warrior that sees some occasional competitive racing, coilovers hands down.
There is no getting around the infinite combination of shocks and springs, not to mention being able to dial in your suspension settings for every event. Even when paired with a good set of shocks, lowering springs cannot compete with coilovers.
However, a good coilover setup will usually set you back over $1,000. Likewise, it is strongly advised to avoid the cheap ones sold on eBay and buy them from a reputable manufacturer.
In addition, there is a penalty in the form of a harsher ride, along with a greater risk of bottoming out and damaging the underside of your vehicle and/or scraping your bumper when parking.
On the other hand, if you are more into looks or just want a mild handling upgrade, you are better served by a set of lowering springs. Likewise, you can always get a good set of performance shocks, improving handling and staying under the cost of coilovers.
Most importantly, a more comfortable ride is preferred if you drive your vehicle on a daily basis.
Both setups are good choices in their own rights with their respective advantages and disadvantages. It is not that one is better than the other, it comes down to the type of driving you do along with your budget, and that should be the deciding factor when choosing between coilovers or lowering springs.