Coilovers vs Springs: Which way to go?

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The goal for most performance car owners looking to modify their vehicle is optimal handling and speed. While there isn’t an end to this quest, tweaking the suspension and incorporating a few components often works wonders for many. Lowering a vehicle by adjusting the ride height has proven to be a reliable way of attaining better cornering performance among other benefits.

There are two ways of going about this: using lower, smaller springs or installing a set of coilovers on your car. These approaches are straightforward but work differently. Of course, this raises the question, ‘which of the two options is better?’ The answer is, however, not black and white, with each option providing noticeably varied handling characteristics and having its unique pros & cons.

Below, we discuss both options to help you determine which is right for you.

Lowering Springs

Stock suspension is designed and fitted to specific measurements. They don’t allow for stiffness or height adjustments to meet your unique preferences. This is why many people go out looking for means to customise their suspension. Lowering springs are suspension pieces used to make vehicles sit lower to the ground. They can be used on a wide range of vehicles from compact sport cars to utes.

They are usually shorter than OEM ones (1-3 inches) and are available in an assortment of varying stiffness. Note that these aftermarket springs typically have a higher spring rate to compensate for their length while supporting the same weight OEM ones do. The higher spring rate helps attain less body roll, which keeps the car on the ground when negotiating sharp corners. They are ideal when your only goal is to change the ride height to lower your car.

Lowering Springs

Pros of Lowering Springs

  • Their installation is straightforward in most cases – much like a direct swap to replace the OEM ones fitted during production.
  • They rarely need to be replaced after instalment as they are durable.    
  • Lowering springs are an ideal compromise in cases where you don’t want to make extreme tweaks.
  • They are cheap and more often than not come with a warranty.

Cons of Lowering Springs

  • The biggest downside of lowering springs is that they tend to make the ride quality harsher because of their firm nature.      
  • They don’t deliver better handling like coilovers
  • They have replacement and maintenance requirements, but that’s made easy by their simple installation.

Coilovers

Coilover suspensions are relatively newer components used to provide more flexibility when lowering the vehicle. Coilover springs have seen great technological advancement despite being around for a short while. They look like standard shock & spring, but they are in fact quite different different. They come together with shocks where the coil springs are rounded hence the name.

Coilovers

A coilover suspension eliminates the need to buy and install the springs and shocks separately. The springs in coilovers have stiffer spring rates than lowering springs. This often means a trade-off between ride quality and better cornering performance. On the bright side, you can swap the springs with those of your preferred spring rate. This may, however, cost you more.

Today, coilovers have found use in improving handling on almost all vehicle types, although they were initially designed for use in high-performance racing cars. They are also used to adjust the dampening settings on performance-oriented cars. Most coilovers are lighter than the fitted OEM components, which helps reduce unsprung weight and increase handling.

Pros of Coilovers 

  • They allow for greater fine tuning and adjustability by giving the user a range of different settings. Car owners can choose to adjust various aspects such as rebound settings, spring pre-load, and ride height. They are also efficient in damping adjustment.       
  • Some coilover kits allow you to fine-tune the corners independently to achieve ideal vehicle balance.    
  • They provide better handling and responsiveness than lowering springs   
  • They are ideal for performance-oriented and race vehicles as they address all areas of the suspension system, from the shock absorber to the dampener.

Cons of Coilovers

  • Since they come as a combined component, their design is intricate, and as a result, they cost more.    
  • Their installation is complex as it involves replacing the whole shock/strut and spring combination.
  • Though coilovers offer better handling, they can negatively affect the ride quality and overall driving experience.

Making your choice

You have probably noticed that the difference between coilovers and lowering springs is night and day. They do share similarities, too, as they can be used to achieve more or less the same ends.

That said, each come with their suitability, advantages, and disadvantages. Before choosing between them, take time to reflect on what improvements you want on your car and how much you’re willing to sacrifice to attain them. It is also important that you consider your budget. This will help you arrive at the right decision without any regrets.

If you just want a lowered vehicle without any other additional adjustments, a set of high-quality lowering springs will do just fine. Going for coilovers in a case where you drive mostly on normal road or when you only want light thrills may easily end up being a liability.

If you are a street racer looking to adjust several aspects of your suspension to get the ultimate handling, good stability, and better cornering performance, your best bet is coilovers. Keep in mind that coilovers may result in other liabilities like your car being so low and close to the ground, thus exposing you to hazards like bumps, steep driveways, and uneven terrains.