View from underneath a car on gravel

How to improve your car’s suspension

For some owners, having a standard car is enough to get them from A to B without any stress, while on the other hand, there are owners out there who want nothing less than their car to be simply factory spec. How can they express their individuality when their Citroen Saxo or Vauxhall Corsa looks like every other small hatchback in the Tesco car park? Luckily there is a wide range of modifications and maintenance tasks available to car owners to improve the general look and feel of their car while out on the road.

Lowering a car’s suspension is one of the most popular modifications carried out today, and is often carried out to not only increase the handling of the car, but also make it more visually appealing to the owner and passers-by. If you’re looking to drop your car down a notch, then Scrap Car Comparison has the answers for you – below is an easy to follow, step-by-step guide on how to improve your car’s suspension.

Close up of a vehicle's suspension system

What is car suspension?

The suspension system is made up of springs, axles, shock absorbers and linkages, all of which work to support handling and ride height of a car, two competing elements of driving. Most of the time you’ll find the suspension hidden underneath a car’s bodywork, so if you want an easy visual representation of what suspension is and how it works, looking at single seater racing cars, or cars like the Caterham 7 give you the easiest way to see how they work.

Learn more about what car suspension is and how it works here.

What causes car suspension problems

General wear and tear is the most common reason suspensions run into problems, with the parts weakening and rusting over time. You can also damage your suspension if you have a sudden hit or shock to the system, such as running over a large pothole or similar obstacle in the road. To put it very simply, the smoother roads you drive on, the longer your suspension is likely to last.

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How do you know if your car has suspension problems?

There are a few ways you are able to diagnose suspension issues even without having the full knowledge of a mechanic at your disposal.

  • Bumpy ride. The easiest way to tell if your car is having some issues with its suspension is by the ride itself as you’re driving along. If you find that the ride is feeling bumpier than usual, then this could well be down to problems with your suspension. The springs should absorb any bumps, while the dampers (or shock absorbers) will remove the remaining motion left in the spring, stopping the car from bouncing. If the fluid from the shocks has begun seeping out, this can lead to suspension failure.
  • Tyre tread. If you’ve noticed that your tyres are wearing unevenly, with either the inside or outside wearing faster than the rest of the tyre, this could be down to the suspension not working correctly, or it could mean a wheel alignment issue.
  • Poor handling. If your suspension is beginning to fail, you may find that your car starts to drift or pull when you’re turning into corners. You may also hear a knocking noise at the same time. If this is the case, you’ll want to get it checked out as soon as it could mean your anti-roll bar is no longer keeping the car stable, which is a serious safety risk.

How much does car suspension repair cost?

Like all repair work, the make and model of the car that you’re driving will have a major effect on the cost of a suspension repair. For example, if you are driving a larger luxury car or SUV, you can expect a higher cost for your repair work than a small city car or hatchback. However, if your car is a little older and suffering from rust, this can also bump the cost up significantly. 

Due to the nature of how suspension works, it’s common practice to replace parts in pairs, and it’s also a good idea to do all four corners of the car at the same time, meaning you have similar aged parts across the car – this prevents the older parts putting additional stress on the newer parts. You may also find that you’ll need to check the wheel alignment after suspension repairs, which pushes the cost up even more. While you may want to try and save as much as possible, just remember that even the smallest bit of misalignment can cause increased tyre wear and put extra pressure on steering or suspension components.

How to improve old car suspension

Naturally, improving suspension will change from car to car, but there are a few general practices you can work towards to give yourself a better ride.

  1. New tyres (and wheels). The first piece of your car’s suspension is also the one that is often overlooked when looking at making improvements. You can make as many changes as you like to the mechanical side of your suspension system, but if you’re running around on old budget wheels then all that work will be for nothing. As such, when looking to improve your suspension, it’s best to work on your wheels and tyres first. A premium brand (such as Pirelli or Michelin) will provide much better grip and straight line speed than their budget competitors. Meanwhile, a lighter set of wheels will allow your car to transfer more power to the road, reducing the amount of inertia through the heavier rims.
  2. Upgrade Strut Bearings. An important part of the suspension system, the strut bearings connect the body and the spring strut. The struts are installed on top of shock absorbers and many mechanics will recommend replacing strut bearings to improve the suspension and steering performance of a car.
  3. Performance Coil-Overs. First up, what’s a coil-over? Well, it’s a shock absorber wrapped in a coil spring, in basic terms. The standard coil-over offered on most road cars offers the best compromise of stability, comfort and cost. Naturally a performance model is going to add more cost, and will likely also see a reduction in the comfort, but the stability will vastly improve. Weighing up your cost versus performance will be key to knowing which coil-overs to upgrade your suspension to.
  4. Improve anti-roll bars or sway bars. Adding an anti-roll bar, or sway bar, is one of the easiest ways to improve your suspension systems. Basically a lever connecting either the front or rear two wheels, the anti-roll bar reduces the roll between the opposing wheels to improve cornering ability. This is achieved by raising the inside wheel when the bar is put under tension mid-corner, and levels out the corner. A stiffer anti-roll bar not only reduces roll, but will make the car feel more precise and help the tyres maintain the ideal contact patch.

How to lower your car suspension

Lowering suspension is one of the most popular ways of modifying a car as not only does it often offer visual improvements, but also improves the handling capability of the vehicle it’s supporting. But how easy is it to modify the suspension yourself? Well, for starters you’re going to need a fair few specific tools before you even think about getting to work. These tools include:

  • Basic hand tools
  • Jack and jack stand
  • Wooden blocks/tyre chocks
  • Socket set
  • Air compressor
  • Air impact gun
  • Set of new lowering springs
  • Strut spring compressor
Car Suspension
  1. Raise the front of the car

Make sure your car is parked on a flat surface and then raise it up through the use of a jack. Using jack stands, secure the car in a raised position – NEVER keep the car in the air by the use of a jack alone. Place wooden blocks or tyre chocks at the rear wheels and ensure that the handbrake is engaged so the car can’t roll away during the work.

  1. Remove wheel nuts

Now the car is up in the air, using an impact gun and correct size socket, remove the wheel nuts and then the wheel itself.

  1. Remove front strut assembly

With the strut assembly now staring you in the face, remove the bolts that secure it using the correct size spanner, or rather with the appropriate socket. There should be either one or two bolts at the bottom, and there will usually be three holding the struts in place at the top. Once the bolts have been removed, you can remove the entire strut assembly.

  1. Compress the strut spring

Now the strut assembly has been removed, grab hold of the strut spring compressor and compress the string, removing all of the tension between it and the upper strut mount. This may need to be done in small amounts, changing between each side until there has been enough tension relieved to safely remove the upper strut mount.

  1. Remove compressed coil spring

With the coil spring compressed, turn on your compressed air and pick up your air impact gun and the correct sized socket. Remove the top nut securing the strut mount to the strut assembly and pull the upper strut mount away, then remove the compressed coil spring from the assembly.

  1. Install new coil springs onto strut assembly

Make sure that you seat the spring correctly when you’re installing the new coil onto the assembly, as most will sit on a strut perch in their own specific way. If there are any rubber spring seats included as part of your spring lowering kit, be sure to replace these, too.

  1. Reinstall upper strut mount

With the new springs in place you can now reinstall the upper strut mount onto the spring assembly above the new springs. You may need to recompress the spring again before you can reinstall the nut, and if this is the case, just compress the spring enough so that you can install the nut and turn it for a few threads before tightening it up with the air impact gun.

  1. Put the strut assembly back on the car

Now the strut assembly is reassembled with a new, lower, spring it’s time to put the strut assembly back on the car in the reverse order in which it was removed. It is often easier to put one of the lower bolts in first, helping to support the strut while you install the remainder of the assembly.

  1. Lower opposite side

Now it’s just a case of doing it all over again on the opposite side, following all of the same steps above.

  1. Replace rear coil spring

Another case of repeating what’s already been done, simply lower the car and then raise up the rear of the car and copy the exact same procedure as above but this time on the rear wheels.

How to make car suspension softer?

The easiest way to soften your suspension is to fit softer dampers, as obvious as it may sound. However, most standard dampers on cars are likely to be some of the softest available, so if you’re still looking for a softer ride, you may need to look at getting some adjustable dampers or shock absorbers, which offers a wider range of adaptability. If all else fails, replacing the wheels with a lighter alternative can also help soften the ride.

If you’ve been struggling with your car’s suspension for a while and just can’t get it right, then perhaps it’s time to cash in and get a new car altogether. Scrapping your car with Scrap Car Comparison guarantees you the very best price with minimal hassle. Simply enter your registration number and postcode into our online quote generator to find your quote in just a matter of moments. Not only that, but we’ll even come and collect the car from you, no matter where you are in the country.

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