Pickup Trucks 101: Lowering Your Truck

Pickup Trucks 101: Lowering Your Truck
By Dan Sanchez for PickupTrucks.com

It's common for truck owners to lower their vehicle’s suspension system a few inches for a sporty look, or they go to the extreme and lay the frame on the ground to create a wild custom show vehicle.

You can lower a full-size or midsize pickup in a variety of ways that affect its appearance, handling, towing and cargo capacity. We’ve outlined the most common methods and best practices so that you gain a better understanding of the techniques and what best suits the look and performance you want to achieve.

Coil Springs

Eibach-Lowering-System
Manufacturers make it easy to lower your vehicle by offering a complete kit. This example shows a two-inch front drop with coil springs and a four-inch rear drop using new leaf springs, shackles and hangars.

An aftermarket set of coil springs is a great way to lower your truck’s suspension as much as two inches. Some trucks use coils at the rear, so look for a complete kit from the same manufacturer. The best choice is to use progressive-rate springs made from high-quality steel, to avoid spring sag over time. Some performance coils will also improve handling and lower the stance by one-and-a-half to two inches.

Cutting your factory coils may sound like a less expensive alternative but it’s not recommended because it can change the spring’s compression rate and can lead to a bouncy ride. A spring that lowers ride height more than two inches may be a bad idea. The right coils will lend a smooth ride and won’t affect the overall cargo capacity of your pickup when you need moderate lowering.

Coils can be combined with other lowering products when more lowering is desired.

Drop Spindles

 

Drop-Spindle
Drop spindles are very popular. Some four-wheel-drive vehicles can be lowered this way, too.

Drop spindles are probably one of the best ways to lower your vehicle properly by two or three inches without affecting the ride quality or factory suspension geometry. It’s worth paying more for a high-quality spindle from a reputable manufacturer; cheaper spindles are known to crack and shear. Combining drop spindles with a two-inch lowering coil can give you up to four inches of drop.

Control Arms

Truck-lower-control-arms
Lower control arms are another great method to lower your truck’s front end properly. The lower coil spring pocket brings down the vehicle’s ride height, while the rest of the suspension remains in the stock position. These can be combined with lowering springs for a four-inch front drop.

Tubular upper and lower control arms replace the factory wishbones in the front of your truck. A new lower arm will have a deeper coil spring pocket. This effectively lowers the vehicle two or three inches and maintains proper ball joint angles and a smooth ride.

If you’re going to use low-profile tires, it’s important that the lower control arm spring pocket doesn’t fall below the vehicle’s scrub-line, which is the lowest part of the vehicle that will make contact with the pavement should the tire go flat.

A new upper A-arm will compensate for the negative camber (top of tire points in toward the body) that occurs when the vehicle is lowered. Both matched sets of arms are necessary for proper operation and suspension alignment and are typically used with shorter coil springs, air springs and/or drop spindles to get your truck even lower.

Air Springs (bags)

Rear-Air-bag-kit

Airbags or air springs come in a variety of kits. This one attaches to the truck frame and axle to lower the rear five to six inches. Others systems can be customized to lower the vehicle all the way to the frame.

Air springs or airbags offer unique advantages for lowering a vehicle. They can be retrofitted just about anywhere, front or rear, to provide a very low stance when deflated. Then they can be inflated with an onboard compressor and a system of actuators, switches and hoses to drive the truck at a normal ride height.

Air springs provide the most options for a moderate to extreme drop. Usually they can simply replace your factory coil springs in the front and leaf springs at the rear. Extreme lowering, where the truck rests on the frame, requires more customizing and should left to a professional. One of the most important aspects of an air spring suspension is to set a normal ride height for driving and set the vehicle’s alignment for that height. This will avoid excessive tire and suspension component wear.

Depending on how low you want to go, air springs can be set into custom-built A-arms in the front to lay the frame on the ground. Likewise for the rear, a custom rear air-spring frame that protrudes through the bed can be built to lay the rear suspension and frame on the ground. Because of all this, you’ll have a great-looking custom truck, but you’ll lose any or all of its cargo-carrying capabilities. This should be done only if you’re contemplating creating a show-winning vehicle.

Hydraulics

Popularized by lowriders, hydraulic systems work like air springs but use hydraulic fluid to fill up solid cylinders that replace the truck’s coil springs, shocks and leaf springs. This system requires a sophisticated network of switches, solenoids, hydraulic lines, tank and a hydraulic pump to operate successfully. You’ll need to hire a well-known custom installer because of the extensive cutting and welding. Using hydraulics will eliminate any cargo or towing capacity.

Leaf Spring Eye Hangars
Most trucks use leaf springs at the rear because of they hold up to extra cargo capacity. Many truck owners replace the factory leaf spring mounts — also called hangars and shackles — to lower the rear one-and-a-half to two inches. This requires drilling out or cutting the factory shackles from the frame and bolting on new ones. This method works extremely well and is often combined with other products to achieve a lower stance. This method also works great to level out the ride of your truck from front to rear, and because you’re still using the factory spring, you won’t lose any towing or cargo capacity.

Lowering Leaf Springs

Leaf-Springs
Lowering leaf springs are a great way to drop the rear of your truck. They result in a great ride, but you’ll sacrifice some of the overall cargo and tongue weight capability.

For the rear of your truck, you can get leaf springs that lower the ride height two to three inches. If you combine those springs with new lowering spring eye hangars, the rear can drop four inches. These springs have noticeably less arch and work well for providing a comfortable ride. The drawback is less overall cargo and tongue weight capacity because fewer leaves are used in the spring and they typically don’t include a helper spring. Many truck owners, though, will use an airbag helper spring that sits on top of the leaf spring to restore some of the lost cargo capacity and raise the rear of the truck to compensate for a heavy load or trailer.

Leaf Spring Blocks

Blocks-with-shims
Lowering blocks are common for leveling or extreme applications. The best blocks are made of steel and should include a shim to correct the differential’s pinion angle.

Blocks have been one of most popular ways to lower the rear of pickup trucks anywhere from one to three inches. Many lowering kits include leaf spring blocks inserted between the axle and the leaf spring. The absolute best blocks to use are steel units with a built-in pinion angle correction. They actually look more like a wedge than a square block, or the blocks can come with a wedge that can be added to provide the proper pinion angle. In most instances, blocks are used with leaf spring hangars to lower the rear of the vehicle up to four inches. It’s important to use high-quality U-bolts when lowering with blocks.

Flip Kits
For extreme lowering of the rear — five to eight inches — flip kits tend to be a necessary component to provide enough travel and clearance between the axle and the frame. They flip the position of the leaf spring and axle so that the springs move from beneath the axle to the top. A proper high-quality flip kit will have a proper axle locator that positions the rear axle slightly forward and maintains the proper pinion angle geometry of the differential.

Most flip kits will also require that the rear portion of the frame be C-notched for added up/down travel of the axle. The notch is reinforced with a steel frame-support bracket that should be drilled and bolted in place. Welding can often weaken tempered steel, from which most truck frames are made. When flipping the axle and leaf spring, it’s important to consider shorter shocks or shock extensions. These keep the shocks at a more vertical angle to provide better operation and a smooth ride.

Because many trucks use a center carrier bearing for a two-piece driveshaft, vibrations can occur. To cure this, many flip kits come with a spacer to lower the center carrier bearing that places the driveshaft in the proper angle.

How Low Do I Go?

Air-Bag-Ram
This Dodge is an extreme example of a custom airbag system with a C-notch on the frame. This allows truck’s frame to rest on the ground.

With various products and methods available for lowering your truck, here are some of the more popular procedures that can help you decide what might work best for your application:

Lowering-560

Many manufacturers offer complete systems that take the guesswork out of adding the right components to lower your pickup. Using shorter shock absorbers or shock mount extensions will also improve the ride quality. If you’re interested in performance handling, adding a set of performance anti-sway bars may help, too. Also consider the correct load rating of the tire you will use. Trucks are still heavy, and various tire manufacturers sell lower-profile tires that will complement your lowered pickup also feature the correct load rating for a safe ride.

Comments

So people want to argue why its so stupid to lower trucks. well why do all thes people lift these 2010, 2011, 2012 truck knowing they will never see a mud hole. knowing they will never go off road. but yall do it cause it looks cool. well same thing. We lower our trucks because thats what we like. Why worry about what we like to do to our trucks. maybe we dont want to hall 8000 pounds who cares. So if you want to critise when we will haul a load to heavy to handle when these lifted trucks will go thew every place a 2wd lowered truck can. It all comes down to looks. bottom line

I don't like to lower trucks myself, but I cannot help to mention that the lowered red truck above looked really good. I didnt expect it to look the way it does. Thank for the post.

guys why are you arguing? this is an informative article, not a rage war about whats better. but to get back on topic, personally for me it all depends on the vehicle how it looks lifted or lowered. For instance my 3.8L I6 1990 jeep comanche is lifted 4.5" suspension on 33's. ends up being around 3" body lift equivelent. but on my 1991 ford ranger 2.3L v4 5spd, i lowered it. i personally like it alot. My jeep is a 4x4 while my ranger is a 2 wheel drive. then again some vehicles in "my" opinion should stay stock ride height. but thats just me. i feel bad for the people that came here looking for ideas and prob left cause of the kinda fight going on...

try being in a wheelchair !! duch bags! its kinda hard to pull a trailer with a corvett

You guys talkin down about customizing trucks probably all have the same dorky combover hair cut, get a clue!
Hahaha go jump in your camry and get somemore tampons and Mydol sounds like you guys got the cramps...


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Eddinp60@gmail.com this is my email adress
I have i question
I already made de aligment and balanced on my trck
If i install the block low kit do i have to make again the aligment

Can I bag my 2005 jeep grand cherokee limited 4×4

I'm just lowering my truck so it's easier to load/unload my bike I'm thinking about bags so I can keep my ride height

This is in regards to the lowering NAaaa Sayers I believe it's all what your taste is I have built lifted trucks and am now doing a bagged lowered truck one it fits in my garage lowered two it was already c notched and flip kit installed and drop spindles I myself want to put a four link in the truck and remove the leaf spring setup it will help in how it handles on the road and at the strip and this is my opinion and in now way think lifting or lowering makes someone's ideas retarded we are all hot riders let's show some respect thank you

In this article about lower a truck you show pictures of the control arms.leaf springs and spindles but do not mention what brand they are so we can find them quicker! I would like to lower the rear of my 2003 S10 XTREME pickup even lower using the leaf springs to lower the rear and then use the spindle to lower the front as needed! Do you know the braand of these items? Thanks Rod.

I see a lot of 4x4s not used for off road use now a days. Why then is so hard to find a drop kit for 4x4s.
I do feel that there must be a way to drop a ford fx4 4 in. in the front and 6 in. in the rear. It would so much easier to enter and load. You would still be able in drive in snow, if need be.

1985 Toyota pickup extende cab standard bed. 225 5speed. lowerelined about 4-5in. needs the drive shaft shortened, no where anywhere list that you need to get the driveshaft possibly shortened, even if it fits it might not be right, to long of a driveline will put stress pn your tranny and crank inside motor.

I plan on lowering just the rear of my '07 Tundra using a Belltech flip kit (6540). This should bring the rear more inline/level with the front and not require replacing springs & shocks, and it should align easily.

Am I missing anything?

@Kevin--don't forget to check headlight adjustment. You don't want to blind people coming the other way at night.

Also remember that Toyota no doubt had their best guys design that chassis so don't be surprised if your mods actually mess up the handling. It happens.

I've lowered my truck because it was cheaper than running boards plus it was cheaper to ship which I do allot (they price based on dimensions). I like the look of a slammed truck but have no plans on going that low. Also i bet my motorcycle has seen more trail time than the trucks of these these tools that think it's a waste of a truck. I can still haul, pull and commute just fine.



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