Skills and Knowledge
Track Suspension: Lowering Springs vs. Coilovers
Published November 2023 by Track Manual Team
The right suspension setup makes a night and day difference for the performance of a car, especially on the track. Choosing the right suspension setup is a science, with near infinite possibilities between adjustable coilovers, spring rates, and camber. These setups will change from track to track or based on the preferences of the driver, so there isn’t a single best suspension setup.
The primary and often first upgrade drivers make to their suspension is purchasing lowering springs or coilovers to adjust ride height and feel. Choosing between the two is influenced mainly by budget and needed features, but both can offer an improvement over stock suspension. Let’s examine the two.
Lowering springs are the most budget friendly option between the two and are designed primarily to lower the vehicle. While there are benefits to a lower vehicle in terms of handling, springs are only one part of the equation and need to be considered in conjunction with the shocks on your vehicle.
Lowering springs typically have a higher spring rate compared to OEM to accommodate for the less suspension travel due to lowering the vehicle ride height. Thus, it is important to choose spring rates that match the damping of your shocks. Too high of a spring rate will result in the car feeling bouncy and a lack of body control. Too low of a spring rate will bottom out the suspension, resulting in a rough ride.
It may be useful to buy upgraded shocks as well to match the characteristics of your springs to optimize performance.
- Affordable option
- Lowers vehicle
- Can choose spring rate to match needs
- No adjustability for damping or ride height
- Need to consider compatibility with shocks and damping.
When looking to purchase springs, you’ll see progressive springs vs. linear springs. Progressive springs do not have a fixed stiffness and instead the spring rate increases as the spring becomes more compressed. This is mainly to improve ride quality as small bumps can be absorbed by the lower spring rate. Linear springs have a fixed stiffness that doesn’t change no matter the compression. This leads to a much more predictable behavior and better feel, but a harsher ride.
For those looking for precise adjustability, coilovers is the way to go. You’ll often hear the names KW, Ohlins, and Moton, all top-tier coilover brands that improve performance on the track. Coilovers are a package of springs and shocks that are set up to work together.
Most if not all coilovers offer levels of adjustability such as ride height, with the fancier ones able to precisely change damping. The ability to adjust these allows drivers to change how the suspension behaves to better suit their driving or the layout of a track. It can even be used to soften the suspension when driving for comfort then tightening it up for track usage.
- Adjustability. The more expensive generally more adjustable features, range, and precision.
- Interchangeable parts. Can swap out different springs or mounts to further change suspension attributes. Some coilovers can be rebuilt to restore them back to optimal shape.
Choosing the best option for you
This article touches on the key differences between lowering springs and coilovers for your track car. Lowering springs are the cheaper route to lower ride height and change handling behavior. Coilovers can offer almost endless possibilities of suspension customization with the only limiting factor being price.
If it is in the budget, we recommend opting for coilovers as it is a more complete package designed for optimal performance and allow you to adjust your settings based on the handling characteristics you need.
Regardless, we strongly recommend not to cheap out on any suspension purchase as low-quality suspensions can negatively impact your car’s handling and compromise safety.