3 Straightforward Ways To Increase Ground Clearance Of Your Car

Snapshot – If we had roads like those in the rich Arab countries, this story would be pointless. But we live in India, with roads that have plenty of imperfections. Badly designed speedbreakers and exit ramps frequently cause car underbodies to go scccrunnnch. And it’s not a sound that anyone likes to hear. Potholes bring their own set of challenges too. This is perhaps why SUVs are doing so well in India. If you cannot get yourself an SUV, boosting the ground clearance of your sedan/hatchback is your only option for peace of mind behind the wheel. Here are three straightforward ways to go about doing this.

Ground Clearance

[Image: Gawker]

Assisters for coil springs

Coil Spring Assister 1

An assister is somewhat like a spacer that fits into a coil spring. Essentially, it is a piece of coiled polyurethane that will sit in between the coils of a coil spring suspension. The assister acts by limiting the suspension travel to an extent. When suspension travel is limited, the car will not bottom out on speed breakers and potholes, and thereby save itself from scraping. Basically, the ground clearance is boosted by 10-15 mm by this modification, which is usually enough for low slung cars to get by without scraping. The assieter can be placed in 3 different positions on a coil springs. Each position produces a slightly different effect. When placed at the top of the coil, it acts at all loads. When placed in the middle, the assister gets into action under mild loads. When placed at the bottom, the assister acts only under full load.

On what cars will this modification work

Coil Spring Assister 3

Every car that features a coil spring suspension set up can be equipped with a coil assister. Cars with leaf spring suspension layouts, read the Hindustan Ambassadors and the Premier Padminis of the world, won’t be covered though. That’s ok as these cars don’t have ground clearance issues anyway.

Costs and availability? 

4,000 rupees for a set of four assisters make it good value. Claimed life for the assister is about 50,000 kilometers. So, when you get your suspension overhauled, you’ll need to go in for a new set of assisters. AutoRunner sells these assisters in India.

What are the implications that I need to know about?

Coil Spring Assister 2

You will lose suspension warranty if you drive straight to the service station for any suspension work. Your best bet would be to remove the assisters before making a warranty claim on the suspension. This is not an ethical thing to do though. Since this is a job that takes just 15 minutes, it will be an easy job to handle in case of an eventuality.

Secondly, this modification will change suspension characteristics. So, your car may not handle as well as it does with stock suspension in certain cases and under certain conditions. You’re advised to take it easy while driving with assisters.

Taller Tyres and Rims

2015 Volvo S60 Cross Country 1

Another way to increase ground clearance is to fit taller rims and tyres on your car. There are two ways you can do this. One way is boosting the tyre height by upsizing, while retaining the rims. The other is using taller rims and taller tyres. However, you have to ensure that the upsizing does not make the tyres scrape your car’s fenders while making lock to lock turns. For instance, going from 185/60 R14 section tyres to say 185/70 R14 section tyres will give you about 10 mm of extra ground clearance, if your car’s design allows for such a change. In a similar fashion,  185/65 R15 tyres on 15 inch rims will also give you a decent ground clearance raise if your car is able to take the larger rims without causing rubbing on lock to lock turns.

On what cars will this modification work

The taller tyre and rim upgrades work for almost all cars. Usually, most cars sold in India can manage a tyre size increase by a size or two.

Costs and availability?

If you go for taller tyres right at the time of buying a car, it can be an economical option as the tyre dealer will buy back your existing tyres and replace them with taller ones at a smaller cost. If you’re upgrading in the middle of your tyres’ life cycle, it will be an expensive bet. Replacing both rims and tyres will be costlier. Any competent tyre shop will be able to handle this upgrade. Approach reputed tyre dealers in your locality/city.

What are the implications that I need to know about?

Suspension warranty may be voided although most authorized service centers won’t blame the tyre upgrade as long as it is done within acceptable limits. Acceptable limits here means an upgrade of one or two sizes.

Also handling dynamics of your car may change with wider and taller rubber. You will have to adjust your driving accordingly. Also, lower fuel efficiency may result due to wider tyres.

Stiffer Suspension

Adjustable Aftermarket Suspension

Many reputed aftermarket suspension specialists such as Bilstein, Koni and Tein offer suspension upgrade kits for many mass market cars. These upgrade kits now come with a level of adjustability, which allows the driver to control the damping characteristics. For example, on a road with potholes, you can make your suspension softer while making it stiffer when you spot a large speedbreaker ahead. The softness and stiffness being controlled means that one can have a comfortable yet scrape free ride by adjusting the suspension on the go. Cheaper options are also available from these suspension specialists. The lower priced options stiffen the suspension set up but do not allow for adjustability on the move.

On what cars will this modification work

Every car for which a suspension upgrade kit is available.

Costs and availability? 

Typically, you can expect to pay about 50,000 rupees for a basic suspension upgrade kit that will stiffen the ride on speed breakers while allowing for a smoother ride on potholes. Many car modifiers such as Red Rooster Racing, Pete’s and Methods Automotive.

What are the implications that I need to know about?

After market suspension if done right can be much better than the stock suspension, which is usually built with the “one size fits all” philosophy. The key however, would be getting the right kind of after market suspension by considering your driving style and other requirements.