Cutting Coils to Lower Cars

A before picture of this horrendous atrocity
 to mankind known as wheel gap!
Everyday I pull into school, and much like I remember high school, the students back their cars in, get out, sit on the hood while blaring Katy Perry's Teenage Dream on stereos priced more than their tuition. I pull in with my land yacht Taurus with its baby seat strapped in the back and me crouched down in the seat embarrassed by my car. Why? Because it has a fashion faux pas. It has nasty ugly old person wheel well gap.

I'm not about to allow that to get in the way of my college education though. France has demanded I correct this before entering their country again. Oh no. We've got the skills, to rebuild it. Lower, faster, and more fashionable.

See now rich kids will go and install "lowering springs" in their cars. I have a set in our second Taurus. A $400 set of German engineered racing springs that do an insanely good job of turning a 4 door family car into a corner eating monster. Unfortunately now that I am a poor student, I can't swing even the $150 discounted price I paid for that set on my car. Although my Taurus is a SE, a sport-tuned edition, the suspension is no different than a generic Taurus. In fact most factory springs are what the industry calls: linear (or constant rate) while most performance springs are progressive (or variable rate). So to begin with, you can't just cut a factory spring and expect performance. For this to even work, you need progressive rate springs. (It also helps that the ones we're replacing it have wound coil metal almost twice as thick as factory.) Luckily they're sold for almost every car as cargo springs.(I recommend Moog brand.) They're almost always progressive, meaning the amount of resistance strengthens as more pressure is applied, rather than at a constant rate. In fact my car, now which sits lower by more than 2" scrapes less than the factory springs on speed bumps because the rate at which the vehicle can compress the coil is less. The good news is generally you need only 2 and they cost only about $50-$70. (Yes you too can lower your car for $50!!!!) Most cars already have a fairly low rear-end thanks to sagging spring giving the vehicle a condition known as SAS (Saggy Butt Syndrome). You can of course replace the rears with progressive rate springs, but I've found at least on FWD vehicles, the front is where you really make the performance gains and the looks.

How to cut your coil springs and lower your car for $50

1- Purchase progressive rate cargo springs (see above-left). (Cost $55) - For my 1995 Taurus it was Moog CC858 available at Advance Auto-parts. (After 20% off coupon)

2- Prepare to remove the old strut and spring, by raising the vehicle, removing the wheel. Loosen the one bolt holding brake line to the inner fender well, the one nut on the sway bar/strut rods, (may require jacking up knuckle to do) and removing the 1 pinch bolt on the steering knuckle. Now place foot on tie rod end and push (not so hard as to damage the CV axles) knuckle off strut end. (*some vehicles may require a prerequisite of bolt loosening solvent spray.)

3- Remove strut and spring assembly - Loosen the three strut tower bolts at the top of the strut tower, while holding the strut unit with the other hand remove the unit from the vehicle's cavity.

4- Measure the length of your compressed coil. - This is the full distance of your extended strut with the compressed spring in it. Mine was 12". This is important because the replacement spring, after being cut must extend beyond this point or it will not seat properly. (Point of no return.)

6- Compress and remove the coils. If you need a compressor, buy a good one. Having your face re-arranged by a coil spring (everyone remember 6th grade science on kinetic and potential energy?) is not very enjoyable I hear. We now know the uncompressed stock coil spring is 16".

7- Grab your new springs a take a few measurements. First locate the side of the spring that has dead coils. Most all progressive springs do. (Most are at the top.) These are the coils spaced closer together than all the others. From the opposite end start and measure the measurement you got in step #4. Then add 1". This is the minimum height you can cut to. In my case, the aftermarket springs are 17", and we will be cutting about 3" leaving an additional 2" to seat the spring.

The rule of thumb if you don't know how much to
cut is cut in half coil lengths, but do not exceed two
 coils, and never exceed that "point of no return number"
(In our case 12"+1"=13")

8- Cut. - You'll need an angle grinder with a 4" metal wheel. Mark your cut line with white-out and begin cutting. Since I know enough people have made this exact modification, I knew that a 2 coil cut was safe, and marked it and cut it.

9- Compress the new coil and re-install. - Now that we have equal length cut coils on both springs it's time to re-install them by compressing the new coils and installing them back on the strut in the manner we removed them.

old versus new

10- Now it's just a matter of reassembling everything just in reverse. - I might recommend picking up a can of brake cleaner as you're bound to get the front discs dirty. Once everything is back together and the car is back on the ground expect another 1/8-1/4" of lowering over the next week as the springs seat themselves and adjusts to the vehicles weight.

It's a fairly quick and easy process that should take only about 3 hours finish to start. The results speak for themselves:

The front end now sits lower than the rear, and approximately 2 inches lower than stock height. This car actually sits 1" lower than my Intrax lowered Taurus due to the smaller diameter tires. Interestingly enough I think this one drives better. It plants itself in the corner throwing its wee children occupants and their happy meals into crushed look of desperation as they're squashed against the windows praying that Mom remembered to lock the doors. More importantly I can now back my car in at school, without embarrassment. So for $50, I say "take a chance, and don't ever look back...." no, cut those coils and, "don't ever look back."


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