What is car ground clearance and how it can be increased

7 real ways to increase ground clearance

In the last article we dealt with why it is necessary to increase the clearance of the car, what are the advantages and pitfalls in this procedure. This question is especially important for owners of foreign cars, since not all foreign models are well adapted to Russian conditions. Today we will list you actually means to increase the ground clearance of the car. Each method also has its own indications and contraindications.

How to raise clearance: 7 ways

Installation of stiffer or longer springs One of the most expected ways to increase ground clearance, which fell due to the sagging springs – the installation of new springs with higher stiffness or increased number of coils. We just want to remind you that if your ride height increases by more than 5 cm, the consequences can be unpredictable.

Arguments FOR: Depending on the springs you choose, you can seriously “raise” – as much as 8-12 cm. Long-term effect.

Arguments AGAINST Such addition to the design usually has an unprofitable effect on the controllability of the car: the angles of the rear and front suspension are changed, the roll in the turns increases; Buying springs, and, if necessary, new shock absorbers is not the cheapest pleasure; It is difficult to find the original increased springs for the model, you have to buy either from other cars, or a third-party manufacturer. Such tuning is completely “at your own risk”.

Installation of tires with a high profile It is relatively inexpensive to raise ground clearance, putting tires with a higher profile. You can choose the limit allowed size specified by the manufacturer, or you can put even larger “rubber” and expand the wheel arches. Simple, but not exactly genius.

Arguments FOR Relatively inexpensive way; Long-term increase in ground clearance; The design of the car does not change; The result of the increase – 1-3 cm.

AGAINST arguments: Accuracy of speedometer is up to 5 km/h; Fuel is “funnier”. New tires and wheel arches will wear out quickly if friction occurs. When unloaded, tires may seem to fit, but when loaded, tires will rub against arches or fenders when cornering.

Mounting larger diameter rims Replacing rims can give a couple of extra centimeters with a permanent effect, but replacing them is much more expensive and more difficult. The kit needs to be matched to the size of the wheel hub, and they should have the proper mounting bolts on them.

Arguments FOR Small, but growth; Permanent effect.

Arguments against Difficulties in selection; The same disadvantages as with tires. how to raise ground clearance

Spacers under the shock absorber strut

The essence of the method is that in the place where the damper strut support connects to the body, a spacer made of metal, ABS plastic, polyurethane or rubber is installed. They are cheap, give an increase of 3 to 5 centimeters. This method is not considered a change in the design of the model. Nevertheless, spacers have a negative effect on the drivability, as well as they wear out rather quickly.

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Arguments FOR Cheap; Increase clearance by 3-5 cm; Large selection.

Arguments AGAINST LOSS Loss of directional stability; The occurrence of rolls; Suspension changes the angle of suspension; Increased shock absorber travel, which creates the risk of breakdown.

Installing additional plates in the springs in cars with a spring suspension There are fewer such cars, but for similar models (including Gazelle) this method remains effective. If you own a leaf-sprung SUV, it is quite possible that your arches will allow you to install larger diameter wheels and add 1-2 leaf springs.

Arguments FOR The effective way for these types of cars, especially if you need to increase the rigidity of the suspension.

Cons Increases center of gravity; Suspension becomes less comfortable; Increases stress on leaf springs.

The use of intercushion cushions – buffers Buffer – intercushion, made of polyurethane. There are cheaper manufactures – from TPR, regular rubber. The insert is put on the middle wide coils of springs and supports them, preventing compression to a critical level. MRoad brand buffers are durable and effective pads with a full size range. They are made of high quality polyurethane, which has the property of restoring its shape, its properties do not depend on the temperature. Installing buffers in springs is a simple and affordable way to increase your own clearance. Buy MRoad buffers on our website.

Arguments FOR the easy installation, reasonable prices Buffers organically integrated into the work of the spring without changing the distribution of the load Improved driving characteristics of the car: reduced sway, rolls, collected and soft ride Clearance is increased by 2 cm Guarantee on MRoad Buffers – 100000 km!

Arguments AGAINST Many low-quality cushions from China do not justify the expense of air balloons in springs to increase ground clearance

Air springs

In our review, we purposely omitted the topic of adjustable air suspension, because it is too expensive option – for those who do not stop at the expense. For budget and mid-range cars, installing a suspension will cost around 100000 rubles, which is 1/4 to 1/5th of their price. However, recently there is a means to raise the clearance, comparable in effect with the pneumatic suspension – it is pnevmoballons. Rubber cylinders up to 1 cm thick are inserted in rear suspension hollow springs and inflated with air. Their installation gives a clearance lift of up to 5 cm, depending on the pressure inside. The result is also improved drivability and increased payload: the car can be fully loaded without sagging at the rear of the body. MRoad is currently working on launching own brand air springs to make these useful devices available for Russian drivers. You will be able to buy MRoad air springs within a month.

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Arguments FOR Increased load capacity; No subsidence when loading; Ability to adjust ground clearance; Serious increase in ground clearance (up to 5 cm); Improved drivability.

Arguments AGAINST the need to manually inflate the cylinders (if necessary to change the pressure), or to set the bridge paging to adjust ground clearance; Pneumoballons are often inflated beyond the allowable limit, then their life is reduced, and they can simply rupture. At the permissible pressure the service life is unlimited.

Here we have listed 7 main ways to raise ground clearance. Use one or more methods on your car, the main thing is to be careful and do not try to raise it by more than 5 cm. A small increase in ground clearance will not have a negative impact on the car behavior and will allow you to feel more confident on the roads.

MRoad company wishes motorists good luck and good roads! Subscribe to our blog news and read useful auto articles.

Higher and higher and higher: how and why to lift the car body with spacers

Looking at the cars that drive around Russian cities, you might think that all car manufacturers have entered into a conspiracy and produce cars of the wrong height. How else to explain the fact that a huge part of our population wants to lower the car, or raise it to an unreachable height? Let’s postpone questions of lowering for a while and speak about how and why the motorists elevator the cars with spacers.

What is ground clearance?

You think that ride height, or clearance, is the distance from the lowest point on the underside of the car to the bearing surface (road surface), you are mistaken… This lowest point is not sought to measure the entire area of the car bottom, but only on its so-called “central part”. The concept seems vague, but there are simple formulas for its calculation. There is no sense to go into them. For ease of understanding, the “central part” of an average sedan, used to determine ground clearance, looks something like this (marked in red):


As we see, quite a few points of the lower part of the body (marked with arrows, suspension elements in the wheel area, mudguards, sill plates, muffler tips and some others) are not considered when determining ground clearance, and may be (and are!) much closer to the asphalt, than the point that is taken as a reference in determining the official size of ground clearance. And if to take into account that the factory figures of foreign cars clearance is often true only for empty car, without cargo and passengers, then it is not surprising, when a city car scrapes the bottom on fairly harmless patches of ground on the way to summer cottage.

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As a result, many car owners, not ready to buy an SUV or at least a crossover, tend to “raise” their sedan in order to make it more versatile. Installation of tires of bigger diameter from the list of the manufacturer’s allowable dimensions allows gaining an honest inch and a half of height, but buying new wheels is a costly affair, and some dimensions are even rare. Therefore the method of body lifting by spacers got considerable popularity. Let’s look into its features, pros and cons.

Construction of spacers

Spacers are divided into front and rear, differing in design. For a full “elevator”, which is necessary to increase the passability of the car outside the asphalt, install all four. But sometimes they make do with a pair of rear for partial lift, usually demanded at frequent stoppages of suspension and underbelly scuffing for road roughness from transportation of heavy cargoes in the trunk or three passengers on the back sofa.

Front spacers (we are talking about the McPherson suspension) are installed between the shock absorber strut support and the body. They are rings made of rigid plastic or aluminum. Rear spacers are installed between the body and the rear axle spring or beam. They look like “drums” made of dense rubber or polyurethane with a diameter corresponding to the diameter of the spring.


What does the spacer change?

The spacer, installed above the front strut support, raises the body above the strut, thereby increasing the slope of the A-arm lower arm. As a result, the body and those of its “clinging” parts that actually were below the official ground clearance figures (sills, bumper edges, mudguards, etc.) “rise” above the road by the size of the spacer (the “B” value in the picture). It is important to note that the position of point “A”, located on the lever in the area of the ball bearing, does not change. Where you would get a stump or a boulder under the lever on an unlifted car, you will catch it on a lifted one as well. You can increase the lift of the “A” point only by installing wheels of larger diameter.

clearance with spacers

The picture above refers to the front axle of the car. In the case of the rear axle, everything is not so unambiguous. No, if the back axle also represents an independent suspension – the same McPherson or a multilever – then the effect of increase of clearance will be exactly the same as in the first case. However, if the car has a “wagon structure” behind (torsion U-bar or leading continuous axle), the effect of increasing ground clearance even in the central part does not happen. The body is lifted above the axle, and the gap between the axle and the road remains unchanged.

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However, this does not mean that spacers on the “rear” in the case of dependent or semi-independent suspension are useless. The body is lifted anyway, and that means the probability to touch the ground on bumps with rear part of sills, bumper or muffler is decreased.

Certainly, installation of spacers is a stick about two ends. It gives one and takes away another.

The first thing you will for sure lose is a warranty for running gear. Besides, you should clearly understand that behavior of a suspension, initially calculated by engineers, will change. Passing ability will slightly increase, but the steerability of your car at high speeds and at maneuvers will inevitably worsen. However, mass practice shows that if you don’t get carried away with the height, and limit the considered as maximum reasonable for a sedan or a hatchback 15-20 millimeters, the negative influence will not be too essential.

In case of tired springs, which you have no means for replacement, for example, yet, spacers of small height will not give additional rise at all, but only return initial position of a body in relation to asphalt. Nevertheless, it is definitely a temporary measure: neither “sat down” springs, nor worn shock absorbers can be healed by any spacers.

Installing spacers

If it is decided to install spacers, we shall tell you about technical nuances of this procedure, which will allow you to estimate your possibilities and determine the order of its performance.

To install the spacers on the front end of a McPherson car, you need to completely remove the two front struts. There is no need to disassemble removed struts.

Fixing studs in the original upper supports are lengthened. To do this, you will have to knock out the native studs and score longer studs from the kit in their place. Another way is to screw threaded extensions, which are often supplied with spacers, onto the original studs. After that the spacer is “slapped” on the extended fasteners and the rack with it is installed in its place.

All of the above is a simple enough task, which can be easily handled by a handy car enthusiast with a suitcase of wrenches and a jack. However, what was commonplace for fathers and grandfathers, today can cause a horror in their descendants, and in this case it is probably better to entrust the procedure to unofficial car-care center. The more so that after “lifting” the geometry of suspension changes, and it will be necessary to have obligatory procedure of angles regulation and camber adjustment.

Installation of rear spacers, strangely enough, is more complicated, than front ones. Formally it seems simpler: it is necessary to remove springs, pre-compressed by special couplers, and shove them back with spacers. But this is only half of the job.

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You still should lengthen shock absorbers, because because of the changed suspension geometry their rods stroke is displaced. In static position they are pulled out almost up to the stop, and when working at rebound (for example, when a wheel hits a pothole) it causes a hard blow. Therefore it is necessary to lengthen the shock absorber by the thickness of spacer (and better – plus 10 millimeters). It is made in three ways.

The first is changing “shock absorber” for longer, from other car model, but with the same upper and lower mounts. You can find out about their existence on the thematic forum of your car. Here as luck would have it, because the extended shock absorbers, suitable, as they are called, “bolt-on”, may simply not be in nature. In this case the second way is practiced – lengthening of shock absorber rods with the help of extensions, often called “soldiers”. And the third way is to lengthen the shock absorber from below by installing eyelet extensions.

spacers for the car

The variant with “soldiers” is attractive due to its simplicity and some technical aesthetics. However, the search for a “pair of soldiers” may be delayed: the product is not marketable, and the quality of the sold are not always at a premium. An impeccable option – the services of a responsible turner and a thermist. The first will chisel out your extensions, and the second will harden them.

It is not at all worse to lengthen shock absorbers not from a side of a rod, but from a side of an eyelet. U-shaped extension is bolted to the native eye bolt, and it in turn is bolted to the moving elements of suspension. But the lug attachments, as well as the “soldiers”, are not sold everywhere, they are not universal, so it can be difficult to find the part you need for your car. In this case, a rough, but quite working variant is often practiced. A new eye, cut off from the defective shock absorber, is welded to the shock absorber eye through the metal extension made of profile pipe. Sometimes adjustable extensions are also made: the second eyelet is attached to the native one through two welded sleeve nuts and a threaded rod, made of a sturdy bolt from the cylinder head.

adjustable extensions

In any case, do not forget that the installation of spacers, despite its popularity among the people and the relative harmlessness, is still not an event approved by the manufacturer of your car. During the warranty period you can get the troubles related to the official service, and the illiterate installation of spacers together with lengthening of shock absorbers can cause a lot of troubles.

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