If you drive over high bumps, uneven terrain and off-road then it’s time to increase vehicle ground clearance. There are benefits of ground clearance as well as disadvantages.
We will discuss them later on.
According to some people, a higher car ground clearance improves vehicle aesthetics. If you’re unsatisfied with your car’s current clearance then there are a number of things you can do about it. Check the ground clearance chart to find out your car’s ground clearance level.
If you are importing, then the vehicle ground clearance specs adapt to the manufacturer’s country. Alternatively, the manufacturer may adhere to the ground clearance requirements of the country or market for which they’re producing the vehicle. Therefore, you will need an adjustment to suit your needs.
What does raised ground clearance mean?
When referring to vehicle ground clearance, we mean the distance between the lowest point of the vehicle and the ground. The ground clearance of electric vehicles is usually higher than that of gasoline vehicles.
That’s because the ground clearance of combustion engine vehicles is measured as the distance between the exhaust pipe and the ground. Electric vehicles don’t have an exhaust pipe.
Vehicle height is important in relation to the road terrain. For example, extremely low ground clearance vehicles driving over high bumps might cause damage to the following parts;
- Control arms.
Changes to the vehicle ground clearance have different effects. For example handling, comfort and load weight support. This will also be a discussion we will hold below.
Professional ground clearance service providers will advice you on how increasing ground clearance will affect your specific car. However, manufacturers give a recommendation for the vehicle’s height change.
Depending on the car, there are a bunch of other things you need to consider before altering the vehicle ground clearance.
- Vehicle sensors.
- Lane Keep systems.
- Collision avoidance systems.
After taking these into consideration, then you can increase vehicle ground clearance through these ways.
Methods of increasing ground clearance.
The goal here is to be able to improve load weight support at a higher wheel spacing. By wheel spacing we mean that you have to consider the distance between the wheels and the vehicle body. There are several ways of increasing car ground clearance.
a]. New coil overs.
Coils are part of the vehicles suspension system. By installing stiffer shocks and coil springs you are able to increase ground clearance.
Alternatively, you can use coil spacers under your car’s original manufacturer coil springs or other types of vehicle springs. A notable increase in the vehicle’s height will result from this type of vehicle modification.
b]. Tire and rim size
Manufacturers make vehicles with height adjustment in mind. Therefore, there is specified height adjustment recommendation in the car owners manual.
Those manufacturer recommendations on height adjustment are in relation to tires and rim sizes. As a driver, before adjusting the sizes of tires and rims, it is important to consider the driving conditions.
Because different road conditions will require adaptable tire and rim sizes. For example, tires and rims that are suitable for rocky roads might be different from the tires and rims suitable for all weather roads.
Try referring to manufacturers’ recommended configurations before undertaking this increase of vehicle ground clearance. Make sure not to go beyond the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure that your vehicle can handle the increase in vehicle ground clearance.
Further, note that such a modification will have an effect on performance and efficiency. Whereby this effect is felt during acceleration. Further, this is one of the modifications that affect the vehicle’s fuel economy.
c] Suspension modifications.
The vehicle suspension system connects the vehicle’s body to the wheels and enables proper handling. In order to increase vehicle ground clearance, you will have to interfere with the suspension system set-up.
Undertaking a suspension upgrade for the purpose of increasing ground clearance requires you to understand the parts of the suspension. For example, springs, shock absorbers, struts, bushings, sway bars and control arms.
Suspension lift kit.
This method of increasing vehicle ground clearance will improve height by 2 or 3 inches. This will ensure that the vehicle is able to leap over bumps and pavement barriers without any scratches underneath.
Further the suspension lift kit gives an allowance for you to install bigger tires and rims. Once these are coupled together, the vehicles ground clearance will change significantly.
Make sure you research local laws concerning vehicle ground clearance. Additionally, ensure that you are familiar with your insurance provider requirements concerning the same.
[I] Suspension springs.
A suspension system upgrade will call for a change in the suspension springs. Remember that there are different types of suspension springs.
Some are best for the front suspension system parts while others are more suitable to the rear suspension. With this knowledge in mind, there will be an ease in undertaking an increase in ground clearance.
[II] Shock absorbers.
Secondly, the shock absorbers must come to mind when undertaking a suspension modification. The shock absorbers are important parts of the suspension system that help to dampen vibrations.
Further, the different types of shock absorber springs also help to reduce the spring rate. Hence providing a more comfortable ride on bumpy roads.
Suspension modifications are more labor intensive in comparison to lift kits. Another suspension modification that you can undertake is upgrading the control arm. This will offer you better vehicle control and handling even during corner negotiation.
[III] Control arms.
Connect the steering knuckles to the chassis. Their role within the suspension system is to ensure proper control, wheel alignment and weight support.
Bushings are an essential part of the suspension system because they reduce vibrations, noise and facilitate a comfortable ride. Bushings also ensure a long suspension system lifespan.
d] Wheel spacers.
Have you ever seen the cars whose wheels appear to be sticking outwards? Well that’s the effect of using wheel spacers.
The wheel spacers tend to move the wheels outwards from the car’s body. Hence creating a space between the tires and the fenders. Contrary to what people believe, they do not increase the distance between the car and the ground.
Most people do this for the purpose of improving aesthetics rather than to increase vehicle ground clearance. That’s because wheel spacers give the appearance of a higher vehicle ground clearance.
e] Air suspension.
This is one of the latest car suspension system technology. That’s why it isn’t commonly used in most cars. The air suspension system parts are common in high end vehicles.
Further, air suspension can be utilized in improving car ground clearance. Parts of the air suspension are inclusive of compressors, springs, bellows and pistons amongst others.
The driver can adjust the car’s ground clearance as per his/her will. They do this by using the compressor which pumps air pressure into the bellows through the tubes.
Afterwards, this increases the spacing between the wheels and the vehicle’s body. Hence raising the car’s ground clearance.
How much ground clearance can I increase?
The amount of ground clearance that you can increase depends on a number of things that you need to consider.
- Specific vehicle model.
- Suspension design of the car.
- Manufacturer recommendations in the owner’s manual.
Here are some of the important things that you will consider when you’re increasing your car’s ground clearance.
There are several things you will have to change concerning the vehicle. Ensure that you seek professional advice about whether those things are compatible to your vehicle before doing them.
For example, some lift kits are designed to be suitable for specific vehicles. On the other hand, there are others which are universal.
b] Lift height.
This involves you considering the lift height that you need for your vehicle. There are lift kits that are designed to offer a small amount of ground clearance and others a higher height improvement.
Your will depend on factors such as your budget, insurance terms and the government rules set concerning vehicle ground clearance.
The quality of the materials that make up the lift kits will vary from one to another. This quality will affect the lifespan of the lift kit.
Further, the quality will also have an effect on reliability. Read some reviews of the best lift kits before you decide the one you’re going to purchase.
What are the benefits of ground clearance?
The right ground clearance for any vehicle depends on the road terrain on which the vehicle will be driving. The following benefits are for vehicles that have a high ground clearance.
a]. Off-road capabilities.
When the vehicle has a substantial ground clearance, you’re able to drive over large rock boulders and uneven surfaces. Further, the vehicle doesn’t get stuck in the mud.
Additionally, the high ground clearance protects the undercarriage from getting damaged. Because you can drive over high uneven surfaces without scraping the undercarriage.
b]. Better approach and departure angles.
The approach angle refers to the height of the vehicle’s front bumper and undercarriage areas against a raised ground when approaching. Higher ground clearance gives you the luxury of approaching the obstacle at a raised angle hence preventing any damage on the front bumper.
The departure angle is the height of the rear bumper and undercarriage against a high ground when the car is leaving. High ground clearance prevents the rear bumper and undercarriage from damage when leaving that high ground.
c] Better water body crossing capacity.
A high ground clearance gives the vehicle the ability to cross over water at a high angle. This reduces the possibility of the water getting into the engine or the car’s cabin.
d]. Longer suspension travel.
Lift kits for ground clearance fit into the suspension system. This allows the suspension to have a longer travel when the vehicle hits bumps.
Therefore, the suspension system is able to absorb shocks better than in lower ground clearance vehicles. Further, it makes the ride so much more comfortable.
e]. Better load carrying capacity.
High ground clearance vehicles have a better load carrying capacity in comparison to those with low ground clearance. When you carry a load, the vehicle tends to sag a little bit.
However, high ground clearance provides sufficient space for the car suspension to adjust. Therefore, this minimizes the risk of scrapping the undercarriage.
What is the disadvantage of low ground clearance?
The disadvantages of having a vehicle with low ground clearance are the opposite of what the high ground clearance vehicles have.
- Reduction in approach and departure angles.
- A reduction in the load weight carrying capacity.
- Limitation in the capacity to cross water bodies without water entering the engine.
- Fewer wheel and tire selection options.
- Reduction in the suspension travel.
- No off-road capabilities.
How does ground clearance affect a car?
When you consider to adjust your car’s current ground clearance, there is a lot you need to take into consideration. Amongst those things, there is the need to consider the effects of ground clearance on your vehicle.
Ground clearance affects the rate of suspension travel when you hit a bump, pothole or uneven ground. Especially when you’re carrying a significant amount of weight.
Therefore, the ride will be uncomfortable if your vehicle’s ground clearance doesn’t allow a substantial length of suspension travel. Higher ground clearance offers better comfort in comparison to lower ground clearance.
b]. Vehicle handling and stability.
There is a reason why high speed vehicles with racing modifications have a lower ground clearance. Because this allows for better maneuvering and cornering due to a better center of gravity.
Lower ground clearance further reduces any chances of the vehicle rolling. However, high ground clearance minimizes the center of gravity which lowers handling and stability capicity.
c]. Aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.
Vehicle aerodynamics refers to the effects of the interaction between the moving vehicle and moving air. Race cars have a streamlined body and lower ground clearance for better aerodynamics.
Better aerodynamics means that there is a reduction in air drag. The air drag refers to the resistance that the vehicle experiences while moving. The lower the air drag the better the fuel efficiency.
Therefore, vehicles that have high ground clearance, tend to experience more air drag. Because of the high amount of air that moves above and below the vehicle. Therefore, an increase in air drag reduces fuel economy.
d]. Undercarriage protection.
In our introduction, we mentioned that high ground clearance protects parts like transmission, differential and control arms. Because it reduces the chances of scraping against a bump or an obstacle.
Lower ground clearance vehicles are at a higher risk of hitting their undercarriage against curbs when parking and bumps. Further, the risk of damaging their front and rear bumpers due to their low approach and departure angles.
e]. Water fording capacity.
The vehicle’s ground clearance affects the capacity of the vehicle to drive over water bodies. High ground clearance vehicles are at a lower risk of the water entering the engine bay when they drive over water bodies.
In fact, the high ground clearance also minimizes the chances of undercarriage rust that is caused by repetitive drives over water bodies. It also keeps the car body paintjob clean because the dirty water doesn’t reach above the tires.
However, lower ground clearance are at a high risk of having water in their engine when they drive over water bodies. Further, it’s hard to keep your car clean during rainy seasons because dirty water splashes on it. The undercarriage of low ground clearance vehicles is at a higher risk of rusting.
f]. Off-road capabilities.
High ground clearance vehicles perform better off-road in comparison to low ground clearance cars. The high clearance gives an ability to drive over big obstacles without scraping their bumper and undercarriage.
Further, high clearance gives vehicles an ability to get out of mud without getting stuck. In fact, if they get stuck, high clearance vehicles are easier to tow.
However, low clearance vehicles risk scraping their undercarriage and bumpers against high obstacles. Additionally, they get stuck in the mud and they’re harder to tow out of the mud.