Thursday, 29 October 2009

Lowrider Suspension

There are several options that are available to lowrider enthusiasts to achieve the desired 'in the weeds' look. These include dropped spindles, chopping the suspension springs, hydraulic systems and airbag systems. In the modern lowrider culture airbags or hydraulics are usually preferred over dropped spindles or chopped springs since the ride height is adjustable.

Airbag Suspension

The use of airbag technology is now the most common type of suspension modification due to its price and simplicity. A cheap system can cost about $400 to install leading up to about $1000 for a more advanced system.

To create an adjustable ride the coil springs are replaced with a rubber bag that is filled with air from a central reservoir which is filled using an air compressor. To raise the car the bags are inflated with air and to lower the car the bags are deflated. A simple system consists of a air-bags, a compressor, a reservoir and control unit.

It is important not to drive with the suspension completely lowered all the time as it can lead to premature failure of the airbag itself as the rubber will become fatigued. It is also probably dangerous and impractical due to the inability to move the wheels fully as they will be tucked up under the wheel-arches. Conversely riding with the suspension fully raised will lead to a very harsh ride and may cause cracking around the mounting points of the airbags.

While airbags give the ability to adjust the ride height it tends to be slower than its hydraulic counterpart.

Hydraulic Suspension

With a hydraulic installation it is possible to make the jump, bounce and hop due to the speed at which the ride height can be adjusted. In the air-bag system the suspension spring is replaced with a rubber bag that is filled with air in the hydraulic system however the spring is replaced with a bladder that is filled with fluid under immense pressure very quickly. This rapid expansion causes the car to lift very rapidly and depending upon the speed of the flow can cause the car to jump of the ground.

The pumps required to fill the bladders are very power-hungry and often require the lowrider having several batteries to make the system successful. The flow to each bladder, usually at each corner of the car, can be controlled independently using a solenoid valve that can be switched to give the appearance of dancing. In many cases it would be unsafe to be in the car whilst the car is moving so the switches for the solenoids are made externally accessible.

Installing a hydraulic system on a lowrider can be very expensive when compared to the airbag system.

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