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too low!

The Ultimate Handling Guide Part V: The One Unforgivable Sin, Overlowering Your Car

By Mike Kojima

I am not Jesus so I don't have to forgive you if you mess things up when setting up your car. I am talking about sin, pure dumb unforgivable sin. No it's not the one that’s talked about in the New Testament that gives clergy fits to explain to lay people, its a big mistake, one that nearly all enthusiasts are unknowingly guilty of that is the most common mistake when modifying a car's suspension.  It’s a sin which so thoroughly screws up handling that it gives engineers fits when trying to explain why this is so to automotive enthusiasts.

To read more suspension tech click here!

hella flush 350z
This is a primo example of Hella Flush. Super low, big offset so wheels are flush with and tucking into fenders.  Although this is unfunctional and the car won't handle well, you gotta admit when done right, it sure looks good...  Photo by Speedhunters.com

This sin is over lowering.  Enthusiasts can hardly help avoiding committing it.  It. is compounded by the efforts of the performance aftermarket. Nearly every company that makes suspension components, even very reputable ones, spew out thousands of sets of lowering springs that are both too low and too soft for optimal handling.  Why do they do this?  Are the engineers at these companies incompetent?   Is it a conspiracy by domestic carmakers to make our cars suck?

Matt Powers
Our buddy Formula D Pro Drifter Matt Powers before we started to help him was the hero of the hella flush fan bois.  By poking fun at this trend we will be lambasted by them as this spreads around the net.

No the enthusiast is to blame for this issue.  The majority of enthusiasts want a low ride height to fill the ugly gap in a car's stock wheel wells.  They also won’t accept a ride that for the most part is a lot harsher than stock.  Macho or not, most typical enthusiasts don’t drive hard enough or well enough to realize that their cars actually handle worse than stock, mistaking reduced roll as better handling.

Matt Powers
Matt killing it.  Look how low his car is!

 

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Comments
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 9:58 AM
Awesome write-up. The hellaflush cancer is the reason I no longer go to Speedhunters.com much.
Nick
Nicklink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 10:55 AM
Great write-up :D
8695Beaters
8695Beaterslink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 11:00 AM
The last owner of my S13 overlowered it. I hit the bumpstops all the time, the understeer is unbearable (it will actually go to oversteer without warning because of the open diff and lack of rear anti-roll bar), and there's no room to fit a bigger tire. The car looks great standing still, but it rides terribly. You can feel the bumpsteer on a rough road. I can't wait to get some real coilovers and fix this beast. It needs to go back up at least 2 inches, and I bet it will be a much better car that doesn't shake itself to bits.

You want a lesson on how bad overlowering is? Stop by North DE sometime, and I'll give you a ride. Did I also mention my car eats tires because I can't set the static camber to zero? The one thing Mike didn't mention is how bad for the suspension parts overlowering (or raising in the case of the DONK crowd) is. The stresses on the suspension parts eats ball joints, tie rod ends, and wheel bearings. It also wear tires very unevenly if you can't compensate for the added camber and toe. I've seen tires with brand new outer shoulders, but belts on the inside after only a few weeks. You know what happens when that tire blows out? Your hellaflush wheel gets chewed up the by the hellabrasive ground, your hellflush tire then rips out your hellaflush fender, and probably knocks out your hellaclose head/tail light. And since mose cars have a wiring harness under the front fender your car stops running because you hellatore up your wiring harness. I've seen the above happen on a stock Pontiac, it gets way worse when you do stupid stuff to your car.
Grunt
Gruntlink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 11:14 AM
lol @ hella flush.
jere
jerelink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 1:34 PM

Great article I love seeing stuff about roll centers and calling out the ricers that still use the word "Hella"

A Sentra SE-R is a typical example of a car that should not be lowered more than an inch. It can be lowered more than that but its suspension design IS happy about it.

a little typo on page 2?
Fly'n_Z
Fly'n_Zlink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 2:04 PM
@ jere, not any more it isn't. I think I made the fix around the same time you were typing your comment :)

A question for Mike: How bad is my setup? It's a 300ZXTT with the Eibach 0.8" lowering springs, brand new adjustable shocks, poly bushings, and Stillen swaybars.
OMG Its Weasel
OMG Its Weasellink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 2:06 PM
holy shit, we need to make HellaFunctional stickers. i think thats about the only sticker i would put on my car.

great article Mike, your suspension tuning prowess is something to be awed.
aj_gilbs
aj_gilbslink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 2:15 PM
HellaFunctional.com has made stickers before. We need to convince him to make some more because I was some as well!
Bob Holmes
Bob Holmeslink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 2:25 PM
Knocked it out of the park, Mike. Well done.
Miles (San Antonio)
Miles (San Antonio)link
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 2:35 PM
Amen. I am soo tired of rolling fenders on the weekends for slammed rides that simply are built for a look and don't perform worth a damn.

The worst is heating and/or cutting springs. Nothing irritates me more than just destroying all the spring rates with slack jaw hacking.

So...so.....tired of this fad. Can't wait till the scene evolves past this and finally comes around to buying higher end items that adopt the "mod for a purpose" mentality.

Wrecked
Wreckedlink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 3:51 PM
I call those cars Hella Fucked. Some of them look good but the majority of them look stupid. When the rear wheels have so much camber you can see daylight under the outside edge of the tire it gets ridiculous.

JDMized
JDMizedlink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 7:31 PM
First of all.
Since Speedhunters has helped to spread the hellaflush virus (although it became popular here in the US few years ago after borrowing the trend from Europe), it should also be noted that ALL the Speedhunters staff members are enthusiasts and photographers, not engineers !

I am NOT taking their side, I am just stating that is no surprise that those people, and their fan, know little to none about suspension and proper setting.

In all honestly I have nothing against this trend perse (yes trend). To each his own.
What I do not like is: when talking to those folks, they come out as they know their shit, and have been "racing" for years (read, race on the street from traffic light to traffic light lol).

In the past few years these Hellaflush-people have taken up Initial D too seriously, going up the local canyon with their slammed-to-the-ground drift cars, destroying their cars, put in danger other drivers and pissing off the local authorities, thank you very much !
Like I said earlier, those people come off as smartasses-I-know-it-all, and with said, I would love to have a Hellafunctional sticker on my bumper.

Great article Mike.
bigdave
bigdavelink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 7:41 PM
I think the whole roof rack trend is just as retarded as the hellaflush shit.
dj06482
dj06482link
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 8:11 PM
Great article!
Steve
Stevelink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 9:33 PM
Great article. Subject near and dear to me. Here's one of my cars:
http://homepage.mac.com/stracy01/.Pictures/V35SYRNY08/syracuse_car_001.jpg
http://homepage.mac.com/stracy01/.Pictures/V35MEMD/DSC00199W.jpg

SO, despite being told how much better it would "look" dropped 1-2", it rides stock(!) ride height, stock spring rates with just Hotchkis sway and PowerGrid end link upgrades. I've also dialed out the retarded level of toe-in in the rear wheels, gaput 275R/245F, NISMO RAYS LMGT4's, backed off the -2.5 rear camber about half a degree. the handling is very good for a DD, and there's already so little clearance under there. If I lowered at all, 0.5" at most.
Plus I keep enough travel to do fun things like WPD at Team O'Neils in the Winter :D
http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/8GajFr2Hrj97Z3ii6lBvEQ

p.s. I raised Dave's old car (B13) just a little when I put on stiffer springs, with 450F/350R I could still feel I wasn't so far from the end of travel and the horrible understeer you get. Drives GREAT - slammed B13's not in my driveway.
LOL you can see a GAP at the fender!
http://picasaweb.google.com/skylinegtr01/WinterB13s#5425233021639088146
Steve
Stevelink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 9:36 PM
@8695Beaters - very good points - the difference in wear rate even with a reasonable rate of lowering is def noticeable. No free lunch, when you start taking cars like the Sentra B13 and setting it up to approach pulling a full g and holding traction, there is no free lunch - I have found just about all the weak links, that's a lot of stress on things like the ball joints, etc.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 9:42 PM
Steve, a 350Z can benefit from a shorter rear bumpstop.

Fly n Z, I think the Eibach prokits for a Z32 are ok but to solve the handling issues of a Z32, you gotta do some complicated stuff. There is way too much rear anti-squat in the suspension geometry and the rear springs are way too soft. Be careful of poly bushings in the front TC rod, they can cause the rod to snap because there is so much bind unless energy redesigned them to allow 3 degrees of freedom.
pcruz
pcruzlink
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 10:15 PM
Iv´e got Road Magnets on my b13 se-r... they lower 1.25 inches, and i feel my rear bumpstops bottoming often.. :(
8695Beaters
8695Beaterslink
Thursday, September 30, 2010 9:54 AM
When I used to change tires, there was a customer who had a Mercury Marquis with 24s. He had to jack it up to fit the tires, but couldn't afford the entire lift kit. He only used the springs to raise the car, and the other guys there told me the story of how they had to compress the living crap out of the springs to get them to fit on the stock struts. He quickly snapped the sway bar links (which are plastic), and a few months later he came in to get one of his cheap rims fixed. When we jacked up the car, the shock shaft snapped in half! Needless to say, the same kinds of forces work in over lowering.

I have RS*R springs on my car and they are so soft I can compress the coils by hand. I have no compression travel and I'd probably be better off putting stock springs back in. For the time being, I'm taking the Frankenmiata route and using super long poly bumpstops.
Wrecked
Wreckedlink
Thursday, September 30, 2010 10:32 AM
http://ll.speedhunters.com/u/f/eagames/NFS/speedhunters.com/Images/Mike%20Garrett/01May/Dai/dai4.jpg

That front wheel looks Hella Flush!!
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Thursday, September 30, 2010 10:53 AM
Dai's car is Hella Functional, Sure the front wheels are flush but the rears are not.

His car has the front end geometry designed to run like that. It looks like he has a big lip and a lot of offset but due to a drift car needing a lot of self aligning torque in the steering, it has has a lot of steering axis inclination so the scrub radius is still a stock like 15-25mm depending on what spacer we use.

The front control arm on his car is spaced lower at the lower ball joint to correct camber curve. It is also a lot longer than stock and places the arm deep into the wheel to increase steering axis inclination and to correct the scrub.

The tie rods are spaced and the steering rack is located so the front wheels only have 1/8" of bump steer through the suspension stroke towards the toe-in side.

A wider front track and more narrow rear track is used to reduce front weight transfer and increase rear weight transfer because of the spool differential and to provide a front leading feel to the car.

Flush is cool when the car is designed to run that way, not forced by slamming it to the ground and screwing around with offset and spacer with no thought to vehicle dynamics. Form follows function.

Thanks to Speedhunters for a cool article, I am kinda embarrassed that somehow I was made the star of the story, not Dai or his crew chief Scott Dodgeion.
Wrecked
Wreckedlink
Thursday, September 30, 2010 2:53 PM
I was just kidding with you.

Unfortunately I don't understand half of what you said above and that annoys me but also inspires me to learn more. THe article is just one step in understanding.Thanks for the knowledge.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Thursday, September 30, 2010 3:14 PM
Keep reading the series, we are going to start getting into geometry soon.
8695Beaters
8695Beaterslink
Thursday, September 30, 2010 8:54 PM
Like most car fads, I think hellaflush came from race cars like Dai's, but without the understanding of how or why it works. Just like the tin foil wings, body kits, and giant rims, its all about looking like a race car.
Steve
Stevelink
Friday, October 01, 2010 10:20 PM
Mike, that's good advice. I also wouldn't mind slightly dropping the rear more relative to the front if I lowered it. But it works very well for a DD even driven pretty hard, once I made some basic changes, none of which required lowering the car - before those it understeered like a pig when you pushed it hard, and had a nasty throttle lift oversteer tendency also when pushing it hard.

The high-300's range spring rates OEM on both my '03 Z and '04 G were also corrected, that helped - IIRC the 2005+ sport suspension and all Z's went to 427 lbs/inch in back. I'll prob put in a set of the 427's from another G when I replace the dampers, which will be soon.

But I still won't drop it ;)
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Saturday, October 02, 2010 8:31 AM
Don't drop the rear relative to the front, its bad for aero and the Z has little rear travel.
yo vanilla
yo vanillalink
Tuesday, October 05, 2010 7:50 PM
i'm no mike kojima but i've tried convincing some of my slammed-loving vw friends with your work to no avail. truth is they just want to be cool at the car show, they know it won't handle like a track car (but dare try telling them it handles worse than stock!!)

actually i bet i'm the only guy alive who RAISED a vw, lolz
abunai s13.5
abunai s13.5link
Wednesday, October 06, 2010 10:48 PM
mike do you have any tips on setting up an s13 for drift ?
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Wednesday, October 06, 2010 10:59 PM
That is a very hard to answer general question. If you have a more specific question I will be glad to answer it.
fat40
fat40link
Tuesday, October 12, 2010 4:23 PM
Hello Mike! I was actually a pretty big fan of hellaflush. Until I read your article that is. Just to clear things up. The more the car is lowered, the worse it gets? I took off about 2.5 inches ever since I bought suspension links and coilovers. This is for my s14.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, October 12, 2010 6:07 PM
I would say that for most cars, 1.5 inches is the max unless the travel issue and geometry is addressed.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, October 12, 2010 10:14 PM
Funny thread on this story for your reading pleasure.

http://www.northwestnissans.com/board/showthread.php?t=117625
Aaron LaBeau
Aaron LaBeaulink
Tuesday, October 12, 2010 10:43 PM
That's really funny! "He does make some good points but it doesn't sway my opinion on "stanced" cars. "
Don Reimus
Don Reimuslink
Monday, November 08, 2010 5:57 AM
You've made a few people mad here, LOL:

http://www.jdmchicago.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12370

Keep up spreading real knowledge!
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Monday, November 08, 2010 10:09 PM
I think I will kill myself...
veilside180sx
veilside180sxlink
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 10:08 PM
Gotta love the locals (NWN), made for a fun thread...lol
yo vanilla
yo vanillalink
Tuesday, December 07, 2010 8:01 PM
Mike, the second and third diagrams on page three are too small to read! Can you fix that or link to larger versions? It would be a lot easier to understand it all!
Lance
Lancelink
Sunday, January 23, 2011 10:38 PM
Mike, thank you for your articles... i've been reading all of them with interest... I'm thinking of modifying my ae92's control arms as well.. where can I purchase those hemispherical bearings as well as the other pieces of the assembly? I understand it's easy to easy to find a hemispherical bearing but the screw, lock pin, etc i have no idea where to purchase them.. thanks!
anotheraznguy
anotheraznguylink
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 1:34 PM
mike, love the articles,
when are you going to tackle
rear anti squat for those w/ multi-link rear suspensions.

Also, how does adjusting the height of the subframe relative to chassis change rear suspension geometry under compression
in regards to the 240sx traction rods without knowing how to adjust them. some insight would be great. in regards to shortening and lenghtening this rod and how it affects changes toe gain in/out but any insight on this would be great.
cvcc driver
cvcc driverlink
Wednesday, November 02, 2011 8:58 PM
The roof rack is ok if you actually use it for what its meant for i have one on my car since i mountain bike regurlarly... but when i go to the car meets thats all i see cars so low than you cant even fit more than 2 people if you want to go up a driveway-_-
Zero 1
Zero 1link
Monday, December 31, 2012 6:37 PM
"most typical enthusiasts don’t drive hard enough or well enough to realize that their cars actually handle worse than stock, mistaking reduced roll as better handling."

That statement is so on the money and to the point. I just became a huge fan of this website and the articles you guys right. After being formally educated about engines and suspension in a tech school and spending over 10 years racing karts, autocross and mountain roads I see this so much in the "tuner" scene it makes me sick.

Glad someone is putting out quality technical information for those that want to learn the right way to setup their cars and enjoy them even more.

Great articles guys.
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