The Lowering Lowdown
I want to lower my 1500 Dodge Ram 2WD quad cab pickup using 2-inch drop coil springs and 2-inch drop leaf spring shackles. My question is, How will this affect my ride quality? Do I have to change the shocks due to the 2-inch drop? I plan on realigning the frontend after the install of the coil springs. I am a service tech at a local Dodge dealership, so I have use of the alignment rack. I don't want to buy one of those 2- to 4-inch drop kits. I've seen trucks where the back end looks lower than the front. I want the musclecar look where the back is a little higher than the front. Thanks in advance and keep up the great work on the coolest mag on sport trucks.
Jeff La Porte
Liverpool, New York
A 2/4-inch drop will get you the stance you're looking for. Dropping the nose 2 inches and only dropping the rear 2 inches won't lower the rear enough to get the cool performance look. As for ride quality, any time you lower the ride height, you have less suspension travel with which to absorb road shocks, so, yes, your truck will ride a little firmer. But it doesn't have to ride harsh. A good set of premium shocks combined with trimmed bumpstops can provide a reasonable ride with a 2/4 drop.
We'd recommend a 2/4 drop kit, but if you're avoiding because of cost, we say you'd be better off saving up and doing it right. A 2/4-inch drop is usually accomplished with either a spindle or a coil swap up front and a shackle/hanger replacement out back. It's by far the least intrusive to your suspension, can be done with no modification to the frame, and creates very few clearance problems. By now, all domestic truck manufacturers have switched to the inverted type of ball joints in their control arm frontends. Instead of the lower ball joint pin pointing up, as in older trucks, it points down. This new configuration makes it difficult to use a dropped spindle because of pin-to-wheel clearance problems.
A dropped spindle has its stub axle mounted higher in relation to the ball joint mounting locations. By locating the wheel higher in relation to the ball joints, the front of the truck ends up closer to the ground, usually 2 inches. According to Rhonda Reinhardt of Western Chassis in Fresno, California, this method is probably the safest way to lower your truck because, through the use of the spindle, your truck retains its factory suspension travel and, more importantly, proper frontend geometry. The frontend can be aligned to stock specifications, and no undue stress is put on any of the frontend components. Reinhardt also says you can gain an additional 2 inches of drop with the addition of a 2-inch-shorter coil. With the additional drop of 2 inches in the coil, you can use the stock-length shocks and still maintain a respectable ride quality. Although stock shocks can be retained, Reinhardt recommends changing to a shorter, gas-charged shock any time you lower your truck more than 2 inches through the use of springs.
The newer-style ball joint configuration brings a whole new set of problems to lowering the front suspension. The diminished clearance between the ball joint pin and wheel rim, as mentioned before, now makes a dropped spindle much more difficult to engineer. Most companies have gotten around this problem by developing dropped control arms. A dropped control arm has a deeper spring pocket than a stock one and will allow a 2-inch drop with the same attributes as a spindle. The arms are engineered to maintain proper frontend geometry and will allow the truck to be aligned to factory specs.
According to Craig Marder of Belltech, depending on the application, the company's spindles use a specially engineered reverted lower ball joint and the factory stub axle and hub assembly, and are engineered to maintain factory alignment specs with a full 2-inch drop.
The company also flips the upper control arm to facilitate the use of its spindle, and with a dropped coil, a drop of as much as 5 inches can be achieved. The rear suspension is easily modified with the use of longer spring shackles and dropped hangers to lower the rear as much as 4 inches for a mild drop. It's recommended that shorter shocks be used because the stock ones could bottom-out.
For more information on suspension mods, follow this link to our Web site's tech article archive: www.sporttruck.com/techarticles/1383/index.html