There are a lot of different reasons to consider changing the ride height of a car. Maybe the back is too high. Maybe the front is too low. Maybe the whole car is too high or too low.

There are a lot of ways to change your vehicle’s ride height, but this article is about making relatively small changes. We’re not talking about low riders or slammed sport trucks here—instead, we’re dealing with incremental changes to fix a ride height issue.

(Image/Wayne Scraba)

Six of the most common ways to lower or raise a car (without torsion bars—that’s another story altogether) is via cut coils, re-arched leaf springs, coil spring spacers, lowering blocks, revised tire height (diameter), and/or dropped spindles.

All come with their own pros and cons, but actually there’s nothing wrong with any of these methods—provided the work is done right.


1. Cutting Coil Springs

Cutting coils isn’t difficult. This spring shown with the spring compressor was sliced significantly, and it looks like it was accomplished with a cut-off wheel. I removed it from a car I had purchased. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

First things first: Don’t use a torch to cut a coil (usually a half a coil is the goal), unless you really know what you’re doing! There’s a good chance you’ll destroy the spring.

If you do use an acetylene torch to cut the spring, be absolutely positive you do not quench the spring. Allow it to air cool slowly.  On a similar note, don’t use a torch to droop a coil. You’re only asking for trouble. It also possible to use a cut off wheel to remove a half coil, and most likely the most common method in use.


2. Re-Arching Leaf Springs

Leaf springs can also be modified, but obviously not by cutting. This set of new springs weren’t arched exactly identical. See the next photo. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

Rear leaf springs obviously can’t be cut, but it is possible to add or remove arch. Case-in-point is the leaf spring on the writer’s Nova seen in the photos. One of the new back springs had more arch than the other, when measured out of the car on the shop floor.

One of the springs had an arch of 6.25 inches. The other measured 6.75 inches. The fix was easy enough. I had a spring shop take out a half inch of arch on the taller spring. Re-arching can also go the other direction by adding arch as needed. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

The fix was rather simple: I took the assembly to a local spring shop and asked them to take slightly more than a half inch out of one of the springs. It was completed in less than a day. It looked exactly the same, aside from slightly less arch. The car now sits level side to side.


3. Coil Spring Spacers

I found these OER rubber spring spacers at They’re reproductions of the spacers GM used on first generation Camaros and other cars. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

There are all sorts of coil spring spacers out there. The good spacers are those that fit on one end of the spring. The ones to avoid are those old ugly “adjusters” that screwed in from each side of the spring (and you won’t find those sold by Summit Racing).

You’ll note the spacers are designed to work with an OEM spring pigtail. That’s why they’re blocked off on one end. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

Spacers are available in poly, rubber, or metal (some are actually aluminum). It might not be common knowledge, but back in the day GM used rubber spacers to adjust ride height on a large number of cars, right on the production line.

The measured thickness dimension is 0.500 inch, but that is reduced somewhat by the compression of the rubber. This worked out to 3/4 of an inch or so total increase in ride height on my Nova—keeping in mind the thickness of a front spring spacer increases the overall ride height by a factor of approximately two, according to the folks at Global West. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

The spacers were used instead of different springs to set the ride height for different option combinations. Here’s something to consider on a front coil spring: The amount of “lift” you gain is approximately double the true thickness of the spacer.

Some aftermarket coil springs do not have a regular pig tail. Instead, they’re flat like a valve spring. In order to use a spacer on such a combination you likely need to remove the closed end. It’s easy enough to remove it with a common cut-off wheel. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

So, for a 0.375 inch spacer, the front of the car will come up 3/4 of an inch or so. A one inch spacer raises it approximately two inches. For some applications, where the car needs to be leveled side-to-side, you can use an appropriately sized spacer in one of the coils.

These are Global West spring spacers. They’re made from aluminum, and are effectively one inch high—which according to Global West, should raise the nose of a car by two inches. (Image/Wayne Scraba)
Here’s a side view of the spacer. Global West also manufactures spring spacers for the rear of GM and other coil spring cars. In the rear, a one inch spacer raises the car one inch. (Image/Wayne Scraba)


4. Lowering Blocks

Another way to lower the rear of a leaf spring car is by way of lowering blocks. These lowering blocks from Calvert Racing are manufactured from steel. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

Lowering blocks for leaf springs are also perfectly acceptable. They’re even used in some NHRA Stock Eliminator cars as tuning tools (Calvert Racing manufactures blocks just for this application). There’s a wide range of lowering blocks manufactured in both aluminum and steel.

On the rear of a leaf spring car, the thickness of the block determines the amount the car is lowered. As a result, a half inch block like this will lower the ride height by half an inch. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

When using a lowering block, you’ll most likely need to use a set of longer U-bolts. Blocks are available individually or in kit format (with the correct length U-bolts). Some manufacturers suggest you pin the blocks to the spring perch (or if they’re steel, tack weld them).


5. Tire Diameter

Tire diameter plays a big role in your ride height and suspension setup. Read more about Establishing a Baseline Street Car Chassis Setup here. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

A ride height adjustment can be made easily if you simply swap tires. For example, the front tire on the writer’s Nova is a P205-70R15. It measures 26.3 inches tall. If I swap to a P205-75R15, the tire height goes up to 27.1 inches in diameter. On the car, that simple change raises the nose by almost half inch. Similarly, a P215-75-R15 has an overall diameter of 27.7 inches. That would make for a lift of approximately 3/4 inch. Obviously, if you reduce the diameter, then you’ll get a drop.


6. Dropped Spindles Or Aftermarket A-Arms

Here’s a pair of drop spindles from Classic Performance. (Image/Summit Racing)

Currently, there are over 200 different dropped spindle assemblies at, covering everything from Mustangs to Tri-Five Chevys to pickup trucks. The amount of drop varies from vehicle to vehicle (application) and from manufacturer to manufacturer. The most common, however is a drop between two and 2.50 inches. 

You may also appreciate this article from Jeff Smith: What’s the Best Way to Lower the Front Ride Height of a 1970 Chevy Nova?

Something you might not consider is that many aftermarket A-arm kits actually have the lower A-arm spring pocket dropped. For example, the spring pocket in the writer’s Nova (Detroit Speed A-arms) measures almost one inch lower than stock. In turn, this drops the nose of the car significantly. And Detroit Speed isn’t the only company that provides A-arms with dropped pockets. It’s best to check with the manufacturer to ensure you’re on the same page when it comes to ride height.


All told, there are all sorts of ways to raise or lower the nose or tail of your car. We’ve stayed away from old band-aids such as air shocks, shock extensions, and longer than stock shackles. As you can see, it’s easy enough to gain incremental changes in ride height with the pieces mentioned above.

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Author: Wayne Scraba

Wayne Scraba is a diehard car guy and regular contributor to OnAllCylinders. He’s owned his own speed shop, built race cars, street rods, and custom motorcycles, and restored muscle cars. He’s authored five how-to books and written over 4,500 tech articles that have appeared in sixty different high performance automotive, motorcycle and aviation magazines worldwide.