A Chevrolet lowrider competes in a dance competition in Los Angeles.

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Lowrider Suspensions

The most common type of suspension for lowriders is an air suspension. In air suspensions, the metal springs are replaced with a very strong rubber bag. The bag is connected to an air reservoir and an air compressor that can inflate or deflate the bag, raising and lowering the car. Air suspensions are popular because they provide a smooth ride and are fairly easy to install. A simple air suspension involves swapping out the springs for air bags, adding a reservoir and compressor, and a control unit. The simplest systems cost around $400 U.S., while a more sophisticated set up can cost more that $1,000 -- just for the parts. The amount and cost of the labor involved depend on the system's complexity.

The most coveted type of suspension is a hydraulic suspension. A hydraulic suspension can quickly raise and lower the car, making it hop and jump -- or dance. Some lowrider shows have dancing car contests.

While an air suspension uses an air bag to replace the springs, a hydraulic suspension uses a hydraulic actuator -- a bladder that can be filled quickly with fluid. It's attached to a compressor, which shoots liquid into the actuator with incredible force, causing it to expand rapidly. Think of it as a small explosion within the actuator. The actuator expands with the force of the fluid entering it and as it does so, it pushes hard on the components around it, causing them to spring away. This is the same principle that you'd use to jump off the ground. You exert a force from your legs against the ground, and that force propels you upward. When the force is removed (because you're no longer touching the ground) you come back down. Actuator systems exert force that causes the car to push against the ground. Since the ground isn't going anywhere, the car goes up.

An actuator system is usually powered by several extra car batteries. In cases where it would be unsafe for anyone to be in the car because it can hop so high, the actuator is controlled by a remote switch. These types of suspensions are complex and expensive. A single actuator (or pump) can cost $500, and at least two (and up to four) are needed for each car. Other necessary components (like batteries) cost extra, and installing such a system is extremely labor intensive.

Both air and hydraulic suspensions are considered height adjustable suspensions, because they can raise or lower the car. However, when most people think of a height adjustable suspension, they are thinking of a suspension that can raise or lower a car slowly, changing its stance before a crowd. This modification allows drivers to raise the car while they are driving it, avoiding imperfections in the road, and lower it when they get to their destination, allowing the car to looks its best.

Lowriders are expensive to build, but how much are they worth? Find out about lowrider prices in the next section.