Can Your Truck Do the Carolina Squat? Should It?

By: Kristen Hall-Geisler  | 

school bus, Carolina Squat
This former school bus is doing the Carolina Squat. Joey Newcombe/Flckr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

You have to admit right up front that the name "Carolina Squat" does not sound appealing. It sounds like it might involve a bodily function. But once you know that it's a way to jack up the front of a pickup truck and lower the rear, it makes more sense. Sort of.

You've probably seen vehicles that are lifted or lowered. Lifted trucks, for instance, have massive tires and a suspension that lifts the frame up away from the ground. This can give the truck extra inches of clearance for off-roading, or it can just be a way to look cool. Lowered cars, on the other hand, have smaller tires, and the frame sits as close to the ground as possible. The fender flares sometimes overlap the tops of the tires, these cars are so low. This gives the car a lower center of gravity and better handling, or it can just be a way to look cool.

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Which brings us to the Carolina Squat, where the front end of a pickup or SUV is lifted and the rear is lowered. It gives the whole vehicle a kind of rakish angle. It can lend a slight advantage in very specific Baja racing circumstances, but it's mostly just a way to look cool.

Where squatted trucks originated is up for debate. Some claim that it started in California with Baja racers who wanted the rear of the truck to land first when they took jumps. There, it was called the California Lean or the Cali Lean. But once social media got its eyeballs on these squatted trucks, the trend spread far and wide.

Another theory says that drag racers were trying to get more weight over the truck's drive wheels in the rear. In either case, the look is most popular now in the south, where it's also known as a truck lean or a Tennessee Tilt.

A lifted truck isn't great for maneuvering into parking spaces, and a lowered car isn't great for going up even the slightest incline without scraping the front end. But otherwise they're still pretty drivable day to day. A squatted truck, however, is not great on regular roads. The raised front makes it harder for the driver to see over the hood. The headlights are pointed at the sky instead of the road, making it harder to drive after dark. And you can't tow a trailer or haul anything in the bed.

Given its visibility issues, the fact that the upward-pointing headlights can blind oncoming drivers, and the possibility that a collision with a normal passenger car and the front of a squatted truck could be disastrous, the state of North Carolina has outlawed these vehicles. The text of the law says that the front fender cannot be 4 or more inches (10 or more centimeters) higher than the back fender. If you get caught three times in a year, your license can be revoked. Neighboring South Carolina is looking into a similar ban.

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