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How Lowriders Work

By: Jamie Page Deaton  | 

Lowrider Life

Lowriders are social cars meant to be shown, shared and enjoyed.
Lowriders are social cars meant to be shown, shared and enjoyed.
John Lund/Blend Images/Getty Images

Because of their modifications, lowriders have some special needs that make them a little more difficult to own and drive than other cars. The rubber bladders in the suspensions are tough, but they must be checked for leaks. If the suspension is adjustable, it uses hoses to raise or lower the car, and those hoses can spring a lot of leaks. And while making a car hop or dance looks cool, it's actually pretty rough on the car (just like jumping up and down repeatedly on a hard surface can damage a person's joints or bones).

Rough roads and speed bumps are particularly hard on lowriders, unless the car has a height adjustable suspension. A car with a lowered suspension (or an adjustable suspension in the lowered position) doesn't have the space the suspension needs to move when it encounters a bump or dip in the road. That leaves the car vulnerable to scraping its undercarriage, or everything underneath the car. Scraping the undercarriage repeatedly, or scraping it particularly hard, can lead to some expensive damage to the frame, exhaust system and suspension.

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Aside from avoiding bumps, lowriders don't drive much differently from other cars. While lowering a car's suspension typically leads to improved handling, that usually isn't the case for lowriders. Though lowering the car's center of gravity makes it more stable, other suspension modifications, like upgraded anti-sway bars (which contribute to vehicle steering and control) are needed to make the car handle better. Common lowrider air or hydraulic setups don't help much with maneuvering since their point is to make the car look cool. And since lowriders tend to be built out of old, large cars, they don't handle too well to begin with. Gas mileage is another consideration: Suspension modifications add a lot of weight to the car, which has a negative impact on fuel economy. But, since most lowriders are show cars, not commuters, most owners don't worry about how well they corner or how many miles per gallon they get.

Though laws vary, most states don't regulate modifications that can be made to cars -- as long as the car can pass a safety inspection. Some lowriders get into trouble for having windows tinted too darkly, or playing a stereo too loudly, but beyond that, most states let people modify their cars however they wish. But before buying or building a lowrider, you should investigate the laws in your state to see what, if any, issues you might run into.

To learn more about lowriders and car suspensions, cruise over the links below.

Lowrider FAQ

What does lowrider mean?
A lowrider is a car or truck that's had its suspension modified so that the car rides lower to the ground.
What is the point of a lowrider?
Lowriders first entered car culture sometime in the 1940s, but as long as people have been modifying cars, they've lowered or raised the suspension to change the car's performance or look.
How much does a lowrider cost?
Lowrider prices vary widely and depend on the car's condition, the modifications, and the type of car that was modified. Some cost as little as $2,000 to $3,000, while especially desirable models with top-notch technology cost as much as $20,000.
Are lowriders legal?
Lowriders are illegal in some states.
What kind of car is a lowrider?
Technically, any car or truck that's had its suspension modified to ride lower to the ground is a lowrider. However, certain models are more popular as lowriders than others. Popular models for modification include Chevrolet Impalas from the 1960s and 1970s, Chevrolet Monte Carlos from the 1980s, Buick Regals, and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supremes.

Originally Published: Mar 31, 2008

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Sources

  • Cabrera, Marc. "Lowrider car show celebrates mystique of custom car culture, lifestyle" March 17, 2008. Monterey County Herald. http://www.montereyherald.com/local/ci_8600290
  • Car Bibles.com. "Suspension Bible." http://www.carbibles.com/suspension_bible.html
  • Hamilton, Frank. "How to build a Lowrider." Voyageur Press, Minnesota. 1997.
  • Elliot, Kev. "Rear suspension and Chassis Tuning." Road and Custom Magazine. http://www.rodandcustommagazine.com/howto/4928/index.html
  • Penalnd, Paige. Lowrider. Motorbooks, 2003.
  • Vargas, Saul. "Baggin' A Bomb." Lowrider Magazine. http://www.lowridermagazine.com
  • Size Matters -- Hydrotech. Lowrider Magazine. http://www.lowridermagazine.com/tech/lrmp_0707_hydrotech/index.html

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