In Summary

Some drivers are forced to raise their cars to get better ground clearance. However, what happens to a car when you raise it?

Elisha Ojwang, a businessman, bought a Toyota Wish in June 2018. He liked it because it not only had a component of a family car to carry a reasonable number of passengers but its fuel consumption was also low. It was one he could handle. But because he used the same car for upcountry trips, he found it too low.

“I have a friend who tipped me that it was possible to raise the height of the car. It was successfully done but whenever I would be on a highway driving above 100 km/hour, the car would become unstable which would force me to drive slowly. It would at times rub against big humps,” Ojwang recalls.

In December 2018, he sold the Toyota Wish and bought a Toyota Kruger that has a much better ground clearance.

How cars are raised
Paul Kaganzi, a mechanic at Duke’s Garage in Naalya, a Kampala suburb, explains that the commonest way of raising or increasing a car’s ground clearance, which he observes is not correct, is using spacers by fitting them between the shock absorbers and the car body. Car ground clearance means the gap between a car’s body and the road surface.

These spacers are fitted on top of the mounting plate which supports or holds the upper car body and are usually a few millimetres above the mounting plate to raise the height of the car. The problem with raising your car is that ordinarily, every car is designed to run a particular purpose. The suspension system is manufactured with different components such as the control arms, lateral arms, suspension link and anti-role bars. Each of these components comes designed to run at a certain tolerance.

“The car suspension system has limits and if you exceed the limits by raising your car, it becomes unstable. Chances are, you are going to overturn the car. Its suspension system is supposed to be articulate as you drive. When you apply spacers on your car, it stretches the suspension and it loses its ability to contract and expand and because of this, when you drive on an uneven road surface, the car just bounces,” Kaganzi explains.

Advantages of raising a car
Edward Jagwe, a mechanic at Luck Santos Garage along Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road, explains that due to the nature of potholed Ugandan roads, characterised with high speed humps, raising a car prevents damage to parts such as the suspension system that are costly to repair or replace.

The other advantage of raising a car, according to Jagwe, is that it can be driven in any kind of terrain whether on slippery dirt or potholed roads.

“When a car is raised, its gearbox plate can never get damaged by hitting high speed humps or pavements accidentally even if one is driving at a high speed,” Jagwe says. He adds that it may not as well be easy for a car to slide off a wet dirt road and that its rims may not fracture or even tyres getting torn when a driver hits a hard rock. “When you raise your car, you should also change the tyre size,” he says.

Effects of raising your car
It becomes easy to roll the car off the road because the tolerance is exceeded and it would not bounce back. For instance, if you are driving through a corner, the car should be able to sway and adapt to a change in motion of the suspension system if it has not been raised. When you drive over an uneven road after raising your car, it will bounce. This, therefore, means that your raised car will lose road stability.

Also, as a result of raising your car, you keep the suspension strained. This also leads to increased wear and tear. When you apply spacers, your suspension components wear out prematurely and this also means that your maintenance costs will automatically shoot up because the suspension component will be replaced much sooner than you should have.

Sometimes, the spacers are not bolted on the car properly and end up breaking.
Denis Agaba, a mechanic, says some of the cars that are mostly raised to improve their ground clearance are salon cars. These include Toyota Mark II, Toyota Mark X, Toyota Wish and Altezzas, Toyota Corolla (new model, not the one locally known as kikumi) Mercedes Benz salon cars, especially those in C and S-classes such as Mercedes Benz C180 and C200 and S350, among others. In rare cases, some Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) such as Toyota TX and Toyota double cabins are also raised.

Safe ways to raise a car
Kaganzi advises: “Each manufacturer provides a range of tyre sizes that can safely work on the car. If you fit tyres sizes that are too high beyond the design of the car, it will not steer because they will be touching the suspension and the wheel arch.”

If you check around the car door pillar and sometimes on the fuel flap, the manufacturer indicates alternative tyre sizes ranging from the highest to the lowest. Some motorists like low tyre profiles with big rims while others like big tyre profiles with smaller rims. The tyre is narrower but higher.

Regardless, you can achieve almost the same effect in terms of ground clearance as one who prefers a spacer which makes the car unsafe when you use the right tyre sizes. They (right tyres) will allow the suspension carry out its purpose of articulation and adaptation to changing road conditions easily.

Effects of raising your car
• The car suspension system has limits and if you exceed the limits by raising your car, it becomes unstable.

• When you apply spacers on your car, it stretches the suspension and it loses its ability to contract and expand.

• It becomes easy to roll the car off the road because the tolerance is exceeded and it would not bounce back.

• As a result of raising your car, you keep the suspension strained which leads to increased wear and tear.