|Piece one together||Other concerns|
How to measure:
Since different tires and tire wear can affect a vehicles height, Spike has requested that all use a standard of measuring heights. This will be measuring from the center of the wheel to the bottom of the fender lip as such:
For more information on measuring this way, as well as the list of actual drop amounts from various kits on Lightnings, please see this thread.
Getting ready(this part submitted by Spike Engineering of F150 online)
The direction of the tire is changed momentarily as it moves thru it's arc. For example, you're on a corner and hit a bump (or are going straight) and although you don't move the steering wheel, the direction of the wheel changes. The stock setup already has a small amount of bump steer. It's very slight, yet if you lower the front suspension it will get worse. If you limit the front end lowering to 1", it won't be bad. It's not bad, but the higher the speed, the easier it is to upset the L.
Lost horsepower from bad driveshaft angles:
If the angle from the driveshaft into the rear axle is off a few degrees and under heavy load, the u-joints bind and horsepower is lost. (Hotchkis drop is about 1 1/2 degrees off, but a 3 1/2 inch drop could be off 4 degrees). If you been around or know anybody with an older CJ-5 Jeep, the guys with excessive lift drop their trannys, shim axles and replace u-joints with CV joints for similar reasons. I did this on my CJ mainly to REDuce vibration and I only had a one inch lift (3" going in sometime this summer). Regarding the lowering and driveline angle, you should have it checked no matter what system you use.
Lateral shifting on the rear axle:
Check out my video of the rear suspension on a corner. It momentarily shifts sideways about 3/4." If the shifting is eliminated, the rear end becomes less unpREDictable. BTW, keep in mind that a portion of the lateral forces are transfeRED thru the shackles.
Alterted performance w/ the different power/weight ratio:
Big topic (actually HUGE). I focus on one SMALL area of it. The Hotchkis suspension, with stock tires, shocks, and sway bars changes the steering "personality" of the truck. It REDuces, if not eliminates understeer, and IMO has too much oversteer. But, it's easily fixed if you adjust tire pressures. When I receive and install the Hotchkis sway bars, it may fix the oversteer problem or not. Stiffening just the front sway bar will help, but if it's too stiff, it may REDuce the oversteer too much. All this occurs because the CG of the truck has shifted and the wt transfer while braking, accel, and/or cornering has been alteRED.
One other item: How the transfer affects the front/rear braking ??
If none of the above matters, ignore it and do whatever you want to your truck. It's yours and have fun with it.(courtesy of Spike of F150 online)
No matter which way ya go, check with someone who's done what you plan on doing for actual drop amount. (this submitted by BOSTONL of F150 online)
Only drawback is once your new coilsprings settle, you have to have a camber kit installed to realign front end to STOP tires and wheels from leaning in like mine did. The stock shims are square and allow for NO adjustment. (this submitted by Showya of F150 online)
The kit cost is around $500 total w/ the belltech nitro drop shocks. The kit can be gotten from the online store.
The kit can be installed yourself, with the hardest part being to remove the rivets on the rear hangers. The drop can be either set at 3/3 (30.5" in front and back from ground to top of wheel well) or 3/4
The Belltech kit is most drop of the kits, as well as being not that expensive but keeping great quality. It is one of the more recommended kits for dropping the lightnings.
With the 3/4 drop from the Belltech kit alot people have complaining about bottoming out in the rear. This problem can be solved with the Western Chasis C-notch kit.
The kit cost is $988.70, and for that price it might be better to spend a little more and get the roush kit.
It lowers your truck about 1-1/4" in the front and 2-1/2" in the rear. The kit includes front springs, an axle relocation and rear leaf spring kit, and 4 new shocks. The kit uses Belltechs 2/3 drop kit, and also used belltech shocks. The axle relocation moves the axel location above the leaf springs. They claim that it elimanates wheel hop, which if it does would be really nice.
Prices range are anywhere from $800 for the kit to $1800 installed, so I guess the best would be to check the dealer.
The kits drop is 3/3.5, and it halves the payload capacity down to 400lbs.
The price will run about $530 for this kit.
The complete kit will consist of front and rear springs, front and rear sway bars, and polyurethane bushings. Though the front and rear swaybars must be purchased Separately from the springs. This kit will give you about a 1/2 drop and is designed to give improved handling, as well as retain the stock payload capacity.
For more information on this kit go to this thread.
Understeer/oversteer: The Hotchkis system is designed well, but without correct valving on the shocks, there is oversteer. It was easily fixed by adjusting the tire pressures. Whether or not the shocks correct this is unknown. Either way, I'll still adjust pressures so it's neutral.(courtesy of Spike of F150 online)
... drag racing traction is worse than the stock system. But, it will outperform a stock Lightning on a road course with the same tires and equal drivers.(courtesy of Spike of F150 online)
My truck before / and after.top
So-Cals' kit goes for about $800.00 and it includes Eibach Springs and shorter bump stops for the front; BellTech hangers, a new replacement leaf and shorter bump stops for the rear. It was designed so that you could keep the stock shocks or change to new ones.
So Cal says their kit will lower the front by 1.75" and the back by 2.5" on a lightning. They also say that it will keep the factory payload of 800lbs.
Western Chasis: A-arms and C-notch (This whole section courtesy of DJY of F150 online)
Western Chassis lower 2 inch A-arms Part #2319: which includes include ball joints / urethane bushing / zerks / and end links. These A-arms give a Lightning a 1 inch more drop.
Western Chassis C-section kit part #2129: this C-sections kit included 2 Bolt-on Heavy-Duty 1/4" Plate for both sides of the frame, nuts and bolts, and 2 new urethane bump stops.
"To install the C-section kit I used a Plasma cutter to cut the frame on both sides and a Hammer drill with good bits to drill 12 holes on each side of the frame."
The following link is to a thread which contains pictures of the C-notch kit from RobG's truck.Pics of c-notch
Put together your own
Piecing together different kits seams to be the cheapest way to drop these trucks.
Shackles - Can be found for anywhere from $40 to $80 and they will lower the rear by 2", which is just enough to level the truck. Belltech, AIM and Western all make shackles, but Belltech seems to be the most well liked. 2" rear shackles can still be used w/ stock shocks.
... the shackles will lower the CG AND shift the weight to the rear. Thus, more weight will be on the rear and without a panhard bar, it will get a little more sloppy. It'll move about 3/4' to 1" in a lateral direction which causes the rear to steer itself somewhat.(courtesy of Spike of F150 online)
Front coils - Eibach springs seem to be the most popular. Drops can be anywhere from 1" to 3" from coils, depending on the manufacturer and amount your looking for. Since our Lightnings are already lowered from the factory, any coil springs that are used to lower F150's we will not give us the amount of lowering the springs claim, unless they are specifically made for the lightnings.
Also for front coils Stan (Ruslow)sells them. I don't know to much about his, but he does so mail him
How swaybars work? Well this is from the back of Addco endlink package:
Swaybar endlinks - Recent concerns have been brought up about using the stock endlinks on lowered vehicles. When the vehicle is lowererd and the stock endlinks are in place, the angle of the swaybar is changed, therefor making it operate outside of the specs it was designed to work in. Basically it becomes less efficient, exactly how much I don't know. This can be correct by installing new endlinks that are short based on the drop you have. The first thing is to know the exact amount your vehicle was dropped (refer to drop refrence thread above or measure before/after). The amount dropped is the amount the endlinks need to be shortened. The stock endlinks for the front are 4 5/8" from center to center, and the rears is 7 1/4" from center to center
For instance if you have a true 1"/2" drop the the front endlinks need to shortened by 1", and the rears by 2". The length of the front endlink would be 3 5/8" and the rear would need to be 5 1/4".
Where to get them? For the front - Surprisingly this is something that alot of PepBoys have. I believe Pep Boys caries Addco and Prothane. Energy Suspension also makes them. Once you know the size you need just head up there to find them. Here is a list of part numbers that you could reference.
The rear endlinks are alittle bit more of a pain. Either make your own or you can get a set . Try So Cal Speed shop. Making your own involves removing the stock endlinks, cut out a chunk equal to the length needed to shorten it, and then welding it back together. Sleeving it is also recommended for added strengh. Heres a pic of basic modified stock endlink:
Camber kits - These cambolt kits need to be installed for proper alignment when you drop the front. The lightnings have a little plate on the upper A-arms that was installed for quick alignment of the mass production of these vehicles. That plate and bolt needs to be removed and replaced with a special bolt kit so that the alignment can be set properly. This is the cam bolt kit: