You are on a road trip having fun with friends, and then suddenly hit a speed bump, and your car bottoms out.
The sound of your car scrapping on the road is enough to make you cringe.
When your car bottoms out, it is a warning sign that your suspension system has a problem.
The suspension system of your car aids in keeping your car level despite the kind of road you are driving on. So, when your car suspension bottoms out, it is due to compressed springs, which can damage your vehicle undercarriage.
So is bottomed-out car something to cause you alarm?
Definitely yes; in case the suspension of your car has bottomed out, look for better quality springs to replace them to avoid reoccurrence and risks involved.
Do you want to learn more about a bottomed-out car?
Read this article further.
Bottomed Out Car Meaning?
Bottoming out means that your vehicle’s springs have compressed fully, causing them to come in contact with the bump stop, hence making the clunking noise.
In other words, bottoming out means you have put a lot of force on the underside of your car.
If driving at high speed, bottoming out is likely to cause a lot of damage than when driving at a low speed.
When it comes to vehicles, there are two types of bottom out;
- Springs compress fully and collapse into each other
This type of bottoming out results from low-quality springs with low spring loads.
When your car’s springs bottom out, it causes damage to the shocks, steering as well as springs.
This type of bottom out is severe enough; hence you will need to replace the springs and take your vehicle for alignment.
- The underside of your car scratch against the surface of the road
This type of bottom-out occurs if your vehicle rides very low or carries too much load, many passengers, and heavy luggage in the boot.
When the bottom out occurs, it is likely to cause damage to underside parts like the oil sump, bumper, exhaust system, and muffler of your vehicle. If the bottom out occurs when driving at high speed, ensure you check the underside; however, there might be no damages if it happens when driving at low speed, so your car is just fine.
What Causes a Car To Bottom Out?
Is your car bottoming out?
Here are the common causes;
1. The Spring Load Is Too Low
When the spring load is too low, it is an indication that it is not taking much weight to allow for full compression of your vehicle’s springs.
Therefore, your vehicle will probably bottom out on the road bumps when ferrying two passengers.
2. Too Much Load in Your Car
Your car is likely to bottom out if you pack it to the brim with total passengers, loads in the boot, and a tank with full gas.
You should not underestimate that much weight even for stock cars, not just lowered vehicles.
Therefore, when you know very well that you are carrying too much load, make sure you slow down on every bump on your way.
3. The Car Ride is Too Low
It is cool to drive in a low ride, but it is not fun when you have to move on a pavement with bumps.
When your car ride is too low, it will bottom out on every bump you come across. I would therefore recommend if you have to lower your car, don’t go below 1.5”.
Please note that shocks don’t result in your car bottoming out; it is the fault of your spring.
The function of the shocks is only to control movement after compression of the springs. The shocks also ensure the car bounces comfortably after the bump.
How Do I Stop My Car From Bottoming Out?
Here are the ways to ensure your car does not bottom out;
1. Avoid Low-Quality Springs
Avoid buying the cheapest springs for your car. It is not like you should get your vehicle the most popular type of springs but get the standard ones.
To most drivers, the spring load is not a significant concern; the reason you will find is that most manufacturers rarely advertise their spring loads.
If your car is consistently bottoming out, ensure you replace the springs.
2. Go Slow on Speed Bumps
If you make it a habit of going slow on bumps, you will avoid many risks and damages.
Going at a very speed on bumps makes the damage caused by the bottoming out severe while slowing down at bumps will be safer, and you will be fine.
So, ensure you go slowly on speed bumps to avoid bottoming out and the risks involved.
3. Remove Unnecessary Loads
If your trunk has any extra unnecessary items, ensure you remove them.
Carrying too many extra loads increases the chances of bottoming out and reduces fuel efficiency.
Having more loads means you will need more power to propel the vehicle.
So, remove the extra loads to save on your fuel and avoid bottoming out.
4. Don’t Go Too Low on Ride Height
If you have to lower your car, don’t go too low because it makes it stiffer and causes the vehicle to bottom out.
If you fancy lower rides, ensure you don’t go below 1.5.”
Parts at Risk When You Bottom Out Over Bumps/Curb
Many people enjoy the feeling of momentarily leaving the ground when they hit a bump while driving. Unfortunately, this fun comes at a price, and your car’s suspension often pays that price. When you bottom out, your car’s suspension system is put under immense stress, which can cause damage to a variety of parts. Here are just a few examples:
Shocks and Struts
The shocks and struts are two of the most important components in your car’s suspension system. These car parts work together to absorb the impact of bumps in the road, which helps to keep your car from bouncing around. However, the shock absorbers can be damaged if you bottom out over a big bump.
The oil pan containing your car’s oil may be damaged if you bottom out. Damage to the oil pan can affect the amount of engine oil. Because oil lubricates and cools all the engine’s moving parts, the correct amount of oil is necessary for a car’s engine to operate efficiently. Insufficient oil creates internal component friction, resulting in costly damage and early engine failure. Common indicators of a leaking oil pan include:
- Oil puddles under the vehicle.
- Oil leaks near the oil drain plug.
- Visible damage
- Oil warning indicator light
The control arms are linked to the chassis at one end and to the wheel at the other. The control arm allows the suspension to move up and down, while at the same time keeping the car wheels in contact with the ground. This helps to provide a smooth ride and improve handling.
There are typically two control arms in a vehicle’s suspension system – one on each side.
The front splitter often suffers the biggest damage when the car bottoms out. While your vehicle can withstand minor and infrequent crashes, the splitter may shatter with time, resulting in costly repairs.
In certain vehicles, the splitter may be replaced quite readily and affordably. In certain vehicles, however, the splitter is an integral part of bigger parts, such as the fascia or bumper, which can be extremely expensive to repair.
The wheel bearings are another important part of your car’s suspension system. They help to ensure the tires are in alignment and prevent them from wobbling.
A bottomed-out car is an issue of concern. If you have experienced your car bottoming out, you should inspect to determine the underlying cause. It might have been due to your car being too low, too much load, or the spring load is very low.
If you are driving at high speed, a bottomed-out car can result in massive damage to the springs, exhaust pipes, muffler, steering, and car oil sump. However, if your car bottoms out when driving at a low speed, you will be fine, and no adverse damage will occur.
To determine if any damages happened, you should check the underside of your vehicle for any cracks or anything left hanging.
At the same time, you should use the tips in this article to stop your car from bottoming out again.
Be safe and enjoy your ride.
Hi I’m Marshall based in 1478 Doctors Drive Santa Monica, CA. I’m your DIY Car Repairman with more than 5 years experience in automobile repair, a skill I learned from my old man.
I started this blog to share my experience on both simple and technical aspects of your car.