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DIY Lowering with factory air suspension Step by step with photo's

Discussion in 'Model S: Driving Dynamics' started by tony2fingers, Jun 4, 2013.

  1. tony2fingers

    tony2fingers Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2013
    Messages:
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    Location:
    san jose
    So i lowered my car using the factory sensors and factory links. i only went about 3/4 - 1 inch all around. when i originally ordered the car, i assumed buying and installing springs would run around 900-1400 aftermarket (if it was even available, my ls460 too almost a year after they released the car before aftermarket springs were available) and its non adjustable without taking off the rims and adjusting the coil overs.

    At a $1500 option the adjustable air ride was a no brainer. even set at low with the factory setup, it still wasn't as low as i wanted to go (esp with 22's installed) , but with the in dash adjustable air ride, this is the perfect set up cause i can park it low and dive it high.

    I just wished they had a setting to set it automatically at speeds that was user adjustable. Ie.. parked, slam to ground like a range rover ( how sick is it when your car kneels for you when you walk up!!!) and raise back up to a preset height when your driving at a certain speed. maybe in tesla model S v2.0 huh.. lol

    I do realize that there are going to be some people that are going to say leave it stock, your going to mess up the alignment, your not suppose to do that, blah blah blah, you know where this is going so please save it for another thread. this is my car, this is how i like it, if your interested in doing the same and save some time and money, keep reading, if not, no one is holding a gun to your head to force you to do what im doing or forcing you to keep reading right?

    oh yeah, this took me a whole hour and half to get done so not much work at all if you have the right tools. if i needed to do it again, knowing what i know now, probably would take me about an hour max.

    here we go. step 1: Jack up the car on one side using the jack points (remember to set the suspension to "jack" mode)

    I had taken off the front wheels to do an HID install which made it easier but its not absolutely necessary. if you noticed the first sensors i did, i drilled out two holes since i wasn't sure where the first position was going to lower it. i reassembled the tires to the car and had to re-set the position on the first sensor and did all that with the tire on so im sure that it can be done without taking the tires off the car. You do need to jack up the car from the jack points, (don't jack up the car from the suspension) since jacking up the car from the jack points allows the front wheels clearance for you to reach the height sensors. photo 5.JPG photo 1-5.JPG

    once the wheels are off you see the sensors like these. the first pix are the front sensor, second pix are the rears. make sure you have a 10mm deep socket to take off the nut that hold in the sensor. for some unknown reason, tesla decide to use a bolt that was about 8 times longer than necessary to hold in the sensor. also for another unknown reason, teslamotorclub decides to rotate some of my photo's 90 degrees counter clockwise so if you were laying down sideways in bed while reading, or if you had a real bad kink in your neck to the left, these photos might make sense. lol

    Step 2: remove sensors and mark and your drill hole positions.
    I found it easiest to stick a screwdriver in the lock notch of the wiring for the sensor and push to get the wiring off. 10mm deep socket to get the nut in front off, bolts in the back off. then hold the linkage in one hand and sensor arm in the other and twist to get the plastic buckle/knuckle thingy off. (yes that a technical term, buckle/knuckle thingy) photo 1-2.JPG photo 3-3.JPG photo 4-3.JPG

    Normally, on aftermarket kits that use lowering links, they give you a set of turnbuckles that are adjustable. the longer you make the links, the higher the car thinks it is so in turn it will lower the car to get the sensors to the correct position.

    In this case, instead of going out to buy new links to trick the sensor, i reset the mounting points on the sensor side.

    I remember my teacher in trigonometry class many many moons ago saying something about fulcrums and angles and what not. some of that applies here to what im doing.....i think....

    In laymen's terms, closer the mounting point=longer virtual link=lower car.

    If you notice the first picture, i have the first mounting point marked and drilled at exactly 7mm from the CENTER of the oem hole.
    Since i didn't know how it affected the height until i reinstalled everything i drilled another hole at 14mm . the reason i chose 7mm is because the oem hole is about 6 mm and that gave me the smallest amount of adjustment while still having some plastic between the holes to keep the structural integrity of the plastic arm.
    Turns out that 7mm from the center is about 1/2 in lower. ideally, you want to go 15 mm or exactly where the first cross hash indented in the green sensor arm is to get roughly 1 inch drop. you can probably go to about 1.5 inch drop or roughly 22mm offset from the center of the oem hole. i wouldn't recommend going over 20mm from center though since im not too sure how the angle is affected at the extremes of this setup. (i wasn't the best trigonometry student in my days)
    Make sure you mark your drill hole and make a small pilot hole. use about 4-5 steps making your way up to a final hole size of 15/64.
    If you go from pilot hole straight to 15/64 like i did on my first try, the plastic bites real quick and you'll be lucky if the whole sensor doest catch and goes flailing around wildly. take your time, its worth it to have a working sensor in the end.

    Step 3: reassemble everything and cross your fingers.

    photo 5-2.JPG
    For the front sensors, you want to connect the wiring first then the nut then use a channel lock to snap the buckle/knuckle thingy on.
    For the rears, you'll want to go buckle/knuckle first, then bolt then wiring.
    Thats just how i figured was the easiest route because of the way the wiring and hardware is set up. your results may vary..
    The rears link/sensor arm can easily be installed inverted so remember to make a mental or actual pictorial note of how it looks coming out.

    Here's a couple before and after pix of the car:
    photo 1.JPG photo 3.JPG photo 2.JPG
    Front and rear 3/4 view. stock 19 inch rims. stock height set at standard . lower ugly black plastic trim has been premiered smooth and painted body color.

    photo 1-6.JPG photo 2-5.JPG photo 3-5.JPG photo 4-6.JPG photo 4.JPG
    Pix after i lowered it an inch all around. iphone night camera isn't the best but you get the jist of it. ill take some more pix during the day which shows the front tires tucked in the fenders if set to low setting.
    I drive it at standard height setting but i think it looks incredible parked at low setting. at its highest setting, i still have almost same ground clearance as stock so in all honestly, i think i ended up with the best of both worlds.
    It looks great and is still absolutly drivable with, I dare say, no noticeable difference from stock in terms of drivability asides being a bit rougher cause i went from 19 inch oem wheels to aftermarket 22 inch wheels.
    To top it off, it didn't cost me anything but a couple hours of elbow grease.
     
  2. Laumb

    Laumb smrtass.

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  3. tdelta1000

    tdelta1000 Active Member

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    Nice work. Please...Please share some better pics...lol. Question...How sturdy is the green plastic on the sensor and do you think it will hold up without having that metal sleeve like to original hole? I like your customization vision for your S.
     
  4. lolachampcar

    lolachampcar Active Member

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    WPB Florida
    Making adjustable length links (model aircraft ball link stuff) would allow the same results without changing suspension travel (rate) sensing (which changing the motion ratio on the sensor will do). That being said, what you did got the job done!
     
  5. KOL2000

    KOL2000 Member

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    San Diego
    wow this is awesome. I wish I had the balls to do this.
     
  6. ImperialG

    ImperialG Member

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    Cool mod, but I'm more interested in seeing pictures of your car from further back. The painted lower trim and black 22" wheels look GREAT!
     
  7. Giovanni

    Giovanni New Member

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    Jun 4, 2013
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    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    Hey Brother,
    Congrats on taking delivery of your S. Did you take my advice and scoop up some TSLA a month ago..might of gotten yourself the P+85 instead..hehe
    Car looks awesome. I don't think you'll be drivng the Volt much...or the Ferrari
     
  8. Lloyd

    Lloyd Active Member

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    San Luis Obispo, CA
    SLAMMED!
     
  9. NielsChr

    NielsChr Member

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    Nice DIY tutorial, well done.
    Tesla should offer this as a Software update - a user adjustment +-1" from the factory default setting should be satisfying for most - from this +-1"
     
  10. tony2fingers

    tony2fingers Member

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    Location:
    san jose
    thank you, i have some custom tesla center caps being made. on the fence about using just the "T" logo in silver, or the "T" logo with "TESLA" print running through the center in red. I dunno so i ordered both. have them here tomorrow so ill post up and you guys can decide. Last thing on the list is to darken out the rear windows and glass and light tint on the fronts.
    the plastic is actually very sturdy. i think is a composite with a phenolic compound or something. i could actually have slotted the holes and still be ok but i didnt want to push it. without the copper washer i also dont this is a problem. there is no pressure or force applied to the link that would nessitate you have to have a bushing from what i see.

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    you are correct where it wouldnt change the ratios but what my main intention was when i first opened up and took at look at the assembly was how to do it safe and without too much modification where the average joe like myself could do it as a quick DIY project in an afternoon.
    The rear's i actually set at 15mm off center of the oem position but they are not as low as i assumed. either that or the rears were much higher than i originally remember and is just not as low (looks wise) as i like.
    That being said, my drive way has about average grade or a tad higher but not much, and i scrape lightly if i dont pull out sideways on the low setting now. I drive with it normally set to standard height but just FYI if anyone does this and plan on driving it on low setting.

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    thanks, just took some in daylight but with the black wheels cant see too much cause the contrast ratio of a camera phone is all the great. there's a shot in there with the suspension set to max height. in person it looks like an off roader. lol

    photo 1.JPG photo 2.JPG photo 3.JPG photo 4.JPG photo 5.JPG

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    Thanks bro. Yeah i drove the model s signature and that car will outrun my ferrari any day. well up to 85 anyways.

    This one i have is a relative "dog" compared the signature s. it feels like 0-60 low 6's high 5's maybe. the sig and my ferrari can probably do mid 4's.

    I drive the volt all the time this models s is for the G/F to drive. were gonna retire the ls460 for now. too much maintenance and gas. LOL who ever think id say too much maintanance about lexus huh..
     
  11. ModestW12

    ModestW12 New Member

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    Northern California
    Love the painted lower trim!

    +1. Just as I had imagined it, the painted lower trim greatly improves the looks in my opinion, giving a Models S a more elegant and at the same time planted and aggressive look.

    Tony2fingers, it seems being so close to the ground the painted trim will have greater exposure to road debris. Do you have concerns about the life of the trim paint and/or have you noticed any chips or scratches along the bottom front or right behind the front or rear wheels?

    The reason I ask is painting of the lower trim is one of my first planned modifications (though my Model S will be gray with the OE 21" turbines painted to match the body and all the chrome trim painted to match the glossy black of the exterior B pillar trim). To preserve the painted bottom trim as well as the front in general, I was planning on covering these sections with a 3M clear paint protection film as well. But if you haven't experienced any scratching/chipping behind the wheels I might skip it on those areas to lower the cost.
     
  12. tony2fingers

    tony2fingers Member

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    san jose
    I haven't thought about it too much but now that you mention it, my volt has the trim painted as well and it pealed off underneath already. i just thought it was just a poor primer job or that i scrapped it somewhere but it could also be from road debris. either way if you were going to do the 3m id just go ahead and do lower trim as well just for the fact that it is plastic underneath and paint/primer i would assume would stick to it as well as say metal body panels. they also have to go pretty thick with the primer to get it smooth since it has a texture to start with so that would also make me question the adhesion properties.

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    ******UPDATE*******!!!!!!!!
    I agree'd you with earlier about the adjustable links and after staring at my lowering job for a couple hours, it seems that you were dead on. links are a must but not the only option on the rear's. It seems that the front angle's of the links are within range and can be adjusted but remounting the location of the links like i had done. they seem to be dead on to where i'd like front lowered and using the in dash buttons to adjust height on the fly ,it looks like works fine.

    the rears never lowered just how i wanted and it seemed always a bit too high for my taste. I took it all apart today and mounted them at 25mm off center hopeing that would give me more drop but it just wouldn't go lower. it seems like the linkage was set up in a way that the maximum you can trick the car into going down was about 1/2 -3/4 of an inch and it didnt seem too reliable.

    ok, so version 2.0 of this DYI...

    remounting the connection points on the rear can give you a max of 3/4 inch and is unreliable so what i did was remove the bracket assembly that held the rear sensors and slotted the holes that the sensor mount on so you can rotate the sensor ticking the sensor that its in a different position. by doing that i got the car to lower to a ridiculous amount. like slammed to the ground low. i really like how it looks but its completely undrivable. ill take a couple pix before i set it back to around more or less 1 inch over all lower than oem. below is a pix of the slotted bracket. i assume that the front brackets can be adjusted the same way. since i already like the position of my front's im just going to leave them alone. Slotting the brckets you'll need a drill bit and some wire cutters and a file. it looks more or less every degree you rotate the sensor, (sensor arm need to rotate towards the up and away from center of car to lower) the car should drop about an inch. again your results may vary.. lol


    sloted.JPG

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    Something interesting happened today you guys might find amusing.

    I took my car to the Fremont factory/service center for them to take a look at my hood. I got the car with a dent or fold in the metal right at the point where the frunk latch meets the car. Guess it a bad design since you need to exert so much pressure to close the frunk lid and guess one of the techs on the assembly line pushed it so hard to make a dent. Anyways, they called a dent guy and gonna have it fixed next week.

    If you ever been to the Tesla factory, you know there are alot of Model S's there. like a lot. i think probably 2-300 plus in the service area alone. i was surrounded by tesla's and you know the techs and people there see tesla's all day.

    When i parked at the service center, i purposely set the height to low setting. went inside and talk to the service reps got my things done. when i got outside and walked to my car, i noticed a small crowd (8-10) of tesla tech/employee's looking at my car.

    Needless to say, i felt a little flattered since these guys see 100k plus cars all day, majority of them the same model s i have.

    i guess a little bit of modifications from stock makes you stand out in a crowd.

    just food for though.....
     
  13. In2oil

    In2oil Member

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    I really enjoy reading about you modifications, I will do the exact changes to my suspension as soon as it comes back from the service center. That darn 12v battery issue is driving me nuts, actually I haven't been able to drive my car for 3weeks now.

    One be more question, does the mod to the rear height control arm the same as the front? One more question, when the car is set to the highest setting are the heights are all lower by .75 inch, by default.
     
  14. Adrian

    Adrian Title(D)

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    Someone with a 3D printer could easily make these links in custom lengths in quite some volume and sell, would be insanely cheap too.
     
  15. tdelta1000

    tdelta1000 Active Member

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    Hey Tony2fingers....How's the mod holding up a year later? Have you had to replaced or repaired anything suspension wise after the mod? Again, thanks for sharing such an awesome mod.
     
  16. Carlg2

    Carlg2 New Member

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    I really enjoyed your DIY project and was pleased to see this worked. Any new advice or precautions from what you have learned since your DIY is over a year old. I would like to do this as well. Great going
     
  17. ReversePolarity

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    Wow I was trying to figure out how to lower the air suspension as "low" setting still seems sky high. I have access to a 3D printer and this is going to be one of those fun projects. :smile:

    I'll probably pull the green bracket off one of these days, model it in Solidworks and send it to print... stay tuned!
     
  18. BigCity

    BigCity Member

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    Love it, very nice work!! So what are the specs on the wheels and tires you used, they look great as well!!
     

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