Bottoming out happens when your car’s underbody hits the surface it’s driving over, potentially damaging your vehicle. But how can you stop that from happening?
This article will discuss how to prevent your car from bottoming out over speed bumps or on your driveway and explain how bottoming out damages your vehicle. I tried to put them in the order of easiest/cheapest first but I wanted to make sure you have all of the reasonable options.
1. Approach the Driveway at a 45° Angle
A cost-free approach to prevent your car from bottoming out is approaching your driveway or a speed bump at a 45°angle.
Angling your vehicle so that only one tire at a time drives over the speed bump or driveway culvert means that only part of the car’s total weight is exerted over the surface, making it far less likely to bottom out.
Also… Slow Down When Approaching the Driveway
This might seem obvious but I thought it worth mentioning for you speed demons out there. If you don’t have the time or inclination to modify your vehicle or make changes to the bottom of your driveway, you could focus on slowing down as you approach a speed bump or the end of your driveway.
Taking it slow and easy means that you can focus on driving over the problematic surface carefully and prevent any damage to your car’s underbody.
Also… Avoid Carrying Excess Weight
Factors such as a fully loaded trunk, a full gas tank, items in the back seat, and passengers can significantly increase your car’s load weight and put pressure on the springs.
Carrying excess weight in your car increases the chances of bottoming out. If you can’t avoid taking a heavy load, consider slowing down each time you approach a speed bump or the end of your driveway.
Otherwise, try and carry as little as possible in your car as every pound your car carries increases the chances of bottoming out.
2. The Rubber Mat Method
An effective way of preventing your vehicle from bottoming out on your driveway is to use an inexpensive rubber mat, which can be a fitness or locker room mat. You can buy rubber mats in 8’ (2.44 m) lengths and then cut them to size to accommodate the bottom of your driveway’s contour.
These are widely available from big-box or automotive stores, and this all-purpose mat (available on Amazon) is incredibly versatile. Not only does this provide shock absorption and cushioning effect, but it also lifts your vehicle off the concrete when riding over the bottom driveway section.
A rubber mat may not be an esthetically-pleasing look for your driveway, especially if the color doesn’t blend in well, but it is effective, and you can remove it if you move to a different place.
3. Install Bump Stops
A popular method of preventing cars from bottoming out is to install bump stops, which are also known as jounce bumpers.
Bump stops are fitted onto a car’s suspension system to provide additional cushioning and shock absorption. Once installed, bump stops also prevent your suspension’s metal components from rubbing against each other.
In addition, they also prevent your axle from moving upward, preventing your tires from touching the fender, and allow you to fit longer shock absorbers. Many cars already come pre-installed with bump stops, but you may not have the most suitable bump stops for your car’s tires and suspension system if your car often bottoms out.
Bump stops typically bottom out before the shock absorbers and effectively prevent damage from bottoming out. Car owners who often take their vehicles off-road benefit the most from bump stops, but if you have a low-profile car, they help control rebound energy when bottoming out.
This energy suspension bump stop (available on Amazon) is universal and easy to install. The polyurethane material is heavy-duty, and the product won’t cost you much.
4. Invest in a Curb Ramp
Many folks find that their car only bottoms out at the end of their driveway.
This may be due to your driveway’s design, especially if it has a rolled curb, which was a popular design in the 1980s.
Rolled curbs have a slanting and curved design to facilitate driving into or out of a driveway. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and some people find that they can damage their vehicle’s suspension system, drivetrain, and underbody.
An easy solution to this is to invest in an inexpensive curb ramp. This curb ramp fills in the shape of your driveway culvert and prevents bottoming out.
They have a large load weight capacity of 10 tons (9,071.85 kg), and the rubber composition effectively absorbs your vehicle’s impact. You don’t need any special tools to install them, and can move them around as much as you like.
5. Install a Gutter Bridge
The reason your car could be bottoming out at the end of your driveway is the presence of a street gutter. Depending on the gutter’s shape or your city’s regulations, you may not be able to insert a curb ramp.
In such cases, a gutter bridge may be an excellent option. If you plan on buying one, this curb ramp (available on Amazon) could be suitable. It won’t impact the functioning of your gutter as it fits over it and allows the water to flow freely underneath.
DIY enthusiasts may prefer making their personalized gutter bridge. Below are a few ideas for creating a gutter bridge for your driveway.
Wooden Gutter Bridge
Wooden gutter bridges are simple to make and install and involve using a single or double wood plank and placing it over your driveway’s gutter.
Try to use heavy-duty and thick wood that can withstand a large load, and consider sealing the wood to preserve its strength. A downside to wooden gutter bridges is that they don’t typically last long and will eventually splinter and break.
However, this is a cheap and easy option to prevent bottoming out.
Metal Gutter Bridge With Bolts
A metal gutter bridge is far more durable than a wooden one and can be fixed to the driveway surface with bolts. It’s advisable to check beforehand with your city if you may fix a piece of metal that covers a small portion of the road.
Disadvantages to creating a metal gutter bridge include the expense and the possibility of rusting after a few years, which can be unsightly.
Metal gutter bridges can also be noisy when driving over them.
Concrete Gutter Bridge
All you need to make a concrete gutter bridge is a bag of concrete and some water. If your city allows concrete constructions that impact the side of the road, this is an inexpensive and quick solution to prevent bottoming out. To improve your concrete gutter bridge’s durability, consider supporting the sides with hinges.
6. Invest in Larger Wheels or Tires
Back when I owned my second car, a snazzy 1995 Dodge Neon (I know, I know….) it came with 14″ wheels. I was offered a free paint shop by a friend who owned a body shop and decided to upgrade my wheels at the same time. So I bought some 16s. One thing I immediately noticed is that I stopped scrubbing the driveway every time I came home.
But you don’t even need to do this. You can just shop for slightly larger tires. When replacing your tires, look for ones with higher rolling diameters. Increasing the rolling diameter by even 1” (2.54 cm) can help prevent bottoming out.
Vehicles with lowered suspensions look great with low-profile tires, but this isn’t always practical as it makes you more vulnerable to bottoming out. If you frequently bottom out over speed bumps or the end of your driveway, replacing your tires with taller ones could help.
7. Install Better Quality Springs
Low-quality springs tend to collapse into each other and fully compress while driving over a speed bump or the end of a driveway, causing your car to bottom out.
This is due to a very low spring load and if you bottom out severely, you may have to replace the springs. Sometimes, depending on the damage caused, you might have other parts to replace.
High-quality springs are often stiffer and prevent bouncing when driving over a bumpy surface. Therefore, it’s advisable to spend a bit more money on better quality springs to prevent bottoming out and having to replace springs so frequently.
Or… Increase Your Spring Load
The lower your car’s spring load, the less weight it takes for the springs to compress.
If your vehicle has a low spring load, you’ll likely bottom out when driving over almost every speed bump or driveway. This will be made worse when you have passengers or heavy items in the trunk.
You can increase your spring load by replacing your shock absorbers with ones containing thicker oil. Alternatively, you could opt for gas-filled or rally shock absorbers that make the springs stiffer.
8. Increase Your Car’s Ride Height
Many people dream of owning a low-profile car, but you need to take care when driving them as they’re prone to bottoming out. If your car’s ride height is too low, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll experience a serious bottoming-out event.
When thinking of lowering your car’s suspension, consider dropping it by only 1” to 1.5” (2.54 to 3.81 cm).
9. Install Excellent Quality Shock Absorbers
Poor-quality shock absorbers can make your vehicle more susceptible to bottoming out when you drive over a bumpy surface. As their name implies, shock absorbers soften the impact of your springs. If your shock absorbers haven’t been replaced in a long while, they may no longer be working properly.
It’s worth evaluating your car’s shock absorbers for quality and effectiveness to prevent bottoming out.
10. Consider Using Lowering Springs
As long as regular springs are of decent quality, they should do a solid job of reducing bounce when driving over a speed bump or a driveway culvert. However, consider using lowering springs if you already have high-quality springs which don’t prevent your vehicle from bottoming out efficiently.
Lowering springs lower your vehicle’s suspension for a stylish, low-profile look. Aside from this aesthetic appeal, they also improve handling.
Most experts recommend a set that drops your car by 1” to 1.5” (2.54 to 3.81 cm) when selecting lowering springs. This is enough to maintain an attractive low-profile look and drive effortlessly over speed bumps and steeply angled surfaces.
11. Check Your Car’s Suspension
Has your car been bottoming out a lot recently?
If this isn’t normal for your vehicle, there may be a problem with the suspension system. Your car’s suspension system is essential for keeping it level when driving over a wide range of surfaces. When it isn’t functioning correctly, it can cause frequent bottoming out.
In this case, you may want to consider having your mechanic check the suspension system.
12. Invest in an Air Suspension Kit
Some folks don’t mind spending a lot of money on improving their driving experience, and if this sounds like you, you may want to consider investing in an air suspension kit. Air suspension kits are installed into vehicles to lift the front section at the push of a button.
By raising the vehicle’s front axle, you can prevent it from bottoming out.
Of course, you’d need to pre-empt this by evaluating the situation and pressing the air suspension button before driving over a speed bump. You might also irritate drivers behind you by slowing down so that you have time to activate the front lift mechanism.
This Air Lift Suspension Kit (available on Amazon) provides you with up to 5,000 lbs (2,267.96 kg) of load-bearing capacity and is simple to install.
Does Bottoming Out Hurt Your Car?
Bottoming out occurs when your vehicle’s springs have compressed fully, causing the car’s body to sink downward and hit the underlying surface, often with a clunking noise.
Bottoming out can hurt your car, but it depends on how fast you are going and whether or not you are driving straight over the surface or at an angle. It can damage your car’s exhaust pipe, shock absorbers, steering, oil sump, or springs.
Generally speaking, the slower you drive over a speed bump or driveway culvert, the less potential damage to your car. Also, carefully driving over a speed bump or the end of a driveway at an angle can help prevent damage.
How Do I Stop My Car Bottoming Out From Suspension?
A car’s suspension is one of the main reasons it can bottom out at the end of a driveway or over a speed bump.
You can stop your car from bottoming out from suspension by ensuring that the suspension springs are high quality to accommodate the vehicle’s weight effectively. Other methods include increasing the ride height, removing heavy items from the car, and approaching speed bumps slowly.
For more, check out 10 Practical Ways to Keep Cars From Parking on Your Lawn.
Hey, I’m Jim, and I’m the author of this website. I have been teaching people a wide variety of survivalism topics for over five years and have a lifetime of experience fishing, camping, general survivalism, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!