I regularly visit Himachal Pradesh, and face a problem with my Fiat Punto’s ground clearance. Can it be raised, and if yes, then how?
Ajay Sharma, via email
AAA Raising the ground clearance of a car safely is a tricky modification, especially for a hatchback like the Punto where there are limited aftermarket suspension options to raise ride height, like those available for SUVs. A word of caution though – do not try to fit spacers or any untested alterations that would alter the existing suspension geometry of the original setup. What you essentially need is an overall stiffer suspension setup, which will reduce the amount of pitching when you go over uneven tarmac and minimise the chances of scraping the undercarriage.
Although companies like Bilstein and Koni, available in India through Pete’s (www.petes.in) and Methods Automotive (www.methods.co.in), have stiffer damper options for the Punto, they are not cheap. You can expect to shell out anywhere from Rs 70,000 to a lakh for one of these suspension upgrades.
A more viable alternative would be to fit a larger tyre/rim combination to increase the ride height of the car. You haven’t mentioned the model, but in case your car is on 14-inch rims, upgrading to R15s with a tyre profile of around 190/65 R15 might help you gain anywhere from 10-15mm of ground clearance, depending on your current tyre size. Do not go for low profile tyres as they will negate the effect of fitting larger rims. The trade-off is slightly more roll during enthusiastic cornering, but a tyre upgrade
and some judicious driving is the most sensible way for you to continue enjoying the mountains with fewer underbelly scars to show for it.